Original Artwork © Julie Cox, 2008
Here's a fun experiment, for those of you without children. Go online and look for Mothers' Day Out programs in your area. What do they have in common? If your town is anything like mine, they're all run by churches. Not that this is a bad thing - no, not at all. But the programs that they run will have a Christian slant. Sometimes this seeps in without their notice, and I consider it good; their faith, like mine, should be apparent in their actions and words. Sometimes it is more blatant, such as "Bible Time" scheduled into the curriculum.
This may not problem for those of a Christian persuasion. But what about the non-Christians, like myself? For babies and young toddlers, it doesn't matter to me. Show my infant son a copy of the Ten Commandments and he'll just try to eat it. But what do I do when my preschooler looks up at me and says (after getting a spanking for drawing on the fish tank) "Jesus says don't fight!" Or, more ominously, when the director of the school loftily tells me they won't be celebrating Halloween?
Do I pull him out of his school, where he has friends and a routine? Do I ignore it, hoping like some metaphysical ostrich that if I don't acknowledge the problem that it will resolve itself? Do I sit down and explain the cosmology of the world as I see it? "You see darling, the world is inhabited by spirits and collectively this energy is what we perceive as God. Or Goddess. She's in everything. Yes, in your shoes. In your little brother too. ... I suppose she's in the potty, too. Hey, I got an idea, how about you go outside and play before you follow this conversation to its logical conclusion?"
DO I TELL THE DIRECTOR OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH CHILD CARE PROGRAM I AM A NONDENOMINATIONAL PAGAN WITH ANIMISTIC TENDENCIES AND A DASH OF VODOU?
Secular care would be the best. The problem there is that I'm a cheapskate, and private preschools are disastrously expensive. I mean several hundred dollars a month. Lots of hundreds. More than four. When I bring up these schools wistfully to my husband, he at least has the wisdom not to laugh in my face and ask where my sugar daddy is.
It doesn't end there, either. My preschooler naturally makes friends at his MDO, and I then have to try to be friendly with the mothers of his friends. Naturally my son picks the children with whose mothers I have nothing in common. I think it's on purpose. I can see the two little darlings in a corner of a dusty playground, hunched under the monkey bars with checklists, comparing traits of their caretakers, just to make sure we won't have anything in common and we will therefore concentrate all our attention on the kids. Then it won't be so obvious that we're grasping at straws for conversation. Inevitably, church comes up in these half-hearted discussions. I have three choices to the "Do you go to church somewhere?" question:
1) Lie. Blatant lie. However, I am then not being true to myself or my faith. And with my luck their brother is the preacher at the church I claimed to attend.
2) Deflect. This is my favorite. A sudden bee sting, fire ant attack, epileptic seizure or pretending to see my kid hit hers is at least a delay. But it will surface again, and more than one medical emergency starts to look ridiculous.
3) Tell the truth. Maybe she'll just say "oh" and not bring it up again. Maybe she'll even be interested. But more than likely this will lead to some funny looks in the hall, an end to playdates for Cameron and a possible restraining order. It's Cameron's playdates I'm most concerned about.
In the end, the answer to all of this is to be upfront about my religion whenever it comes up. With kids in tow, the time for waffling and deflection is past. I gotta own up to who I am, even if my beliefs make my son unpopular with the other little tornadoes. It's more important for him to hear me be honest, to be brave in the face of motherly outcast-dom, to be proud of who I am.
And hey, maybe I'll find out I'm not as alone as I thought.
About the Author: Julie Cox is a new pagan writer and artist who lives with her two young children and husband in Texas. She carries degrees in both Art and Religion. To see more of Julie's artwork go to Shopping and Art gallery on our main menu.