Original Artwork © Julie Cox, 2008
Preschool aged children are curious little creatures. For the most part, they walk and talk like little miniature adults. They may still stumble around certain consonants, they may move as if they've confused their usual sugar intake with a different sort of white powder, but for the most part this stage is the first in a child's development that they really act like tiny people. Until one takes a closer look.
The attempts at adult imitation can be quite hilarious. For instance, take the day my son showed up at a friend's house in a new jacket. The two boys considered each other wordlessly for a moment, then this exchange took place.
My Son's Friend: "You have a new coat. It's red. It has buttons."
My Son: *sticks hands in pockets* "Yes. It has pockets too."
Friend: "I wish I had a fine, red coat like that." *beleaguered sigh*
My Son: "Why thank you."
As cute as it was, there were some important developmental things being displayed - observation, taking note of a new object and its more singular qualities; imitation of grown-up discourse; admiration and perhaps a touch of jealousy, summed up with a touch of manners. So many gears turning in their little heads, under those mops of hair needing a trim. All expressed in a few lines of dialogue.
Of course, hearing a different type of mature language out of a preschooler can be alarming. They can also teach you more than you wanted to know about how you talk. Take this other conversation. I think you know what's coming.
My Son's Cousin (4-year-old girl): "I'm going to give you one more chance to do what I tell you to do!"
My Son: "To hell with that!"
Perhaps not the most flattering picture. In frequently hilarious and occasionally mortifying ways, our children show us ourselves. As any parent with little kids will tell you, be careful how you act and what you say around them, because it WILL be repeated (or, even worse, dramatically performed) in mixed company.
These two examples could have come from any preschoolers. What sets the pagan of us apart from many others (though we are by no means exclusive in this territory) is that we recognize the power of language. No wonder it is one of the first major hurdles of the intellect to develop; it leads to everything else! So it is in ritual and magical work; the language is important, and at no time is it easier to instill the "pagan language" in their little minds than in the preschooler stage.
It starts with little things. Referring to plants and animals with respect, as fellow living things, instead of inert pieces of scenery. Referring casually to spirits, to the magical energy that flows through us. Speaking of intention and power. I have to remind myself of the mindset that lets me talk casually, naturally, in a pagan fashion, since I was brought up in a Christian household. I find myself, even at nearing 30, still using my parents' language and speech patterns. A German word will slip in here and there, courtesy of my father's family. Casual Christian turns of phrase crop up daily - "thank God," "Christ almighty," "heaven help us." Despite years of trying to break these language habits, they are hard-wired into my memory and I don't think they will ever be truly gone. Nor is it entirely desirable that they should be. My language is a marker of who I am, who I was and who I am becoming.
I hope a similar mark will be made on my children - not out of some weird ego thing or a desire to stifle their own religious expression once they are old enough to really own their beliefs. No, it's because paganism is a major part of who our family is, and our language should reflect that. "Blessed be," "oh my stars," and other phrases should come as naturally to them as more Christian phrases come to me. Finding a new part of ourselves does not ever truly supplant who we were. Even if they do not carry paganism into their adulthoods, every "so mote it be" that springs to mind will be a root reminding them where they come from, and a part of who they are. And that will be a good thing.
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.