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Five Gifts Through My Children

by Mary Klein

Like the pentacle that lies at the core of every common apple, there are seeds of pure God/dess in everyone. No person needs to plant them there.

As a parent, I have rarely given my children any overt spiritual guidance. (Their ages are nine and six.) At the same time, my years of motherhood have been years of spiritual deepening for me. Of all the people in my life, my kids are the ones I can tell most fully, "You help me see, see all in you, see you in me."

Who am I to speak of Pagan parenting? To an outside observer, I might not appear to be Pagan at all. My children might call themselves Quakers, if you asked them to name their religion, or they might not completely understand your question. I attend to their spiritual health by attending to my own. By temperament, I'm a solitary seeker. I find encouragement and sanity among like-minded seekers that Life puts in my path. When I lived in San Francisco, I found such comfort among my friends in Reclaiming. Today, I find such comfort as a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Still, my (almost) daily spiritual practice involves a personal re-dedication of all my powers to the will of the God/dess, which in turn involves an invocation of the Directions. So to speak of my experience as a Pagan parent, I can speak of these Directions and their expression through my life as a mother.

Through motherhood, the North enfolds me in being and in nothingness. Kids are engines of manifestation. Black holes of healthy hungers, hunters and gatherers of good, bad, and ugly. Beanie babies and Gameboy carts and Lego spaceships and homemade comics and bottlecaps and miscellaneous lengths of string and limp balloons and all inventions possible from cardboard and tape and stuff that once lay on the ground. Our home is a vortex of chaotic manifestation. At the same time, through my children, the North gives me Nothing. My separate identity becomes intangible. Even our bodies feel interconnected at times. I am not one self, I am part of us. I'm nothing. I'm somebody's mom.

Through motherhood, the East inspires me with a kind of quick discernment that I never attempted before. If you waver with kids, you're lost. At the very least, you need to be quick to see that you really don't see. You need to say decisively that you just won't know until you think about it, so go away and stop pestering me. Weaning, tooth-brushing, teasing, TV, and countless other limits still to negotiate, the East blows away the fog and reveals the lay of the land around us. Some paths I have traveled before and some are totally new to me, but I view them all with heightened awareness because my kids are watching me choose my way.

Through motherhood, the South consumes me as fuel for relentless activity. My kids go, do, seek, find, try, make, preserve, destroy, with a cyclonic force that draws me in — as a participant, as a witness, as a detractor. The South compels me to channel my children's energies towards Life, to grow them strong and resilient. Constant effort is required of me — effort that's often repetitive, usually humble, and always thanks to the will of the God/dess. I nurture my children's growth by transporting their bodies to countless appointments, lessons, and practices; by refusing them access to certain amusements in our home; by acknowledging the urgency of their immediate perceptions. I fuel their wills by applauding their efforts to stretch themselves, by respecting their current limitations. My own will's impact on my children's lives is unmistakable, and theirs on mine. I am left with no doubt that our actions do shape the world around us. This certainty steadies my will, sharpens my focus and persistence.

Through motherhood, the West accepts me in a way that I've never dared believe in. Not only do my children love me unconditionally, despite the times we despise each other, despite the times we act like monsters, but I see that other people love my children as well, love them unconditionally. My children have teachers who value them as the individuals they are. My children have friends who love them despite their incessant obnoxious behavior (and frequently love them because of it). Because the truth of that love is undeniable to me, a deeply buried store of mistrust is slowly melting away in my heart.

Through motherhood, the Center holds me down to serve as a touchstone for constancy. My children swoop back to me, time and time again, bearing tragedies, victories, insights, and discoveries. Each trip back is an unasked question. Is this right? Is this real? Is this good? Is this true? I respond reflexively, with ancient litanies of motherhood. It's all right. You're OK. You did great. That's so cool. Every invisible bruise, every snub, every page of math and stupid joke and cute little bug and new best friend is a transformation for a child. And they grow so fast. And I've barely changed at all these last nine years, it seems. Yet I have. I hold much tighter to the Center, now that I feel it using me to pull my children onto its living path of truth and love. I feel an ever increasing urgency to seek my own true path of living transformation, and whenever my kids catch me going astray (by failing to rinse out perfectly reusable plastic bags, by making rude comments behind people's backs, by breaking occasional traffic laws), you can be sure that I'll hear about it from them.

The God/dess suffuses everything. No special packaging is required. Someday, my kids may decide to worship Yahweh, or the Yin and the Yang, or the Holy Trinity, or the Four Noble Truths, or the Scientific Method, or the Utter Nihilistic Absurdity. I slice my own worship into five Directions because I find it useful. But an apple is an apple, no matter how you slice it. At the core of every apple are seeds put there by the God/dess alone. At the core of every person are seeds of truth and love. Picture them as you will, describe them as you will, worship them as you will, but do not confine them. The seeds of truth and love are close to the surface in children. Nurture those seeds in children, and their gifts will burst forth for us all.

Mary Klein is an adult literacy coordinator, elementary school farmer, and death penalty abolishionist. She lives with her husband and two children in Silicon Valley, California.