Mothering with a Pagan Perspective
into the forest
I sent my daughter off to school today. This a big milestone, both for parents and for children, a definitive and culturally recognized step down her spiral path. I delivered her into the care of strangers -- her first time to be supervised by someone unfamiliar. The week before we read books about going to school and I parceled out the treat of PBS shows on the same theme. We talked about it. On her first day I said encouraging things, told her I’d be back, and assured her that she’d have a wonderful time. And yet, she cried when I walked away. Of course she cried. She’s been in my energy field her whole life, and then I forced her to take a step that perhaps none of us would take willingly: a step away from the comforts of home into a strange new world.
(I must say, in today’s age of modern technology I certainly wished that her teachers could have sent me a text to let me know that she stopped crying. They can’t, of course, I understand that. And she stopped quickly, I’m told. Still, I worried until the first hour passed without a phone call.)
She has begun her hero’s journey, and I find it appropriate that my daughter attends a forest kindergarten. Her step away from me was not into the metaphorical woods of adventure, but instead into the twelve acres of literal woods that surround her small schoolhouse. She’ll spend all day outside, rain or shine (and in our climate, it’s mostly shine), hot or cold. Her age group (pre-school) does not require a rigorous academic curriculum, which means that she’ll spend her structured periods doing activities like story time, gardening, art projects, and animal care (chickens, rabbits, guinea pig, etc). The rest of the time she will enjoy unstructured play.
She needs unstructured play the most at this time of her life. As a witch mother I feel thrilled that she will get so much, and that it will occur outside. Her toys will be what she finds in nature rather than anything plastic and man-made. Her teachers will be the birds, squirrels, deer, rabbits, and other creatures of the forest. She will learn the language of trees, of oak, juniper, and pecan. She will learn the dangers of poison ivy and snakes, tangle with biting insects, and make friends with flowers and edible plants. Most of all, she will internalize the cycles of our seasons by placing her body firmly at their mercy. These lessons are invaluable for a human of any spiritual orientation, and especially pleasing to the shared beliefs of our family.
That still doesn’t make it easy. She says that she wants to live at her school and that she doesn’t want to go back. She is a sensitive child, my little witchling, and we’ve always encouraged her to experience her feelings fully. The pain of her separation from me resonated through us both. I swear I felt when she started to settle in to the day, because the queasiness I’d been feeling until then suddenly stopped. I felt her absence keenly, like the world had gone off-balance. I did not feel whole again until we reunited. This is my part of her adventure: to stand and wait while she goes forth; to hold my own feelings without burdening her with them; and to encourage her bravery and exploration while also acknowledging the she feels loss just as I do. The spiral turns.
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