Lots of thoughts this week about how Pagan groups accept (or don’t) the children of their members, and how that plays out at festivals. We are not at a point in our house where attending events regularly is doable in any sense of the word. But even if it were, I suspect we’d avoid most groups and events for the foreseeable future because of the way that most groups handle children.
There are basically 3 ways Pagan groups and events handle children. (1) No children, (2) Children are allowed if they can follow an adult standard of behavior that parents are expected to police, (3) Your kids, your problem – you want to let them run loose, great, if not, you figure out how to keep them under control. There are a very few places that offer some sort of childcare, and when they do, it’s usually organized by a parent.
Festival wise, I have a hard time justifying spending several hundred dollars to attend a weekend festival where I’ll be lucky to participate in more than 2-3 scheduled events. If my husband and I each take a shift with both children so the other one can have a child free shift, and then we each take a shift with each of the children to do something fun with them independently, that’s 4 shifts, and by the time you add in meals and a super early bedtime for Acorn, and that’s probably most of the day.
Additionally, it’s not like my children are old enough for me to leave them in a tent asleep while my husband and I do something fun after dark, so evening things are basically out, unless we each take a night solo (and really….what’s the fun in that?).
This even boils over into teaching – because if I use one of my slots of time with no children to teach, then I really have very limited time to enjoy the rest of the event.
Even with childcare…we’re probably still in that sort of spot, though Acorn could probably manage childcare if they were prepared for him (though given the difficulties finding him a babysitter, I’m guessing that most places still wouldn’t keep him). Some places assume a more laissez faire, free range sort of child policy, and my kids are just not safe that way at this point – I desperately wish that they were, but to practice free range parenting your child has to be able (and willing) to consider the best course of action, and Acorn is not there yet – and Leaf is too young to expect that.
For local ritual groups, the same situation would apply either I have to find someone to babysit, or I have to find a way to convince my children to be still and quiet at all times, and to only act appropriately….and let’s just say we’re not there yet.
I wish more Pagan groups would get on with realizing that parents can still be active members with the right support, and that children aren’t an annoyance to put in the closet.
I strongly suggest that you read Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind, which is a book about parenting and social justice movements if you’re interested in other ideas for how we could do better for families. (that’s an affiliate link, by the way).