Children are a joy and a blessing, and the greatest responsibility known to humankind. They are our own gift to ourselves and to the universe around us. They must be raised in a loving atmosphere, by parents or guardians who have chosen to make them a priority, worthy of care for their health, well-being, and individuality. They deserve stability where possible in an ever-changing world, and love as a constant, in the form of the ready availability of a loving adult throughout their entire growing into their own adulthood. Their schooling should reflect the same attitude, giving them every opportunity to develop to their fullest potential; the direction of their development should be appropriate to their own character, aptitude, and desires, for only then will they be able to give the most to themselves and the world.
Freedom is among the most important elements to maintain in the life of a child, but even more important than that is safety and security and love, the elements in life that allow a child the true freedom to develop in health. Parents, and all other loving adults who have chosen to allow themselves to be important in the life of a child, are responsible for balancing these elements, allowing the child the freedom to develop into the adult they are capable of becoming, while ensuring the safety and health that they need to reach that potential. Above all, they must always make themselves available, or assure themselves and the child of the ready availability of a trusted adult - and that means trusted BY THE CHILD, AND THE PARENT(S)!
For the purpose of this discussion, the parents of a child are the adults who have made themselves responsible for the care and well-being of a child, generally through bringing that child into the world, but often through other means, such as adoption, or fostering. What is most important is that the child love them, that they love the child, and that the care and well-being of the child is the foremost consideration in their decisions until the child reaches adulthood, and is able to care for hirself*. It is impossible for a child to come into this world without some adult somewhere having a responsibility to this new life that is not to be denied; if that person does not remain available, or is unable to care for a child to the best interest of that child, that responsibility may/must be passed on to another person(s), who becomes the parent(s) for the purpose of this discussion. It does not seem to matter to the development of the child what age or gender the adults are, or the nature of their relationship, as long as they provide a loving and stable home.
Whatever the nature of the parenthood, these adults should not have to function alone; the healthiest children remain those who are brought up in a community of caring, trustworthy adults. Children are a 24-hour-a-day responsibility, 7 days a week, though the degree changes as the child grows to adulthood and takes on responsibility for elements of hir own life. It is difficult for 2 healthy young adults to keep up with this demand and still meet the demands of providing for the family; where there are health problems, or a single parent must function alone for whatever reason, the demand can be devastating to the resources available, unless there is a strong community of dependable family or friends to draw on. Providing this community of support for themselves and their family is in many ways a paramount responsibility of the parent(s). Children don't give you sick days, or vacation; there are no kennels where they can be placed when you have no one to care for them. They need a caring adult to watch over their development, and ensure that no danger suddenly arises for which the child is not yet able take the responsibility of response.
As the child grows, and acquires the experience necessary to judge each situation for hirself*, these adults need to gradually release the responsibility for each aspect of life to the manifesting adult, as it becomes appropriate to do so. This does not release these loving adults from the need and desire to keep the newly adult member of the community safe and healthy, insofar as they would do for any other adult that they care about. It is simply an acknowledgement that the developing adult has benefitted from the time and opportunity provided to learn life's lessons in a safe environment, and is now able to take responsibility hir own life. This does not happen all at once, but for each aspect of life in turn, as that point is reached.
We do not believe in working any form of magic on any person without their informed consent. Therefore, we do not have any ritual which acts on the newborn child, like the Christian baptism into the body of Christ and his church.
However, there is nothing wrong with welcoming a child into the community, and having adults who pledge to be there for certain aspects of the child's life as the child grows. The birth of a child is cause for celebration, and when the baby is old enough to go out of the house, it is a good time for a welcoming ritual.
The classic image from the fairy tales, of the godmothers gathering around giving gifts, is a good inspiration for the type of welcome that can be suitable. Most important is to welcome the child into the community, making it not just the child of its parents, and so their concern, but the child of the community, and so everyone's concern. The gifts should be hopes, dreams, teachings, and love - the gift of music, of laughter, or knowledge of a craft.
Should children learn science? Remember, we consider the two to be facets of the same truth. Just as I would not teach a small child to make explosives, so I would not teach them any form of powerful action that could be dangerous to them, magical or otherwise. But there is no harm in teaching a child how to focus their will, or ground into the earth. In fact, I consider it important to teach a child how to manage their own energies, and their interaction with the energies around them. It might almost be viewed as a form of metaphysical toilet training those sensitive to the energy (electromagnetic or otherwise) found in their environment may be be disturbed by a child with a strong and vital energy who does not know how to manage that energy to keep it from impinging on those around them. From this point of view, a child with any propensity to interact with the metaphysical aspects of hir* world should be trained in the management of hir own energy.
Most of us teach our children the tradition we follow, as they are growing up. We encourage our children to explore whatever path they are drawn to, and hope that they will evaluate it carefully, with the tools we have given them, to determine whether it is positive and right for them. We hope they will do what is right for them. If it is to follow our path, that would make us happy, but it is not what is essential. What is most important is their well-being, mental, emotional, and spiritual. If we see them following a negative path, we are responsible for speaking to them, just as we would about any other danger to their well-being; if the danger is extreme, as with a young child fascinated by a dangerous cult that imperils its members, we are responsible for intervening on behalf of the well-being of our children, as we would with any other danger beyond their experience or comprehension. We hope that teaching our children to think clearly about the ethics, implications, and merits of different systems of belief will protect them from the dangers of any harmful path, but this does not remove our responsibility to protect them until they are old enough to protect themselves.
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