When my child was little, seeing xem hit new milestones and gain more independence was bittersweet. It was a relief to have xem rely on me less and less, little by little. It brought me pride to see my little one growing up. It still does, but I’ve been feeling more sad about it lately. My “little” one doesn’t seem like the same child I once knew. It’s probably past time that I face it: My child is continuously becoming their own person. That’s part of growing up. As a parent, that is perhaps the best goal to aim for. Anything that puts strict expectations on a child to be a certain way ends up missing the mark. Too many children have grown up to feel the pain caused by their parents who tried to set limits on who they can be. Many of us have experienced that pain for ourselves. Why should we want to hurt our own kids in the same way? Isn’t it enough to raise a child with compassion for others and theirself?
I spent too much of my kid’s childhood influenced by the opinions of my in-laws. I let my mother-in-law tell me that my kid shouldn’t have colored hair or certain haircuts for too long, despite my internal disagreement with such restrictions. I was afraid to really raise my child as a Pagan, limiting myself only to telling stories until we moved an hour away. To be real, I regret some of the parenting choices that I made. Some of them were based on fear of judgement from people who I now realize don’t care as much about my family as I had thought. Once we failed to meet their expectations, the in-laws stopped trying to reach out. Go figure.
At the same time, despite my feeling like I didn’t make enough of my own decisions in my earlier years of parenting, I know that I got some things right. My wife and I stood our ground with our decision against spanking. I always gave my child a choice in what to believe in, spiritually. When he asked me if Loki or fairies are real, I told xem: “I believe they are. What about you?”. The same happened with Santa and the Tooth Fairy, although I never outright claimed to believe in those two. I even allowed my kid to go to church with my in-laws until he decided that he didn’t want to. (To be fair, that decision on their part may have been influenced by my informing xem of the flaws with that particular church’s harmful beliefs.) I always told xem that love is love and that transgender and nonbinary people are valid. When my kiddo came out as liking the same gender and then as exploring their gender identity, thank the gods I had already gotten away from the strong toxic influence of my in-laws, my wife and I embraced their identity.
I’d be lying if there wasn’t one part of my child’s current identity that I am struggling with, though. As a polytheist, knowing that my kid doesn’t share my spiritual beliefs kind of hurts. It feels almost like I did something wrong. Maybe I explained my beliefs too simplisticly. But the truth of the matter is that forcing my religion onto my child is what would be wrong. As much as I would love to have a Pagan kid, religion should always be a choice. Or, at least as much of a choice that I believe it can be. If the gods call to xem one day and he recognizes it, I will be happy and willing to offer whatever help I can. If not, that is just something that I will have to continue to accept.
These preteen years are an introduction to what I may expect the teenage years to be like. This is my only kid, though, so that statement is purely an assumption. My kid still comes to me for comfort and I hope that continues, but he also spends more time hidden away in the privacy of their room. This child is now more willing to speak their mind when he disagrees with something, but is also still learning how to regulate their emotions as all adolescents are. It’s not always easy to parent with all of that in mind, though I do try.
I don’t know yet what my kid will be like throughout their teen years or as an adult. I am expecting some stumbles and troubles – we all go through them and he won’t get to be an exception. I am also hoping for the best. Not necessarily that he be the best at anything in particular, mind you. I am hoping that my parenting allows my kid to continue to be a compassionate person, able to think for xemself, able to be self sufficient and yet unafraid to ask for help when needed.
I do miss the little one that my child used to be. But, it’s a fact of life that children can’t remain the same forever. Nor should we parents want them to.