Katherine Kiefer-Newman, webmistress of Spirit Share, an online Pagan webzine, talks about her experiences with the public school system and the separation of church and state. KR Kiefer-Newman, 1999© All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.
We recently celebrated my oldest daughters 7th birthday this past December. Like the dutiful parents we are, we trudged down to the local Chuck E. Cheese (a kids pizza place with tons of kid-stuff going on and kid-food and all that!) and turned our monsters and their friends loose for about 2 hours while we sat back and tried to ignore the blaring music and screaming all around us.
At one point there was a lull in the din and I looked over at my handsome husband and he looked at me and without saying a word we smiled in total understanding. We've been together for nearly ten years and sometimes it's like sharing one brain. The thought that we happen to share at that moment was: "Yes, it was all worth it. They're healthy and happy and we'd do it again."
Too often I find I'm worrying over the details and I forget to look at the big picture. My husband is much better at that than I'll ever be. He tends to loose the details as he's taking huge strokes in the pool called "The Big Picture". We are a good balance for each other on most things having to do with the kids.
But even my husband Ron, in all his logic and brilliance, and me with all my compassion and understanding, were not sure how to deal with what hit us the next week.
While at school my younger daughter was asked, at a public School mind you, if she believed in God. All of the children in her Kindergarten class were talking about the coming Christmas holiday and how they would celebrate it in their homes.
My poor Jenna, knowing that talking about "Our Faith" can mean a lot of problems, simply answered "NO, we don't believe in God."
For the most part, this is a true statement. Neither Ron (who is an agnostic) nor I believe in the Christian God. Both of my daughters have attended Rituals with me and we have had many long, and wonderful discussions on the nature of Faith and Personal Faith for everyone. We have talked about the Christian idea that only one Path and one God is the true way and my daughters have rejected that option for now as too narrow for them.
But because she said a flat out "NO" she was teased and ridiculed on the playground for the rest of that week. That wasn't the end of it for me, however.
I work with the mother of Jenna's bestfriend. She happens to be my boss, sort of. It was through this woman that I found out about the "god" things a few days later at work, while standing in the President of the companies office. This woman, (who is laterally my boss, remember), announced very loudly and merrily (did I mention she doesn't like me much?) that her daughter was worried about Jenna's soul since Jenna's family doesn't believe in God.
Of all ways for this to progress, the way it chose was the worst. Water finds it's own way, I know...but this was finding me totally unprepared. The President of the company looked calmly at me and said, "Well, kids are great, aren't they?" And it mostly ended there. But I've had many, many "conversations" since then with various co-workers about my Faith.
My husband thinks I should let them all assume I'm an atheist and leave it at that. But the truth, or should I say Truth (with the big "T"), keeps me from taking that easy road.
My daughters will not have an easy road waiting for them, either. Their journey to Personal Faith and Truth has only begun. There will be times I can help them. There will be others I absolutely can't. What a world we've made for ourselves...