Thursday, July 19, 2012

Boys scouts and Pagan parenting

Raising children is hard work, even if you fit any stereotypical norm, but when you're family represents a fringe element, things get way more interesting.  For Pagan parents, there are reminders of our difference everywhere. From differences in holiday celebrations to sometimes shocking acts of insensitivity, Pagan children are exposed to many unpalatable lessons that reveal how far we have to go to win true acceptance.

When Gavin, my older son, started kindergarten four years ago, my husband and I knew we would be facing some tough parenting decisions about who would know about my faith, how would we deal with issues like holidays and how to live with the inevitable intolerance issues that would come up.  The first of these was the Boy Scouts.  More than half the boys in his kindergarten class joined Boy Scouts that year; they did countless activities and fundraisers, but we wouldn't let Gavin join.

This was also the same year that Prop. 8 was being decided by voters in California. Gavin was aware of the cruelty and intolerance adults could shower on people who were different.  Many weekends, we would see people drag their crying, tired children to protests at the main intersection of town to spew hate with bullhorns. We explained exactly what was happening and why we thought it was wrong to Gavin.  Horrified by the idea that people should be treated differently just because of who they love, he fought back in his little way.  Whenever he saw one of these "Yes to 8" protests, he would shout "NO!" as loud as he could.  He would give thumbs up from the car windows to the "No on 8, No to Hate", and he promised to remember this.

When he asked to join Boy Scouts, we had to explain again that some people are determined to be cruel and exclusive and that we didn't think it was right to join groups that discriminate against others, especially since Boy Scouts also has a long standing policy against people who are not Christian (though it is not always enforced) and homosexuals (not to mention the past exclusion of African Americans).  According to the Supreme Court, they are within their rights to do this. Gavin, grasping the piece of the puzzle I left out, asked why they were at his school when the rules said everybody should be treated fairly.  I had no answer, but I knew then that he understood why we couldn't let him join.

There are some moments when parenting is unexpectedly glorious; that moment when I knew my son understood that there are some principles in life that you cannot ever compromise without damaging yourself was one of them.  As the debate about the bigotry of Boy Scouts rages around him, my son quietly tells people why he doesn't join.  He's learning that he can stand up for what is right, and he stands up for other people.  He understands that people live and worship differently all over the world, but so long as they don't attack others with their beliefs, he is perfectly content to sit and talk to them about the ways they are different and the ways they are the same. Gavin's experiences with being treated poorly for being different have made him stronger and more compassionate. It hurts me to watch him struggle with being accepted for exactly who he is, but it makes me proud to know that he hasn't quit being himself for the sake of acceptance.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing little boy you have. Thank you for sharing this piece of him.


Please feel free to comment, share or ask questions, but please, keep comments in good taste and respectful.