I had not planned anything for Winter Solstice this year. With everything else going on; packing for our move, my grandmother's passing, and being generally to busy and stressed - I just figured I would wing it this year with some prayer and meditation.
Monday my parents were here. I was getting ready to drive them to the airport - they are going to my grandma's funeral. We exchanged some gifts, as they won't be here for Christmas this year, and inevitably - we talked about grandma. My 6 year old had some questions about death, and my mom was telling her that "Grandma is in Heaven with Jesus now." I don't mind that my kids are exposed to my mom's faith... I think that being exposed to many different beliefs will help them find their personal path when they are older. Now, my mom has no idea what my spiritual beliefs are, and I prefer to keep it that way. Long story short - she is Southern Baptist to the core, and I would prefer to keep my relationship with her in good standings.
Anyways, here we are talking about Grandma and Heaven, and my oldest daughter, 10 - says, "Yeah, but she doesn't have to stay in Heaven. She can be born again as a little baby and have a new life, but she won't remember us if we meet her." (I am choking on my tea.) My mom, says "What?? What are you talking about???" and gives me that questioning/scared/worried/disapproving look that only a religious mother can give. Miss Zee, confused, says, "You know mom. What's it called again when we are reborn?" (Quick, come up with a cover story! The last thing my mom needs to worry about at her mother's funeral is the state of her daughter's eternal soul...)
"Um, yeah, honey. It's called Reincarnation." I smile reassuringly to my daughter even though I have been screaming shut up shut up shut up inside my head. Then I turn to my mom, "Because, you know, she is curious about different beliefs, so I told her about them." My mom, still unsure and frowning, says "Oh-kayyyy....."
Anyways... somehow or another someone changed the subject. We visited some more, and then Dad decided it was time to go. Dreading the long drive to the airport with my parents, I spontaneously invited my oldest daughter to come along for the ride. She was more than happy to come along, though she didn't know it would take over an hour to get there. I dropped my parents off, we hugged and exchanged our final tears and goodbyes. I wish I could go to my grandma's funeral, but life and kids and finances.... *sigh*... she understands and knows I would be there if I could.
Anyways, on to my story. Back in the car with my daughter, starting the long drive back home, I decide I might as well talk to her about what happened earlier. I have told her in the past that I would prefer it if she doesn't mention mommy's beliefs or "Wicca, magic, or cards", around her grandma... but I hadn't fully explained why. Apparently now was a good time to go over this with her again, before she decides to out me completely. We talked about how I have different beliefs than grandma, and that's OK, everyone is entitled to different beliefs. But some people think that their religion is the only "right" one, and other beliefs scare them or bother them. I was happy to find that my daughter feel that this kind of judgement is "Totally unfair and not cool."- Then I had to explain to her that her grandma is one of those people who just doesn't understand, and no matter how you try to explain things to them, they may never understand. I found myself, driving down the interstate at 7 pm on Winter Solstice, having an amazing conversation with my ten year old daughter about religious diversity.
Then, another amazing thing happened. I was telling her that Grandma is not wrong or bad for believing the way she does, but she might be very sad or upset if she knew that I didn't believe the same thing as her. My daughter said she understood, and she likes reading the bible and going to church with grandma... "But, I want to learn more about what you do, because I think I believe in that." I told her, "You don't have to believe in something just because I do. I want you to learn about many things and decide for yourself." She said, "I know mom, but I want to learn more about Wicca. I mean, I know how you pray and use candles and crystals and cards but I want to learn about that stuff." I'm trying to make sure I'm in the right lane for our coming exit - while smiling and feeling so proud and happy at the same time, and I tell her, "Yeah? No problem.. you're getting bigger now anyways... I can teach you about that stuff. And you can ask me questions about it at any time - I hope you have always known that."
"Yeah mom, I know. But I'm curious now and I want to learn more."
"Okay... I've got something we can learn about right now. Do you know that tonite is a special day for Wiccans? Tonite is the Winter Solstice"
"Ooooh, I've heard of that! We put decorations of the Sun on our tree for that... what else does it mean?"
I went on to explain about the seasons, the solstices, and how on Winter Solstice it is the longest night of the year, but after this night the days start to grow longer again. I told her how it's a time to welcome back the sun, and remember that even though winter is still not over yet, the Solstice is a promise of the coming Spring. We talked about how our lives can seem like this; sometimes things are sad, or "dark", but eventually things get better again and we heal and grow and move forward.
She wanted to know about other "Wiccan Holidays", as she called them, and I told her about Beltane in the spring, then the Summer Solstice, then Samhain in the fall. She confirmed that she has indeed been paying attention to the little things that I have told her about these Sabbats in the past, by remembering little symbolic acts or items that she had seen. We talked and talked, so much that I missed my final exit and had to take a 10 mile detour to get back home!
THEN, my night just kept getting better, because she asked me if we could do something together to celebrate the Solstice! As I said, I hadn't planned anything, but I couldn't turn this down! After the younger kids were sleeping, I pulled out some candles and sage and books. We did some yoga and breathing exercises together. We sang together. (I taught her the simple Element Song) Then we lit candles and sage and read out loud the Yule Ritual from Scott Cunningham's "Wicca - a guide for the solitary practitioner". We prayed. I used my Angel Therapy cards by Doreen Virtue and did a one card reading for my daughter, and then or myself. We talked and prayed by the candlelight, and eventually closed the circle and said goodnight, as it was rather late. We both went to bed feeling happy, and I know I finally found the peace that I have been missing for the past week. My unplanned Winter Solstice turned out way better than if I had planned it, even with that awkward silence and disapproving look from my mother....