Sunday, October 3, 2010

Teaching Children the Craft: Animal Care

I am very happy to say that Rowan has inherited his mom's affection for animals of all kinds. As a child, I liked animals than most people (heck, I still do!). I begged my parents for a dog (not successfully) and when I was a teenager with my own room, small critters would "show up" in my room: newts, finches, fish, anything I could get away with!

Rowan's squeals and enthusiasm frighten dogs sometimes...
And Rowan is giggly and squealy whenever he sees animals- be they dogs (his favorite!), guinea pigs, or fish. We have parrots at home and he knows the sign for bird and watches their antics with glee. We have taken him to pet stores and the Academy of Sciences to see animals, and I am looking forward to tomorrow's Pagan Playdate, when we go to the Little Farm (before a short Mabon ritual with the kids- yes, I'll bring the camera!). I can't wait to see how excited he is about all the animals at the petting zoo (and feeding them lettuce and celery!).

Rowan is growing up with animals as a part of his life because it is important to me to have them in my life, and I firmly believe that caring for an animal starting when children are young teaches connection, empathy, and give a child another flavor of love that they should experience. It also teaches them responsibility. Connection to animals is an easy way to demonstrate to kids that we are all connected- and that is a lesson all kids should learn regardless of the theology they are being taught. But given that my theology is all about connection (as is theirs)- I see Rowan having animal friends in his life as inevitable and necessary.

Rowan at a pet store. He especially liked the
guinea pigs and Black Mollys.
Now before anyone asks, when I say that a child should have an animal, I am also saying that a child's parent is ultimately responsible for that animal's welfare. Parents are the adults! They need to keep food stocked, ensure habitats and litter boxes are clean, dogs are walked, and ensure that the animal is well loved (and not mauled) and so on. I am also saying that the parent is responsible for teaching their child proper care and handling and ensuring the safety of said animal so that they can ultimately become responsible themselves. Extra work for moms and dads! But sooooo worth it.

As a witchlet, Rowan will be learning a lot more than the average child when he learns about animals. He will be taught to observe animals and learn lessons that they have to teach. I will tell him about how when I was going through a hard time in my life, Hedgehog had some important lessons for me. I will tell him about how each animal has special skills, and can teach him something about life.

I will also teach him how to slow down, calm himself and talk to animals. Reach out to them and have them appreciate his efforts. Prey animals especially need extra care. Since Rowan is growing up with parrots (who are prey, not predators) he will learn first hand about how to communicate with prey when you yourself are a predator and their first inclination is to fear you.

At the Aquarium!
He will also learn about the cycle of life, how to live and survive means killing (no exceptions- vegetarians kill plants, and they are just as meaningful and important in life's cycle as animals), and he will learn what his role in that cycle is.

As a witch, he will learn that dying is inevitable and not necessarily scary (just sad for those left behind). Having animals in our personal lives also help children with these lessons, too. Their shorter life spans mean that often they are the first deaths that children experience. We, as parents, can help them through that grieving process.

Rowan personally loves dogs. Mom is OK with dogs, but prefers parrots, frankly. But given how much Rowan loves dogs, I see one in his future, when we have a bigger place that allows them.

Charming video:


  1. I'm also teaching my daughter about animals, more than 'look it's got a tail'. I haven't gotten as far as what lessons they have for us, but I'm sure I'll get there some day.

  2. Hi Witch Mom! :)

    I found you through the Blog Directory and wanted to say hi. :) Your blog is beautiful! :D

    I love how you're teaching your son about animals and the lessons they have for us. What a great way for a kid to grow up, and what a rich childhood he will have. If only more parents took such an in-depth approach to their parenting! :)

  3. Today in liturgy writing class, we were talking about crafting memorial services and someone brought up the loss of our beloved animals. It seemed timely!

    Hi Jess! I just signed up to be a part of BlogHer, so I am glad that I did, given that you found me that way! I may go to their conference this year as well. Do you also blog?



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