A few years ago our writing group topic for the month (May 2007) was ‘childhood influences’. This set me thinking:
‘How do you bring up a child to become a Quaker?’
I wondered how my parents (both lapsed Anglicans) had reared two Quakers out of three children, and remembered our own deliberations as to how, as Quaker parents, we should bring up our children. Chatting about this at home my son said ‘be religious but open and encourage questions’. I also remembered a heated discussion (sometime during 2005) in which our daughter, Rhiannon, made a strong case that we had neglected our duty as parents and not taught her enough about what we believed in. When I found the following extract in Quaker Faith and Practice it helped clarify things for both of us:
When I taught my children how to do many things I ensured that they would have skills to give them abilities, enjoyment and health. What I think I chiefly taught them was that I was right and they were wrong. When I hear them teaching their friends how to play games I realise just how much I bossed them around. In seeking to pass on our values to our children I think we largely waste our time. They will pick up our values from us by the way we live and the assumptions that underpin our own lives. John Guest, 1987 QF&P 23.82.
Have thought about all this, and just attended Yearly Meeting in 2007, I wrote the following:
Questions, questions, yet more questions,
Children ask them all the time.
Mummy, where does the sea go?
What is underneath the pavement?
And so, how do we respond?
Try to baffle them with science?
Tell them shut up, be seen not heard?
Just hope they’ll go away. Or
We can ask and listen too.
Where might the sea go to? When?
What could be beneath our feet?
How can we find out together?
Shall we look up in a book?
Try to do an experiment?
Dig a hole and take a look?
Make a list of our best ideas?
Search for answers, find more queries,
Then we grow in understanding.
Learn to nurture, not take control,
Accept each other as we are.
So to this from Yearly Meeting:
Where have all these flowers come from?
How many miles? How much fuel?
Celebrate both blooms and questions.
Sixty words to explain Quakers?
Slavery, how can we end it?
Could we be more inclusive?
Can you send a hug by email?
For the record:
my mother says that the original question (my brother’s) was ‘where does the sea END?’
we didn’t dig a hole in the pavement, but we did look down most of the holes that were dug in our local roads and footways
we looked in a lot of books (and later used google) and did quite a few experiments
we have far fewer flowers at yearly meeting in recent years
people have found ways to indicate hugs in text eg ‘( )’
slavery is not so easy, likewise inclusiveness
both our children are now adults and are currently in membership of the Religious Society of Friends
my 60 words to explain Quakers (written for Watford Celebration 2007) were: ‘We aim to ‘walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.’ We believe it is possible for everyone to have a real and direct experience of God in everyday life. Come and join us at the Meeting House, Church Road on Sunday morning (10.30) for silent worship or visit www.watfordquakers.org.uk‘