Get Them Married: Selling Virgin Daughters

Image from Flickr, by Jeyheich.

By Darcy, Homeschoolers Anonymous Editorial Team

Update: The current advertised retreat had its venue cancelled today by the Salvation Army, owners of Camp Hiawatha in Wichita. The Ohlmans have also posted an update after the “flood of attention” and clarified that there are “no current plans” for future events. 

Update 2, editor’s note: The original age of Mrs. Ohlman at the time of her betrothal was written here as 16. According to a comment left on her blog on May 2nd, she states she was 19 at the time of the betrothal. This story has been edited to reflect her correct age. 

Arranged marriages, child brides, teenage grooms, patriarchs, and bride prices. These sound like stories from faraway lands. However, this story today comes from Wichita, Kansas, where one man and his followers are showing the world exactly what it looks like when Christian patriarchy, authoritarianism, and “Biblical marriage” are taken to an extreme.

Vauhn Ohlman, who runs a site called Let Them Marry, is facilitating a family camp in Wichita Kansas this November, titled “Get Them Married Retreat”. The purpose of the camp? As stated on their website, “The Get Them Married Retreat is a 3-day retreat designed to bring together like-minded families (and their unmarried young men and women) who are committed to young, fruitful marriage …our major focus and priority will be bringing together unmarried young people and their families so they can intentionally network together with a goal of arriving at God-glorifying marriages.”

So just how does Ohlman define “God-glorifying, young, fruitful marriage”?

Ohlman is a proponent of what has been termed “betrothal”In his words:

The betrothal covenant is the covenant that makes a man and a woman into a husband and wife. It has no specific Biblical form; indeed it is expressed in Scripture in a whole variety of different ways, from fairly formal to purely physical…. The couple who are in the betrothal covenant, but have not yet come together physically, are said to be ‘betrothed’; and the time period where they are like that is called ‘betrothal’.

Ohlman goes on to further explain in detail his doctrine of betrothal:

We on our site use the word ‘betrothal’ to refer to the entire set of principles, which differ from those of courtship and dating, which are taught by Scriptures for the path to marriage and several related subjects. These include: 

A) The sufficiency of Scripture for the path to marriage
B) The authority of the father over the marriage of their virgin children
C) The continuing authority of the father after marriage
D) The importance of the betrothal covenant versus:
E) The problematic nature of the quasi-covenants of dating, courting, or engagement
F) The importance of young, fruitful marriages
G) That a ‘bad’ marriage is to be preferred over no marriage
H) That a couple is not supposed to ‘fall in love’ before they are in covenant; they are to be brothers and sisters to each other
I) That marriage is ordained for the prevention of fornication
J) That ‘unready’ people should marry
K) That early, fruitful marriage is normative
L) That the gift of being successfully celibate is very rare. [emphasis mine]

So according to Ohlman, the entire purpose of life is godly marriage. But not just godly marriage, young godly marriage. How young? Ohlman says that girls are ready for marriage when their bodies are developed enough to have children, when they start having interest in the opposite sex, thus increasing chances of fornication. Ohlman skirts around the question of when is too young, by quoting people like John Calvin who claim that twelve to twenty years of age is appropriate, and using phrases like “the flower of her age”.

But what does “flower of her age” mean to Ohlman? He goes on to further explain in detail how he determines readiness for marriage for girls:

The ‘youth’ ready for marriage has breasts. A woman who is to be married is one who has breasts; breasts which signal her readiness for marriage, and breasts who promise enjoyment for her husband. (We believe that ‘breasts’ here stand as a symbol for all forms of full secondary sexual characteristics.) 

“The ‘youth’ ready for marriage is ready to bear children. Unlike modern society Scripture sees the woman as a bearer, nurser, and raiser of children. The ‘young woman’ is the woman whose body is physically ready for these things, physically mature enough to handle them without damage.” 

“… the above points represent, not a certain exact age, but a level of physical and sexual maturity. Not ‘maturity’ as in ‘been there, done that’, nor even a ‘maturity’ as in ‘have been at this level for a long time’, but a point of arrival…. The woman who has arrived physically and sexually at a point where she is ‘ready’ for a husband, is ready for a husband, else we make God out to be a liar… Calvin and Gill, quoting the Jewish authorities in reference to the term Paul uses in I Cor 7:36, place the lower limit of this at twelve years old for girls. Again, not that every, or even very many, girls reach this milestone at that age.

So while he says that they do not “endorse” marriage of 12-yr-olds, he implies that should a 12-yr-old display all the physical and emotional signs of marriage, she would be thus ready and her father needs to be on the lookout for a husband for her.

But what about the consent of the parties to be married? Do they get a say in the matter? Ohlman says, no. They don’t get to consent, they only obey their authorities, that consent is a product of the evil world and not Biblical.

Scripture speaks of the father of the son “taking a wife” for his son, and the father of the bride “giving” her to her husband (Jeremiah 29: 6; Judges 21: 7; Ezra 9:12; Nehemiah 10: 30; 1 Corinthians 7:36-38). It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted, and often, in some of the most Godly marriages in Scripture, the young man is not consulted. 

First of all, Scripture never, ever mentions the idea of “consent” in regard to marriage. 

Some use the idea of “consent” to deny the very relevance of the action of their authorities to bind them in covenant, as if a covenant was of no effect whatsoever and all that matters is what the person themselves decide. 

In contrast, our study of Scripture has shown that the Word of God considers a covenant made by an authority to be meaningful and binding upon the those under his or her authority. Biblical consent is not the “consent” of dating or courtship. It is not a “veto” power. It does not presume to cast judgment over their father’s actions. And so, a lack of consent of the individual concerned is a choice of disobedience, a breach of a vow and of a relationship. God has designed the marriage relationship (in particular that of the virgin daughter marrying the virgin son) to be a relationship initiated by the parents, in particular the fathers, of the young couple.[emphasis mine]

Also on his website, is the story of his son and daughter-in-law, Joshua and Laura, and their betrothal. Ohlman and the father of a young girl (whom he had never met) decided their children should marry, so they arranged the entire “covenant” over long-distance. The children did not meet until 2 hours before their betrothal ceremony and were said to be too nervous to even speak to each other, thus letting their parents discuss details of the ceremony. The desires and the consent of the children did not matter, as Ohlman teaches they have to follow the authority of their fathers in this matter. In the words of Laura Ohlman:

Indeed, what really happened is that Joshua and I trusted our respective fathers to do the vetting for us… and to do a much better job than we could have done. Our dads weren’t dealing with raging hormones, crazy emotions, or an overwhelming desire to ignore important issues simply for the sake of getting married. My dad was able to take a serious look at Joshua’s character in a way I would have been unequipped (and unlikely) to do. 

Less than two hours later [after they met for the first time] we held a small ceremony in our back yard. My dad and Mr. Ohlman gave a short sermon/admonition, each to their respective children… and then my dad put my hand in Joshua’s, thereby giving me away to the man I henceforth have had the privilege of calling my husband! Barring family members, I had never held a man’s hand before.

With this background and story in mind, we go back to the planned retreat in November.

It is, quite explicitly, a place for families to get together to arrange non-consenting marriages between their teenage children.

Kansas laws regarding child marriage state that a 15-yr-old can get married with special consent from a judge, and that 16 is the age at which marriage is legal with parental consent. However, Ohlman and his cronies practice betrothal which is not legal marriage, and can be done as soon as they determine a girl has breasts and her period. So the implications are that families can come here to sell off their young daughters in marriage, some much earlier than 15 if the betrothal period is taken into account. All without the consent of the children being married. (It should be noted that teenage boys are in a vulnerable and trapped position here as well, since Ohlman teaches that boys are always under the authority of their fathers, even after marriage, and that the betrothed wife moves in with the groom’s family and takes her her new life with them, under the authority of her husband.)

Critics are calling this legal sex slavery. It’s not that extreme of a definition. Young girls sold off as sex slaves to please their husbands and bear them babies, without their consent, young boys are expected to have sex and bear children and raise a family, also without their consent, and all organized by men in positions of power. The definition fits. We often think of child brides as a travesty that happens in other countries and other religions, but in reality, it’s happening right here in America, often under the guise of Christianity.

Crooked Arrow: Smith Lingo’s Story

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Smith Lingo” is a pseudonym.

My dad found Jesus towards the end of his college education and immediately wanted to quit his music studies and run off to seminary. Or so he tells me. He only had a year left, so he decided to stick it through to graduate. But that initial determination to sacrifice the reality of his own needs and wants for a far-off ideal, some abstract standard, is something he’s never abandoned, and something he’s done his damndest to pass on to the kids.

Soon after graduating and getting married to my Mom he became seized with another defining idea: that they were destined to be parents, and they would parent not just the amount of children that was healthy, sustainable, or economically viable, but that they would conceive, deliver, and raise as many children they physically could.

This was driven by a rhetorical idea of children not defined as individuals, but a collective force.

Children as “arrows in the hands of a warrior”, “blessings from the Lord”, things to be multiplied instead of cherished, raised for gain as political clout or a future care-taking staff instead of for love.

It was in service to this idea then that my father went back to school for Computer Science, working at a gas station in the morning, going to class in the day, and poring over his Calculus textbook at night. He wanted a new career path, one that paid better than music education. He worked the long days in service to his abstract idea of children — the arrows, the blessings — while the same work separated him from his concrete children. It was for all his future children too, the children of the mind, that he labored and studied while the children of his present were fatherless.

I realized from a very early age that my dad cared more about me as an idea than about me as a person, a discrete, tangible being.

The very first thing I was taught in our homeschool of hard mental knocks was to tell him what he wanted to hear, to tell him what the child of his mind would say. If I didn’t, I knew he would try to pry it out of me, convinced he was simply refining an imperfect vessel, burning the dross away from my crude soul with paddles and palms. I can’t remember ever not knowing that my father was disinterested in my truth.

But, abstract as they were, my dad’s ideas had consequences, and one of those consequences was me. As difficult as it is to reconcile, without my parents’ reckless pursuit of their ideological army of children I would not exist. I am the physical manifestation of my parents’ ideas, even if I could never measure up to the mind-mold in their eyes. As I come to disagree with those fundamental ideas, it becomes more of a struggle. I am opposed to the very reason I exist. I must take the position that if what was best had been, I would never have been born. This is the poison of ideology.

A few years ago, my homeschool education came to an end. I graduated in a ceremony with other homeschoolers from the local area, kids I was lucky to have seen a handful of times in the previous years. I remember before the ceremony the parents of the graduating seniors tried to plan social events for the class. Looking back now through the lens of disillusionment it seems like a desperate attempt to make up for decades of conscious desocialization in a few short months. It certainly worked about as well as you’d expect from that viewpoint.

The first event I attended may have been the first time I had faced the prospect of a purely social gathering by myself. I was terrified, and anxious, and awkward, feelings I would come to be intimate with in the following years.

I was facing for the first time a seemingly impassable gulf of experience and knowledge that my parents never taught me in the syllabus of my home education, and I hadn’t been allowed to gather outside. They had prepared me to take tests in Algebra and English, to converse with adults about the Will of God, to make change, and to tell time.

But they had always, actively kept me from independently forming relationships with anyone my own age.

My parents adequately prepared me to score well on academic tests. I received a scholarship to go to college, and since I was born male and had scored well in Math they decided to allow me to attend the local university, my father’s alma mater, in Computer Science. I had become an expert in telling them what their abstract child would say, so I told them I would study Computer Science.

It was, I told them, a good career to support a family with, and I may not have said the words, we both meant a family with as many future, abstract children as my future, abstract wife could possibly deliver. Their abstract child would never tell them he wanted to study film, so they never heard that in my gentle hints and information requests to other schools. The dross of my dreams was burned away.

I was becoming a pure ideological vessel, a well-fletched arrow they could shoot into the world.

The Gulf has returned to haunt me again and again. I’d recognize it anywhere. In every realm except the academic and physical, I am a child, with a child’s experience and knowledge. I am now old enough to legally drink, but we are born knowing how to drink. I am more than old enough now to connect with my peers, but I do not know how to do it; I never learned. And I am slowly learning now, but the Gulf between me and my generation grows larger as I try to build my flimsy bridges over it.

The Gulf paralyzes me, turns every phrase into mumbled gibberish in my mouth. Every situation contains an unknown, a reminder.

Every experience understood as universal that I can’t possibly relate to, every turn of phrase everyone else understands but is foreign to me, every reference that exposes my naivety transforms me from hulking twenty-something to socially floundering toddler.

College has corrupted the pure vessel my parents thought they had refined. The experience of opening my mind to the truth of people besides my father has bent the arrow they fletched so straight to their mark. I only lasted a semester in the Young Republicans. Nowadays I snicker in chatrooms about the spectre haunting Europe and envy the hammer-and-sickle tattoos my friends are getting.

I lingered at the outskirts of college ministry for a semester longer, but today I’m more concerned about the long-neglected physical ailments of my discrete body than the ideological ailments the campus crusaders claim to cure. And I’m more interested in the concrete bodies of the men and women around me in the present more than the form of a single, abstract, future woman. Perhaps someday I’ll raise a child.

If I do, I’ll raise them to be who they are and not to fit the mold of an ideological soldier in a biological army.

My parents have noticed the change. Every time I’m foolish enough to talk to them about what matters to me now, they purse their lips and shake their heads. The model has been spoiled; their beautiful idea is tarnished. They murmur about my professors, the media, my peers, always my peers. Never me. “I” still mean nothing to them; I’m still an arrow to be fletched and strung and released, an empty vessel to refine in fire. I could try to tell them about the Gulf, the daily struggle to belong to a society I’ve been held separate from for decades.

But the struggles of real people have never interested them as much as the ideological battles being waged in their minds, and on that battlefield, I’ve already been lost.

A Quiverfull of Definitions

CC image courtesy of Flickr, WannaBEEfarmer Jeff.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on September 2, 2015.

I’ve increasingly seen the media use the word “quiverfull” used to describe the Duggars’ entire subculture, and that’s bugging me, because this use of terminology is neither very accurate nor very helpful. In its purest definition, “quiverfull” means abstaining from using any form of birth control and instead letting God plan your family, and yet I’m increasingly seeing it used as a label for an entire subculture. There are several issues with this.

First, “quiverfull” is usually a term used by outsiders looking in. The Duggars themselves have said they do not use the word to describe themselves, and honestly, it is fairly rare to find someone who does. My parents never used the term.

Second, many people who are often included under the “quiverfull” umbrella are not in fact quiverfull. For example, Michael and Debi Pearl actively preach against quiverfull teachings. They do not have a problem with couples using birth control.

Third, one can be quiverfull without adhering to patriarchy (this is actually a thing that really does exist), but this gets completely erased when the term “quiverfull” is treated as a wholistic descriptor for people like the Duggars.

The best way to implode some of the overlaps and issues here may be to tell you a story about something that happened to my mother. First, a word of background. As a child, I grew up reading Above Rubies magazine, which we received regularly. While even she does not use the term “quiverfull” to describe herself or her ministry, Above Rubies’ Nancy Campbell is probably the closest you can get to pure quiverfull, with her magazines full of stories of oversized families and tubal reversals. Her magazines center on the beauty of large families and the value of motherhood and the importance of accepting as many “blessings” as God has to send your way.

Some years back my mother attended an Above Rubies conference. She told me that when the other women at the conference found out that she had twelve children, they gathered around her and called her blessed (that’s Bible language for heaped her with praise and adoration). But when they asked her if she was open to having more children, she told them she had recently had her tubes tied. As a result result, she was shunned for the remainder of the conference.

My mother was really upset when she told me this story, because, she explained, Michael and Debi Pearl taught that a woman must bow to her husband’s will in areas like this, and it was my dad who had insisted on her getting her tubes tied even though she hadn’t wanted to. She felt that she had been unfairly shunned by these women. She wanted to have more children. She hadn’t wanted her tubes tied. I remember her crying over this decision. But my dad said he was going to lose his sanity if we had more children, and for all of the importance my mom put on welcoming every blessing God had to send along, she believed even more strongly in male headship and female submission, so she submitted and underwent a tubal ligation.

Actually, there’s one more thing I should share about my parents as long as we’re talking about definitions. My parents used birth control from time to time to space us children out a bit, but never methods they considered “abortifacient.” Yet even though they sporadically used birth control, they talked about children as “blessings” and spoke of raising us out to send us into the world to win souls and retake it for Christ, all of which is classic quiverfull rhetoric. Were my parents quiver full, then? Or were they not? There’s no real agreement on the definition of quiverfull, and there are plenty of homeschooling families that have more children than they might otherwise as a result of exposure to quiverfull rhetoric, but still use birth control to limit their family size. Where do they fit, exactly? Who is quiverfull, and who isn’t?

But let’s talk for just a moment about what I just described as “classic quiverfull rhetoric.” The term quiverfull is adapted from Psalm 127:3-5, which reads as follows: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” From this verse comes both the rhetoric about children being a blessing (or a reward, or heritage) and the more militant rhetoric that positions children as a weapon and their father as a warrior.

Even here, within these rhetorics, different leaders place the emphasis differently. Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies focuses on the babies as blessings rhetoric and rarely uses rhetoric with a more militant focus. When I read her magazines as a child, her focus was always on mothers and childbearing. In contrast, Michael Farris of the HSLDA focuses heavily on military rhetoric when discussing the importance of having large numbers of children.

farris

In fact, you might very well argue that quiverfull has two separate rhetorics, one mother-focused and one militant-focused, which sometimes overlap and sometimes don’t. But more than this, neither of these rhetorics requires a full rejection of birth control. There are many many many families that use these rhetorics and also use birth control. In some sense, quiverfull rhetorics have invaded the Christian homeschooling culture more generally, and in so doing have become at once more diluted and more widespread and pervasive.

Even when using the purest definition of quiverfull (abstaining from birth control), you are going to find variations in emphasis between families. These variations will often depend on what Christian leader and ministry one became quiverfull through.  Bill Gothard preaches quiverfull within an authoritarian patriarchal family structure and through a ministry (ATI) that is often described as cult-like. Nancy Campbell preaches quiverfull through a ministry that is mother-focused and centered around babies and children. Campbell is still patriarchal, but the articles in her Above Rubies are written by mothers, not male pastors or authority figures. While both might be rightly described as quiverfull (though neither uses the word), the two ministries have very different feels and position their rejection of birth control differently.

The Duggars are followers of Bill Gothard. Their social circles (including both church and homeschool conventions) have long centered around Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute, and until recently, even their curriculum was ATI. The Duggars eschew birth control based on the teachings of Bill Gothard. In fact, essentially every one of the Duggar’s beliefs, from JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last) to the umbrella of authority, comes from Bill Gothard. Yes, the Duggars fit the technical definition of quiverfull (though they do not use that term themselves), but their essence is ATI.

The wider Christian homeschooling subculture the Duggars belong to is best understood as a cluster of overlapping circles, each circle representing a specific leader and/or ministry. There is Gothard’s ATI, there is Nancy Campbell’s Above Rubies, there is Michael and Debi Pearl’s No Greater Joy, and Michael Farris’s HSLDA, and Doug Wilson’s Credenda Agenda, and Jonathan Lindvall and others, and until recently there was Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum. These various groups and leaders may sometimes overlap, but they also have points of disagreement and position their various emphases differently.

My parents primarily followed Michael and Debi Pearl, Doug Phillips, and Michael Farris. But even then, they were not as close Pearl followers as those who go to the Pearls’ Shindigs, and they were not as close followers of Doug Phillips as those who attended his various conventions, and they were not as close followers of Michael Farris as those who sent their children to Patrick Henry College. In other words, there are those families who sample from a variety of these leaders and ministries, and there are those families who lock onto one and refuse to let go, joining an inner circle of sorts.

There are some ideas that these various individuals and organizations tend to share, but each leader and each ministry is slightly different, not only in focus but also in belief. These overlapping circles all tend to be patriarchal, though Farris encourages parents to send their daughters to college while Phillips argues against sending daughters to college and Gothard tends to be against anyone going to college. They all tend to favor large families, though Gothard is against birth control while Wilson is not, and Campbell’s reasons for opposing birth control are different from Farris’s. Perhaps the greatest point of commonality between these groups is the belief that children must be sheltered from the world and carefully trained in Christian beliefs.

Attempts to describe this constellation of groups as “quiverfull” run into serious definitional problems. While quiverfull rhetorics pervade many if not most of these overlapping circles, the number of families that give up birth control entirely is small, and even these don’t generally use the term “quiverfull” to describe themselves. One might argue that this subculture is better termed “patriarchal” than “quiverfull,” but even then I am given pause when I remember my mother’s experience at the Above Rubies conference she attended, and when I think of all of the letters the Pearls receive from women who desperately want to leave their childbearing up to God only to face resistance from their husbands.

In some sense this loose constellation of individuals and ministries is most united not by its emphasis on large families (to stretch the definition of quiverfull to its breaking point) or its emphasis male headship (which is a widespread belief among fundamentalist and evangelicals in general) but rather by its emphasis on using homeschooling to shelter children and train them up to follow God. Yet even that isn’t specific enough, because there are evangelical and fundamentalist homeschoolers who seek to shelter their children and give them a Christian education but don’t follow any of the leaders discussed above or become involved in the alternate universe that is this subculture. Perhaps it is the creation of a parallel culture in pursuance of this goal that is its most defining feature.

I’m not entirely sure where that leaves us. At the moment, we do not have a term that adequately describes the overlapping circles of leaders and organizations that make up the subculture that is conservative Christian homeschooling. Perhaps that is what we need—a new label. If nothing else, though, I hope I have given you a better grasp on the term “quiverfull” and the issues surrounding its definition, use, and meaning.

See also Quiverfull Is an Ideology, Not a Movement or a Cult.

Devoted: Book Review by Kierstyn King

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on May 28, 2015.

I have to admit, I was really hesitant to start reading Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu – not because I doubted it’s good-ness (she worked with my friend Hännah on it, so I knew it would be good) but because I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the story I know so well, again. Devoted is about a Quiverfull daughter escaping, and Jennifer worked really hard to get the story, and the feeling, and capture everything it means to leave that environment right, without making it over the top. She did so beautifully.

It was painful and cathartic, as a former quiverfull daughter myself.

devotedI remember what it was like to leave and not say goodbye, I remember what it was like to have to clear my browser history, and feel like the eight of us who existed just weren’t enough. Devoted captures those experiences perfectly, and I think people who are curious about what it’s like to grow up in that environment, now have a way that they can understand.

If you’ve ever been curious about what my childhood felt like, this book is it. Read it. This is the book I wish I could give to everyone who wonders, or everyone who thinks maybe this lifestyle is totally awesome.

If you’re an escapee from this environment, Devoted is so good it hurts. Someone else understands, and I can’t put into words how good that feels. We’re not alone, we’re not freaks, and we are undeniably tough as nails.

Devoted comes out June 2nd.

Go buy it. My copy is tear-stained, so.

The Curse of Being Bound to an Image

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jen Linfield Photography. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jen Linfield Photography. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on February 2, 2015.

It’s been over nine years since I left my parents and over time my perception of how much progress I’ve made in my life has changed many times, fluctuating between sometimes thinking I am doing a terrible job at being an adult and sometimes thinking I am doing well. Through some enlightening conversations I’ve had recently with my friend James, who is in my cohort of ex-fundamentalists, I’ve come to realize that in spite of everything that I re-evaluated and realized since I left, I missed a very important thing. (I am not going to say that I missed one very important thing because I am sure that there are other things I’ve missed as well.)

Here it is: we were raised to believe that there is a pre-set standard for what adulthood should look like.

I was given to understand that I should grow up and get married at age 18-21, give or take, and after that point I should be completely mature and adult. There would be no need for further growth or any further emotional development. I should have my spirituality completed settled and sorted out, and I should not be different in any way, other than age, from any other married woman who was, say 40  or 50 (the same message was given to young men, although it was gendered differently).

There is a small inconsistency in this idea because older people are assumed to have more wisdom if they are telling you something they think you should do differently, but other than that, young adults were expected to be completely mature.

To get a somewhat more rounded idea of what other people (who were not raised in fundamentalist homes) internalized regarding expectations of how adulthood should unfold, I have spoken to several other people in my life. First, I asked my husband Chris what messages he received from his family on this topic.  He was raised in a fairly “average” home, if there is such a thing. He said that he wasn’t taught specifically that he needed to have his life together at a certain age. Instead, his family taught him life skills that were needed. His parents have supported him and his siblings in making their different choices, and when something hasn’t worked out the way they were hoping, his parents supported them again in making new choices. His parents have shown me the same kind of supportive attitude, when I have had hopes and dreams that didn’t work out. They tend to meet us where we are at, and while they give advice and input, they only show support to their adult children when they are struggling; they do not say guilt-inducing things, or say that they are disappointed in their children.

I also spoke to my friend Amber about her understanding of her parents’ attitudes about emotional and lifestyle development and this is what she had to say: her parents strongly encouraged her to start working early, to learn how to have a source of income and how to manage money. If she wanted money for extras, she needed to earn it. She was also strongly encouraged to go to enter some form of higher learning (apprenticeship, college, etc) right out of high school; her parents felt that this was a good idea to avoid becoming involved with other things instead of finishing school or an apprenticeship, as it is more difficult to finish pursuing such goals when you are married, have a mortgage, or have children. Her parents demonstrated what a good relationship should look like and what to expect; but they had no expectation that their children should have a partner at a certain age or have kids at a certain age. Her parents also taught her and her brother that women should be respected, and are equals, and encouraged her to be independent. She says that it was expected that she wouldn’t settle for anything less than a partner who treated her as an equal, showed her the respect she deserved, and loved her more than anything else.

In terms of emotional maturity Amber and her brother were able to go to their parents for anything, and her parents expressed that they felt that it was their life duty to look after their children, even now (Amber’s brother is now in his 30’s). Her parents have modeled for her that even parents don’t need to be independent, allowing her to see their vulnerability in a safe way. As Amber and her brother have gotten older, they are there for their parents for support and advice sometimes, when applicable, as well as their parents continuing to support them,  Her parents encouraged her to understand that there are life stages and people change and adapt over time. They encouraged her to take her own path, and made it clear that if her chosen path was to change, that would be okay too. She said that above all, the message she received was that she should pursue what she wanted. I asked her if, in her experience as part of society (in a secular “average” household) this is a typical message for young people to receive, and she said that within her circle growing up, and other people she has known since then, it appears to be typical.

In a recent conversation with one of my sisters, we were talking about her life plans and I asked her when she thought she should have her “stuff” together. She told me that she figures she should be well on her way with her life plan by 21. She has a pretty good idea of how the next 8 years should unfold, and strong expectations about what she should accomplish in that time. When I was 20, I thought that by the time I was 25, I should have my career down pat (which was still ironic for me at that point in time since according to my parents, there was no intention for me, as a woman, to have a career at all), and I should certainly have everything in my head settled and sorted by the time I was 25. I have struggled quite a bit with certain things since leaving my family, but I believed there was a deadline for dealing with those issues.

I thought that I should have the perfect relationship, which would turn into the perfect marriage. I thought I should sail smoothly through school and within six months, I should land a good job and get established in my career. I should start a family and never struggle with my past issues again. Overall, I have a good life, things just haven’t all worked out quite as smoothly as I thought that they would, if I tried hard enough. My career hasn’t taken off quite the way I was hoping. I struggled a lot with feeling ready to want children, because of what I went through a child. I was talking to my sister Natalie about this, and she pointed out that when our parents reached this age and stage in their lives, they chose Patriarchy and Quiverfull ideology, rather than sticking it out and trying to succeed in the 80’s when professionalism was taking off for both men and women. (Note: I feel comfortable saying that my parents did not succeed, since both of them have been unemployed for the greater part of the past 30 years).

The pressure that was put on me to have children, by my parents and the ideology they adopted, has also contributed to feelings of failure as an adult, as I am now 26 and do not have children.

I made a difficult decision to share this next bit on my blog, because I feel that it is not talked enough about and I feel that hearing about this may be good for others who have gone through the same thing as I did. I decided last summer that I was ready to have children. My husband and I had been talking about it for several years, and I finally felt like I was ready to take that step. So I went off birth control and we started trying. In October, 2014, I got pregnant, but by December I had a second ultrasound that showed that I had miscarried. That didn’t fit into what I thought my life plan should be.

Having the miscarriage brought up a lot of pain for me, which meant that I had to face that I hadn’t wished away my struggles from the past. I have a lot of painful memories from when I was a child. My childhood memories were linked to the idea of having my own children in a way that I think is reasonable. I get triggered by things sometimes, which is difficult. I had this idea that I needed to put those feelings and memories aside, and move on in my head. I am not talking about healing, I am talking about forcing it away. And I really tried to do that. I wanted to. I wanted to live a life where the things that happened to me, didn’t happen. But that’s not true, that stuff did happen. I survived. But not without scars. There is still some pain and some struggles. Some bad days. And somehow, that is okay. It’s sad that I had a miscarriage. But there is lots of time for me to heal from that and move forward.

I’ve come to realize that people I know, who weren’t raised like I was, think that it is okay to start their lives out slowly and work their way up to where they want to go. They think that it is okay to be more mature at 25 than they were at 20, and to be more mature and established at 30 than 25, and more mature and established when they are 40 then when they were 30. To see life as an unfolding story. Not one that you have to finish writing by age 20 or 25.

This is the curse of being bound to an image of what your life should look like. I am shocked to have realized at age 26 that I had never re-evaluated my feelings about my life path and the messages that I received about it. I have re-thought so much, and somehow I missed this huge piece of what life is all about. But it’s not too late. I hope that by sharing my husband’s and my friend’s thoughts on their parents’ attitudes, I can show that not everyone thinks this way. It is so easy (and so frustrating) to feel that you have gotten all the way out of fundamentalism but still be hanging onto an image or a timeline of how your life should be, that is not based in reality or has nothing to do with what you want in your life.

Discovering who you are and what you want, and pursuing that for yourself, is such an essential part of the human experience. It’s too big to miss out on. It’s still important for me to be functional. I still want to keep actively pursuing my goals. But I am going to let myself of the hook a little, and not count set-backs at 26 as a sign of global failure in my life. It just means that I am so much younger than I realized.

I have so much more time than I realized. There is lots of time for success. 

Dreams

CC image courtesy of Flickr, shira gal. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, shira gal. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on November 18, 2014.

I had a dream last night, and in that dream I spent a lot of time with my closest-in-age sister doing chores.

She’d taken up the slack for me since I was gone and had figured out how to do all the dishes and things required for keeping a house full of 8 people clean. We talked, and I realized she wasn’t the little kid I used to know anymore. She was growing into her own, and it was beautiful…..

But also painful. Because I wasn’t there. Because I abandoned her. Because my role was forced upon her when I left and she was angry, as she had every right to be. As I watched in awe and horror as she did my job, and was surprised and sad at how good she was being the next surrogate mom. I saw her anger and depression and exhaustion and I was powerless to fix it. She had every right to be angry with me, every right to be tired. Every right to grow and become her own person and enjoy her teenage years and yet that was brutally taken away from her – like it was with me. Through no fault of our own.

My mom was in the background, hovering and dictating as she does. Neither of us dared address the actual issue or the people who were actually at fault and made the decisions we were forced to live with. I bore the blame and the anger, because it was all I could do – and I told her as much as I could that she was perfect and capable and amazing.

*****

It was only a dream, I tell myself.

And yet…..it’s probably not far from the reality.

I can’t ignore that running away, that choosing myself for the first time, didn’t leave scars on the siblings I helped raised. I wonder what it would have been like to just have siblings, instead of children – to have played and been more equal instead of responsibility for their needs foisted upon me as a child. I wish I’d been able to share childhood with them, instead of having to grow faster so I could meet their needs as a parent would. I wish I could have been real friends with my siblings, instead of nurse.

I wonder often what that’s like. What’s it like to have siblings as friends and playmates and obnoxious little sneaks, instead of people you need to raise, bathe, feed, and educate?

What’s it like to have siblings that your parents don’t cut you off from?

I wish so much didn’t happen the way it did – the way it had to.

I’m so sorry that it did, and I’m so sorry I hurt them.

Born to Breed

Wendy Jeub on WE-TV's “Born to Breed" episode.
Wendy Jeub on WE-TV’s “Born to Breed” episode.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog CynthiaJeub.com. It was originally published on November 17, 2014. 

Content warning: I describe unsanitary conditions for childbirth in this post…not sure if that’s a specific trigger for people, but thought it still deserved a warning.

“Pull back the curtains
Took a look into your eyes
My tongue has now become
A platform for your lies.” -Cage the Elephant

My dad was playing his guitar, and the rest of us were sitting around, following him for clues on what to sing next. He looked up at the new Bible selection, printed with a calligraphic font, framed and hanging above the piano.

He picked a chord, tried singing along with it: “Lo, children are a heritage…”

It didn’t fit. He adjusted his left hand to find another chord, and this sounded better. He tried singing a few notes, then broke into song, following the words:

“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord,
And the fruit of the womb is his reward,
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man that has his quiver full,
They shall not be ashamed (not ever)
For they will speak with the enemies in the gate
Psalm one-twenty-seven, yeah, psalm one-twenty seve-en.”

My dad always said he wanted a boy. He expected for me to be a boy, and he expected Lydia to be a boy. By the time Isaiah was born, there were four girls, and my parents were done.

Apparently that’s when God got involved, and convicted their hearts to keep having kids. Mom miscarried between Isaiah and Micah, and they were still just sixteen months apart. Then she was pregnant almost every year until there were sixteen kids.

We were quiverfull, and we were proud of it. In later years, my dad loved quoting the books “America Alone” and “The Empty Cradle,” and he often talked about how Christians weren’t having enough children. If we ever wanted to keep Muslims from taking over the earth, Christians needed to keep having loads of children. This was a competition, and the Quiverfull movement was fighting to win dominion over the planet.

That’s why it was a little weird to see my dad blogging recently that “patriarchy has got to go,” and that he’s ” becoming more and more repulsed at the use of the patriarchal idea of ‘dominion.’”

In 2009, we filmed our second show, this one with CBS. This was for the WE-TV channel, exclusive to certain cable services (Or is it cable networks? Dish connections? I don’t know how to talk about television subscriptions – we only had TV for one month when I was a teenager; we got a free trial so we could watch ourselves on TLC and then cancelled the subscription). It was, we found out after the producers had already gotten their footage, a show called “The Secret Lives of Women.”

Our episode for season 4 of the show was titled “Born to Breed,” and it featured four women who talked about the Quiverfull lifestyle. The first was Vyckie Garrison, founder of the site “No Longer Qivering.” She’d removed the letter “u” for her slogan, “There is no ‘you’ in Quivering.” She talked about how she’d lived the Quiverfull lifestyle and escaped from it. Then there was my mom, Wendy Jeub – in 2009, she had fifteen kids and she’d recently lost her pregnancy weight, so she looked healthy and happy. Another Quiverfull mom, Rachel Scott, was filmed with her large family, but it wasn’t as big as ours. The fourth woman was Kathryn Joyce, who’d just published a book about the Quiverfull lifestyle.

At home, my dad had derogatory things to say about Vyckie and Kathryn. He never swore or called them names, he just told us negative things about them that were partially true. He said Kathryn, being a woman who’d never experienced the Quiverfull lifestyle for herself, was just a journalist who didn’t know what she was talking about. He said Vyckie’s kids were rebellious and misbehaved all the time, and they looked less happy than they had been in the Christian Quiverfull lifestyle.

I loved having a big family. I thought I’d save my virginity for marriage, and that I’d save my first kiss for my wedding day. I wanted to have a large number of children, too. When friends asked if I was scared of the pain of childbirth, I thought I could handle it. After all, I’d watched my mother give birth to nine kids, eight of them in the small Jacuzzi tub at home. She endured each labor patiently, never screaming, always breathing through each contraction.

The forest-green carpeting in my parents’ master bathroom had white mold collected in the corners, and the panels around the shower had black mold climbing up them. I don’t know if it was Black Mold because you need such things to get professionally checked, but the mold was black. Sometimes we couldn’t turn on the jets while bathing the children, so the water wouldn’t get filled with flakes of the stuff.

I’d seen my mother give birth several times before I learned that most women can’t stand the pain. It also didn’t occur to me until this summer that since the bathtub was covered in mold, it probably wasn’t an ideal place for giving birth. I watched childbirth nearly a decade before I learned what exactly sex was, but I wore a purity ring in my late teens anyway.

All this, and I still thought I’d choose the same lifestyle my parents had chosen. I thought I was born to breed, that I’d court and marry a man who had my parents’ approval.

I practiced contentment. After all, I told myself, if I couldn’t be happy with my life as an older sister in a large family, how would I ever be happy as a wife and mother of my own large number of children? I knew I wanted this, so on hard days, when I got frustrated and overwhelmed with housework, I thought about how I’d someday have a husband of my own. I refused to even let myself fantasize about intimate moments with a man – that was impure, and I couldn’t expect married life to be all about that. I knew most of the time after we were married, he’d leave me home to cook and clean and watch the children. I must accept this fact of life and learn to be happy with it.

That’s what my life was: making promises I didn’t understand, being totally committed to things for which I had no alternative, and wanting a future life that would be just as happy as the one I was living.

What is Quiverfull?

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on February 18, 2012. It has been slightly modified for HA.

Quiverfull: The Basics

The Quiverfull movement takes its name from this verse:

Psalm 127:3-5 – Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

First is the idea that children are a blessing and always something to be welcomed. The more children a man has, the more blessed he is. Children should never been seen as a burden, but always welcomed with open arms.

Second is the whole arrow part. What do you do with arrows? You shoot them at your prey. The Quiverfull movement holds that these arrows, or children, are to be shot out into the world to win converts and make the world more Christian.

So, have many children because they are a blessing, and because you can shoot them out into the world to influence it for Christ. 

The Military Rhetoric

Now there’s quite a bit of military rhetoric involved here. Don’t let you throw that off. The whole “army for Christ” thing isn’t literal. The Quiverfull movement isn’t arming its children or sending them to jihad camps. It’s called a metaphor.

As an example, Prominent Christian homeschool leader and Quiverfull advocate Michael Farris likes to tell homeschool parents that they are the “Moses generation,” taking their children out of “Egypt” and training them up in “the wilderness,” and that their children will be the “Joshua generation,” who will go out and conquer the land of Canaan. (Or as he also phrases it, “retake America for Christ.”)

Now Farris doesn’t mean these children will retake America for Christ with guns and tanks. What he means is that they will retake it for Christ by winning converts and influencing the politics, law, education, and culture of our nation. And yes, there is dominionist influence at work here.

Ideological Uniformity

It should be obvious that implicit in all of this is the idea that Quiverfull children will share their parents’ beliefs, ideas, and values. After all, what good would it be to have arrows that go astray when you shoot them? Part of this metaphor is the idea that arrows are shaped carefully, whittled to the perfect size and balanced just so – and that parents are to do the same with children. If a child is raised properly, the Quiverfull movement holds, that child will become the ideological and lifestyle clone of his or her parents.

It should be obvious that this creates problems for children in Quiverfull families. It’s not just young people like me growing up in Quiverfull homes feeling stifled by the expectations of conformity who have noticed that there’s a problem. There are articles by Quiverfull leaders who talk about the problems of children “jumping ship” or children who “went wrong.” Of course, their solution is not to change their ideology, but to try different tactics to shape their children.

Birth Control

There’s one more thing to be mentioned, and that’s birth control. Hardcore Quiverfull families reject birth control entirely, believing that it subverts God’s plan for the family. They believe that if they follow God and go without birth control entirely, God will provide for them. God controls the womb, after all, and going without birth control allows God to choose a family’s size and timing.

But a family doesn’t have to go all the way and reject birth control to be influenced by Quiverfull ideas. There are lots of families who, influenced by these ideas, have much higher than average numbers of children and raise them to be “arrows shot out into the world” even as they use birth control to space the children out a little bit or to call it quits when they feel they can’t handle any more.

Conclusion

When I speak of the “Quiverfull movement” I really mean all of those who are influenced by Quiverfull ideas, not simply those who go all the way and reject birth control entirely. For me, the idea of raising children to be arrows shot into the world is a more important part of Quiverfull than is a complete rejection of birth control.

When people look at families like the Duggars, all they see is the “we don’t use birth control” and “we think every child is a blessing” part. Would that that were all. It’s the idea of raising up children to be a metaphorical army for Christ, miming their parents’ beliefs and lifestyle while winning converts and influencing America’s political and legal systems and its culture, that is more problematic.

Note: Remember that most Christians think this stuff is loony.

Aging Backwards

kid

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on December 2, 2013.

When I was 8, I was expected to be an adult.

I had adult responsibilities (taking care of kids) and was expected to act as mature as an adult – learn all the things, do all the things, cook all the food, wash all the babies. I had to fight for some semblance of my own childhood. My mom wanted me to grow up and grow up fast. I remember her asking me, before I was 10, to stop playing “dogs” with my brother (we’d run around on our hands and knees barking and stuff) because, essentially, it was embarrassing. I don’t remember the exact words she said, but that was the gist.

I just looked at her, and willfully ignored her until I was 11, and by then, I was too busy doing her job that I didn’t really have time to play with my siblings, because if I did, I was quickly ushered to change someones diaper.

Funny, because my mom said that I should be happy I have so many siblings/sisters to play with and that I don’t need friends my own age. But I never had time to play with them even if I wanted to – and honestly, they were so much younger than me, and she had them with such frequency, that I wasn’t even on the playmate list – I was the caretaker, the other kids, they all had each other, but I was quickly forced out, alone, and expected to be happy about it and have no needs.

I wasn’t allowed to have needs. I wasn’t allowed to be a child after I started puberty.

As I aged, I was expected to be more adult – not in like the normal, kids mature way, but in the I-was-8-and-was-expected-to-be-20-and-go-from-there kind of way. By the time I was 13 I’d lost any semblance of childhood that I’d had. I’ve never experienced the care-free years of being a kid or a teenager, because the entire time I was a kid(‘s age), I wasn’t.

I don’t understand teenagers, I don’t understand 18 year olds who don’t look and feel like they’re 40. I don’t understand 16 year olds who still play and aren’t crushed under the weight of grown up responsibility. I don’t understand 22 year olds who act like 22 year olds are supposed to act, and don’t have random existential crises because they feel like their life is over and they’ve accomplished nothing.

I’m 22, but most of the time I feel like I’m so. much. older. and learning how to act my age.

I’m actively trying to become more immature, because I can’t handle the continued weight of having to be more responsible and older than I am, of having to be the parent all the time even though there’s no one around to parent (except myself, which isn’t healthy either).

When I got married, I was 18, but I felt as though I’d lived a lifetime before that even happened. It said 18 on my documentation, but in my head I was in my 40′s, most of my life lived – well, survived, and it was time to do something else. Most people are like, no, you can’t marry at 18, and I agree and feel bad about it until I realize, when I was 18, I wasn’t actually 18. I was much older than that – because I was forced and pushed into growing up well before I even had the ability to understand what everything meant.

When I was 8, until I was 18, I was given all of the responsibility of an adult, with none of the power. I often felt like the only adult in the situation, like I was the actual parent, but I had no ability to change things for myself or for my siblings.

My mom confided in me things that really she should have confided in other adults to – things I didn’t need to know and didn’t understand and had no idea how to respond to. You shouldn’t tell your kid about how you’re mad at their father, or what you do in the bedroom and how it’s sinful (because every sperm is sacred), but you just really don’t want to be pregnant again (and pulling out is SO effective) – bearing in mind, I still thought sex consisted of invisible metal tubes connecting at the belly button of the other person.

When Alex and I started going out, I wasn’t even 17, and they heard wedding bells. They wanted me married right away, it felt like I was being pushed out, which was strange, considering.

My parents wanted everything to move so quickly. They said “but you WANT to get married, right?” and I was like “sure, yeah, but not RIGHT NOW” (because, 16, even I knew that was a bad idea). They didn’t seem to understand the concept of time.  They wanted me to grow up so fast and never experience having grown up.

I never had a relationship with my mom and I think this is largely why.

I was the parent. I was the confidant. I was the one who had all of the responsibility, the consequences, and the anger shoved on to. I bore the brunt of her frustrations and I was the one who was berated for simple mistakes.

In every way, I never had a mother. I was never her daughter, I was only ever her tool.

The only time my mom was ever sweet to me was when she was trying to butter me up and manipulate me.

So when people say they’re so sorry I never had a relationship with the person who made the choice to give birth to me (and then demanded my life in return), I stare at them blankly. I don’t understand why they would say that. It actually hurts, because it’s almost as though they’re blaming me for not having or wanting a mother-daughter relationship – like I’m unjustified in my relief to have finally left her grasp.

I’ve grown in odd patches, with massive gaps where experiences should be, but aren’t. Learning what to do with feelings, and learning what needs are (after not being allowed to have them, because adult…which is BS, actually, my mom had ALL OF THE NEEDS). I feel old, I look young, I have experience and naivety in all the wrong places.

I hate having had to fight for everything – whether it’s for childhood, or autonomy, or myself.

I am tired.

I don’t know what made me think of it – maybe it’s because it’s the holidays and I really want the gingerbread that we used to make, and that reminds me of the fact that holidays were chores and mostly unenjoyable, save christmas morning, and I get tired from the memories and the forced aging.

I feel like Benjamin Button.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part Six, Mary’s Story

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HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. “Mary” is a pseudonym. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

Mary has previously shared her story in full on Homeschoolers Anonymous and is the author of the “Home Is Where The Hurt Is” series.

*****

Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

*****

Part Six: Mary’s Story

So I’ve been reading the articles this last week about the sister-moms and they have been hitting home.

I am one of those sister-moms.

I am the 2nd oldest of eight and the oldest girl.  Most of the time I felt like the oldest because my older brother wasn’t in the picture much for various reasons.  But anyway, in the Quiverfull movement, there is a world of difference being a boy in the family versus a girl.  I don’t really feel like going into my story in this document, especially as it is already posted on HA.

This is about another frustration that arises from my position in our family.

As I was growing up, I got very used to hearing remarks and jokes about how many children we ourselves would have when we grew up.  Some people would sit down and start doing the “if all 8 of you have 8 children” equations. Then they would start joking about what family reunions would look like.

We didn’t go to a conservative church. In fact, for most of my younger years, we were the only home schooled family. As far as I know there was never another family as large as ours. Because of that, the jokes ran all the time.

My parents relished in the attention and would laugh right along with everyone. 

For me, however, I seemed to be getting some very clear messages: First, everyone expected me to have a large family (and why wouldn’t I when I was “so good with children and would make such a good mother”?). Second, I would be a failure if I didn’t have a big family — but also a joke if I did.  When anyone would ask me while I was in my teens how many kids I wanted, my answer was always what I was taught to say: “as many as God wants.”

I never let on that the jokes and even just the normal comments hurt me deeply. I never let on that I really didn’t want to have a bunch of children.

I wasn’t allowed to. 

One thing I always wanted to scream at people making rude comments was that I had no choice.  I had no choice that my parents wanted to be crazy and follow a cult.  I was just the second one to come out.

I am now a mother and I have 2 amazing children. But I only have 2 and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon — if ever.

The problem is that it seems I will never be able to shake all those jokes and insults from my past.  For example: on my Facebook page on my birthday, there is this one guy that feels the need to always say “Happy birthday” by making some joke about how many more kids I need to “catch up” with my Mom (as if I couldn’t figure that one out on my own).

When I did get pregnant with my oldest, the comments and jokes were merciless. I was working at a Christian bookstore (where I had worked for 5 years) and I knew about 80% of the customers that came in. Many others would recognize me because my family all looks alike and ask if I was a ____ (my family name), notice that I was pregnant and proceed to make a joke.

It hurt.

It hurt very deeply.

I would say the incident that hurt the most was when a lady (who I thought I respected) made a comment to my younger sister about how I was such a failure to my parents and was a rebellious child that obviously never learned a thing from my parents growing up.  Why did she say that?

Because my sister told her that I wasn’t planning on having a bunch of children and that I wasn’t planning on home schooling. 

Never mind that she didn’t have a bunch of children and that she had never home schooled herself.  But somehow because I wasn’t doing it, I was rebellious (at 26 years old at that time and married). I have so many more examples that I can’t forget that I wish I could. As a result of all of that, I fled that church as soon as I could. I fled my hometown, too. Right now am on the other side of the country.

So I guess my point is really aimed at “normal” people. Yes, those jokes hurt. No, we (as the children) didn’t have any choice in those things our parents chose.

Please be mindful of that when you speak.

*****

End of series.