My parents meant well. They wanted the best for me. They were excited to find the perfect formula to raise a perfect daughter.
And somewhere along the line they stopped wanting the best for me and started needing me to be what they decided was best.
And when I wasn’t that picture they no longer wanted me. That’s the best way I can describe it.
I think like many people raised in the world of homeschoolers, I’ve had the gut feeling that it’d be inappropriate to share my story. Our 11th commandment was to never speak ill of our family or lifestyle. There was always a push to hide what we were doing and never cast any negative light on the angelic conditions of homeschoolers and our perfect families. I’ve only told a few people what happened with our relationship.
When I was five we moved to acreage in the middle of nowhere. We listened to programs that told us music with a beat was scientifically proven to kill your brain cells. We didn’t have cable because all the shows would make us worldly. We stocked up for Y2K. We supported groups like HSLDA that told us the evil government would take away our children if we didn’t fight with them by paying membership fees. We obsessively absorbed the wisdom of the Pearl’s.
My experiences with the outside world were limited to church activities and the library, but even this was enough to make me question if my parents were really raising me correctly. My parents couldn’t keep up with all the books that I read. I’d borrow big piles and hide the ones that wouldn’t pass inspection in the middle.
My parents told me that people who didn’t homeschool their kids didn’t really love them. That people who dated didn’t value their future spouse and would get divorced.
Purity and gender roles were everything.
My mother obviously wouldn’t work outside the home, even when my dad lost his job multiple times and money was tight. Respect was the most important thing to my dad. We were all to submit to him without question, to the point that we couldn’t ask something that ended with a question mark. We had to direct conversation as respectful statements that he could choose to respond to if he wanted.
My mom couldn’t explain anything past simple math and my dad would get frustrated at me when I didn’t immediately understand it. I faked the majority of my math work past 2nd grade. Science was a similar story. My parents made it clear that I only needed it because the state required I learn it. It wasn’t vital for a woman’s education. What was vital was understanding that my goal in life was to be a wife and mother. I needed to sew, cook, clean, and learn to be the best wife and mother. All of my life was focused on that aim and that meant everything was focused on getting married.
I’m still sorting my education into the facts and what was just an elaborate attempt to shape my worldview. The “mistakes” that my parents made were probably the only way my brain developed in the shape that it did. They regret letting me have part time jobs, taking classes with other Christian homeschoolers, and not monitoring me close enough. My friends were all very intellectual. They pushed me to excel when my parents didn’t necessarily care. I started to question their mandates. I didn’t want to solely be a stay at home daughter. I wanted to figure out what I believed for myself. I wanted to understand my father’s beliefs. He wouldn’t explain them to me. He said my questions were disrespectful and I should just accept that he knew what was best. My role was to serve his family until I got married and then I would serve my husband’s family.
I wanted to go on a mission’s trip after I graduated. They grudgingly agreed, assuming I wouldn’t be able to raise the funds. I worked all summer and then my brother told them that it wasn’t appropriate to let me leave their guidance. They postponed my trip for 6 months. They canceled it again. Then my dad borrowed $2000 from my account without asking. When I sheepishly mentioned it he said he needed it to pay bills for our family and was offended I had brought it up. Months later I saw that he had paid it back. Eventually I convinced them that I should go on a mission’s trip for 3 months with our church. My reasoning was that I should serve others some before I got married.
College wasn’t ever a choice for me.
Going into debt was sinful. My parents couldn’t afford to send me even if they approved of the choice. I knew I wasn’t educated enough in math and science to get a scholarship.
My sister had the perfect long distance courtship. They only wrote letters for months. They didn’t hold hands till they were engaged. They didn’t kiss till they were married. My dad gave an hour long sermon at her wedding and he cried from happiness. She was everything they wanted in a daughter. Since it all worked out so well for them, my parents insisted that it was the perfect method. When I didn’t act like her I was a disappointment. They had been (untrained) marriage counselors for years. They’d insist on telling me all the intimate details of people’s marriages. Sometimes they were my friend’s parents. When I didn’t want to hear it I was disrespectful. When I didn’t want to read another book about submission I was rebellious. When I didn’t want to watch another marriage DVD series I was selfish and disobedient. All the scenarios ended with the wife realizing that if she just respected her husband more he would love her and things would be fine.
When I got tired of my life only being focused on marriage, I asked them if I could focus more on pursuing God.
They told me the only way I could pursue God was to pursue marriage.
Single people were selfish. Pursuing independence was sinful. Living outside the protection of my spiritual authority was unthinkable. My dad told me whatever I was doing, I should think of what he would want me to do and then do that. If I didn’t I was sinning against him and God.
When I got back from my missions trip I wanted to move out and for some reason they complied. A couple months later it was a different story. I had a full time job, and I wanted to buy a car. It was a battle. I wanted to pay for my own car insurance, and they finally lost it. They gave me an ultimatum: quit my job, move back home, stop pursuing my selfish independent lifestyle and I could remain their daughter. They couldn’t bear to see me living in sin any longer.
My father told me that God would always forgive him if he strayed, but he was a human so he couldn’t promise that he would always forgive me and take me back.
I couldn’t agree to their terms. They told me the choices I was making would make me a horrible wife and would ruin my marriage and children. My dad wouldn’t bless my marriage. My mom started crying and told me that she shouldn’t have had such high expectations for me. Maybe if she had lower expectations for me this wouldn’t be so hard. I was 18 and on my own. A couple months later I tried to reconcile with them, and my dad clarified that we didn’t have a relationship unless I could come back to the biblical model. I couldn’t.
Six months later my dad shared that he still felt the same however cutting off relationship meant he was giving us responsibility for me and he couldn’t do that as he was still responsible for all my sinful choices. He said he was sorry if I was hurt by the things he said, but they were true. He said we needed to have a relationship again so he could show me how to be better.
It’s been a couple years since then. Things are still rocky between us. It took me over a year to come out of the depression that our broken relationship caused. I was suicidal and cried continuously.
They were my entire world.
The hardest part is that I was close to my family. I didn’t think they were capable of disowning me. They were all I had ever known, and I was relatively happy with my brainwashed life. I didn’t know how to function without them. I had to learn to support myself on my own. I had to figure out who I was without my family. I had to deal with my parents turning my whole family against me.
Since then I’ve found out that members of my family helped and supported an elder that molested his adopted daughter for years. They protected him because he was the head of his household and knew best. Now when stories surface of incest and abuse I don’t question them.
Of course this happens, we were all taught to blindly obey.
I still have to fight the guilt when they say I ruined our relationship. I still hear that I should just be like my older sister and things would be better. I still hear that I’m not what they want. I still deal with them poisoning my relationships. Counseling and time helps. But it’s still complicated and it still hurts.