Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bill Gothard has negativley affected my life part 2

My twin sister flopped down on her bed, a dreamy look on her face. She was clutching a beautiful down parka to her chest, hugging it like a teddy bear. I sat tentatively on the edge of the bed, swinging my feet that were snugly encased in my new leather boots. They were Christmas presents, unusual Christmas presents. Past Christmases never had expensive or thoughtful gifts, not for "the twins". We got socks and new underwear and inexpensive clothing. But this stuff was quality! So unusual.

We were continuing a conversation that had been going on for three weeks at that point.

"Isn't it beautiful?" my sister squealed as she buried her face in the parka. "See, Mom is changing. I think she finally wants us to have a happy family. I can't believe how nice she is being to us. It's like a dream!" Her blue eyes sparkled with hope, and I loved her in that moment as only a sister can. She was so beautiful, so happy. She was beginning to believe that mom might actually love her.

My heart hurt for her, and I wanted so much to protect her from hoping. It had never ended in anything but disappointment and heartache where my mom was concerned. And yet my sister was so happy right then, how could I crush that? I'd have to be as big a monster as my mom to crush her happiness.

"I hope you're right." I finally offered. "I don't trust her. Something is up. It is not like her to be so kind and thoughtful. I think she's plotting something new."

I looked down at my sweet, tender sister's face. A cloud had come across her joyous expression. Why, God, did my sister have to live with this too? Why couldn't it just be me? I would have given anything to spare her from the pain I knew too well myself.

"But I'm cynical, you know me. You're probably right. It's just hard for me to trust her." I flopped down next to her and stared at the ceiling.

We talked of other things for awhile, and then I crossed the hall to my own room and went to bed. As I lay there drifting off to sleep, I thought maybe, just maybe, my mom had grown a heart. Like the Grinch. Maybe.


"Get up and get dressed. We have company. Come to the den. Do it NOW!"

The old mom was back. The angry voice, void of anything resembling kindness, the abrupt demands, the expectation of bad attitudes on our part. Oh, God. I immediately thought of my sister. This was going to crush her.

Another piece of my heart broke as I pulled on jeans and a T-shirt. I put on my game face along with my clothes. This was going to be ugly, I knew that much.

I had no idea how ugly it would get.

As I opened my bedroom door and stepped into the hallway I saw my sister. She was so frightened and bewildered. I will never forget the look on her face. Tears are in my eyes as I type this. If God really means it about millstones and drowning for offending little ones, there will literally be hell to pay for what happened next.

Our house was small so it took very little time to get to the den. There in our little den, sat the elders of my mom's fundamentalist church-the same fundamentalist church that took us all in buses to the Gothard seminar.

Oh God, help us! What has she done this time?

I took my sister's hand. I have never seen a more wounded expression on a person's face. I wished I could protect her from whatever evil was about to befall us, but I was as helpless as she was.

If only she hadn't hoped, I thought. Oh sweet sister, why did you trust her? She only ever does evil.

I'm not sure when exactly my brain shut down. I remember the pastor standing up (wicked man!) with his big black Bible. I remember the sectional sofa full of men, all of whom I knew from church. The pastor began to speak in a loud voice.

First he went on about what a godly woman my mom was (Ha! If he only knew.) and how she had tried so hard to raise us for the Lord (Is he talking about the same person?). Then he began to go on about how rebellious we were (True of me, NOT true of my sister!) and finally he got to the Bible reading.

He read from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 21:
18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." 21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Once he started reading, I checked out. I probably talked over him to my sister, telling her not to listen, that this was bullshit. I don't remember exactly what I said and did, but I do remember shutting out everything that was going on around me.

Seems my mom, who was at best neglectful and at worst violent, whose righteous deeds pretty much consisted of going to church on occasion if she wasn't hung over or spending the night at her boyfriends, had convinced these patriarchs that she was a helpless little woman in need of their protection. Could those big strong elders please come and rescue her from these rebellious ungodly teenagers? And they fell for it: hook, line and sinker.

The real story is that my mom feared my sister and I. She found out that we had recently renewed our relationship with our estranged step-father. She knew that might result in a new custody battle for my little sister. She had to discredit us, and do it quick. Otherwise, we might talk and someone might believe us and then where would she be? No one would leave a child in her home if anyone believed us.

The bottom line, pronounced the pastor, was that we deserved to die for being rebellious to our poor, helpless, uncovered-by-a-man overwrought mother.

But since stoning wasn't legal, we were given two options. Call my step-father to come and get us or they would call the police and have us declared incorrigible (a legal status) by the state and we would go to juvenile justice.

I know enough now to confidently state that the second option was a bluff. We'd never been in trouble with the law for anything serious. I skipped a lot of school one semester, but was back on track at that time. The law in that state about incorrigible youth was intended to get the chronically criminal off the street. We were typical teens, not criminals.

But we didn't know that at the time. The threat seemed very real that day.

We called our (non-religious)step-dad, who came and got us, and that was a temporary fix. My mom never stopped trying to destroy our lives, however, and my step-dad had no idea what to do with teenage daughters. He had been a single workaholic man for the past fifteen years! But he had a heart, praise God, so he showed up for us in our hour of rejection. I will always love him for that.

Eventually my mom would make sure that I wound up in foster care and on my own with nothing when I aged out. My twin sister was dumped on the street at eighteen with nothing, my mom having stolen all the money in my sister's savings account since it was in her name as well. We were completely discredited- homeless high school dropouts. Mom wins again.

The truth is, my mom played those patriarchs like a fiddle. She loved the idea of absolute authority and total submission as long as she was the one in authority- LOL! In her personal life, she honored no one but herself. Not long after she got these people to do her dirty work, she moved on to another job and another city.

The thing about the NPD my mom suffers from is that my mom truly doesn't care. She didn't care if we partied. She didn't care if we went to school. She did not care. She had never tried to win us over to a righteous way of life. It really did not matter to her at all what we did with our time or our lives as long as she was not inconvenienced.

The only thing she cared about was her reputation. It could never get out what kind of monster she truly was, because she has an unyielding need to appear perfect at all times. This was the source of all her rage when she was angry- we had negatively affected her life or reputation in some way and that must never, ever happen. It's a mental illness; I don't think she is capable of change. It's just how she is.

No amount of "godly submission" or a "sweet spirit" on my part would have ever changed her. I don't think there is a medication that could help, and it is the nature of the illness that she will never seek help. She can't admit to anything less than perfection, or her whole psyche will collapse. The fear that people will find out the truth- that at her core being she is lacking essential human qualities like love and empathy- terrifies the NPD woman. Anger at having that veneer of perfection threatened and fear that she will be exposed are the only emotions NPD sufferers ever honestly experience.

The pain of that day never goes away. I recently found out that neither of my other two sisters ever knew what happened that day! My little sister was told we wanted to go live with my Dad. My older sister was already out of the house so that's what mom told her too. Mom must always look perfect. According to her, she was the victim here as we just up and called our step-dad and LEFT HER! Out of the blue!(insert tears here) I only discovered this lie recently and here's how I found out:

To this day my twin sister will have nothing to do with any church or Christianity as a religion. She is deeply wounded emotionally and has suffered greatly from depression and anxiety her whole adult life. My older sister was being very critical of my twin sister for refusing to go to church. So I shared this story with my older sister to explain WHY my twin wouldn't ever go to any church ever again.

That's when my older sister told me that she never knew! Mom kept it a secret for almost thirty years! Incredible. But it makes perfect NPD sense. My mom wouldn't tell my sister the truth, that she had called the church elders and kicked us out complete with a religious ceremony. My sister knew my mom wasn't exactly a devoted Christian and that the whole thing was a scam. Much better to lie and win my sister's sympathy than tell the truth and be scorned.

This is where it continues to be twisted. Life with an NPD never changes. Mom spent a lot of time fostering mistrust between sisters. My older sister asked my younger sister if she knew about this incident. My younger sister did not, but had also heard that we left mom of our own free will. All those years of maligning my character had the intended effect. Even now my sisters hesitate to believe me.

Happily, my step-dad is still alive and he can verify these events. And my best friend at the time still lives in that city, and she can verify those events as she came over right away to say goodbye and help us pack. My mom gave us until my step-father showed up to gather our things and get out. There are witnesses other than those elders and my twin and myself.

So, does everyone get why the nice winter parka and the good leather boots? It was to "bless us" on the way out the door, her pre-emptive gift to the homeless for the coming winter. As a good friend of mine would say later, mom must have been singing inside, "These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do, one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you."

I haven't looked at the events of that day for a long time. I post them today in solidarity to every daughter who has been kicked out on the streets under religious pretenses.

I post them today in solidarity to every daughter who has seen her siblings suffer and been helpless to protect them from spiritual and emotional abuse.

I post them today in solidarity to every daughter who has been lied about to her siblings by manipulative parents who want to keep the truth hidden and the exiled daughter a pariah.

I am not a Quiverfull daughter. But I totally empathize with those who are. You have my unflinching support.

Bill Gothard has negativley affected my life....

I started this blog to have a space to write about how patriarchal fundamentalist thought had affected my marriage and resulted in disaster on many levels. The truth is that patriarchal fundamentalist thought had already wreaked havoc on my life before I even met my husband, but that is really a whole different story. I did not intend to write much about my family of origin here, but I will today in solidarity with the Quiverfull Daughter, of whom I am very fond.

I am not a Quiverfull daughter. I am one of four girls raised by my single mother after two failed marriages. Her story is one of abuse and heartache, and it affected her life and personality in very negative ways. My mom is abusive and manipulative and completely self-centered. I am convinced she has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Since I started relating to her as if that were a true diagnosis, our relationship has improved significantly. (Recommended read: Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina W. Brown, Ed. D., L.P.C.)

My mom was a staunch feminist, but she was also a great opportunist. She was in and out of different churches all my growing years, depending on her needs and how she thought it could benefit her. She was also in and out of illicit sexual relationships, but of course those two lives never crossed. She was very abusive in private, and managed to keep my siblings and me isolated from one another even though we were all going through the same thing. To those of you who ever lived in such a tangled mess of a family, you understand. To those of you who had a healthier experience of life, I couldn't begin to explain it. Her public church persona, however, was "poor abandoned single mom just trying to live for Jesus".

The summer between seventh and eighth grade was the most violent. I only found out as an adult why the physical abuse suddenly stopped, but the mental/emotional/psychological abuse would never end. It would continue today if I allowed her the access to my heart that real mothers have with their loved daughters.

The biggest spiritual crisis of my life came that summer. I was twelve years old. The honest truth is that I loved the Lord with all my heart. Not because I was raised in a family with daily devotions, but because Jesus loved me and had comforted my heart so many times- through moves and divorces and shamings and beatings and beratings. I loved church when we went, and I spent time every day pouring out my heart to God in prayer. My Bible was underlined and highlighted and I memorized Proverbs not because I had to or was in a competition, but because I wanted my loving Lord's counsel for how to live my life.

At the same time, the abuse was at its peak and I was crushed- angry, depressed and desperate for any kind of love and acceptance I could find. I would tell my mom I was spending the night with fictional friends (she never checked) and then spend the night in the abandoned house across the street just to be away from her. Once when I was hanging out with God at lunch, a group of kids from school found me. Instead of making fun of me, they asked me to join them. They happened to be partiers, so soon I was smoking and drinking if I was invited to join the fun. It felt so good for someone to like me!

That fall, I was forced to go to the Basic Youth Conflict seminar. Even though I drew pictures of KISS all over my notebook, I was listening carefully. I wanted more than any thing to please God and would have loved for my mom to care about me. And Billy G. had all the answers! If only I would submit to my mom in everything, forgive her unconditionally ever time she wronged me, then *presto* *change-o* God would change my mother into a loving mature woman of God. After all, she was my AUTHORITY.

I came home determined to make this work. I worked hard to please my mom, yet never was able to make her happy. I was subservient, and when she began to verbally and/or physically abuse me I tried to keep a "sweet spirit". And I prayed. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before, that God would make me good enough so that my mom would be free to live for Jesus and stop abusing me/us.

But you know what? My mom didn't change at all. She kept right on treating her children as she had always treated us. And it still hurt just as much as ever. I was still angry at being screamed at for hours, slapped around, and continually insulted and degraded. I just could not be the "sweet submissive child" that Billy G. told me God wanted me to be, even in the midst of abuse. It never occurred to me that Billy G. ws wrong. I thought something was wrong with me.

I thought God wasn't changing my mom because I wasn't sweet enough. I thought God wasn't changing my mom because I was still angry and hurt about being mistreated (such a mild word for such devastating heartache). I thought that the presence of these emotions meant that I had an unforgiving heart, and pray as I did, those feelings just would not go away.

Of course the truth is that Bill Gothard is a dangerous heretic and his teachings are poison, but at that point in my life I thought anyone on a platform was right. It was easy for me to assume the problem was with me. My mom had told me my whole life how stupid, thoughtless, selfish, lazy and utterly hopeless I was.

And so I walked away from Jesus with a broken heart. I remember how deep I sobbed that night, gut-wrenching sobs from the depths of my being. I told Jesus I could not be a Christian, because I was such a hypocrite, and I did not want to blaspheme his name with my abhorrent behavior. I was not good enough to follow Jesus.

So I quit reading my Bible and trying so hard to live a righteous life. I hung out with people who appeared to actually like me, and if we drank and smoke and did drugs, so what? I was a moral failure, an epic fail at godliness. So what did it matter.

Because of my own experience, of loving the Lord with all my heart and yet continually being accused of evil motives and thoughts, I identify with Quiverfull daughters.

Because of my own experience, of never measuring up and yet carrying all the responsibility for the actions of others, I identify with Quiverfull daughters.

Because of my own experience, with those in authority claiming absolute power over our lives in the name of God, I identify with Quiverfull daughters.

My experience began in the seventies, and all that damage came from only ONE weekend seminar. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of having this pounded in your head day after day after day. So, Quiverfull daughters, children of ATI, survivors of fundamentalist cults, you have my loyal sympathy and strong support.

And that was only the beginning of the way Bill Gothard negatively affected my life. It would peak in a perfect storm of spiritual abuse, complete with church elders and symbolic stonings.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No, this blog has not died...

...its author and her family on the ropes. But we have only been sick. No near death experiences, thank God, and finally we're getting through it now. :) This has been one long yucky winter so far.

When I left off my story last, my husband had just ended his first year of traveling. His new job was going to make our lives so much better. After all, he was going to be home three full days a week. That was more family time than fathers with regular Monday through Friday jobs got to enjoy! That was a huge plus, and we intended to make the best of it.

Also now he was going to get the respect at work that he deserved. No longer would he be given the daily grunt work while high-priced consultants came in and got all the fun work and the glory. Now he was the high-priced consultant! He had always been up for any challenge (he is a very intelligent and capable man with a strong work ethic) but the tendency of firms to look for expertise for new projects outside of their own staff had worked against him. Surely being happier at work would make him happier at home too.

Also this new smaller firm did not require him to dress in suit and tie unless his clients did, and most of his clients were business casual. No more trips to the dry cleaners on weekends. The smaller firm also required much less paperwork. So the days he was home he would actually BE home. And finally, they offered him a big fat pay increase. It was a set-up for a wonderful life.

He was still a great dad in many ways, but two huge problems were just beginning to surface. One was his criticism of our young son. This breaks my heart to write about. My precious young man ballooned out that year, as eating and watching television became his way to numb out the pain of rejection from his Dad. I tried to make up for his dad's rejection and immaturity by putting my son in sports, where I hoped that coaches could help fill the void of male approval he was experiencing. And to some extent that did help, so thank God for youth football and YMCA!

What I also did not expect was the great strain this new way of life would put on our marriage. And no, it was not because of the traveling. It was because my husband was withdrawing his heart from his wife and children and reliving his boarding school days through his new job.

My husband was recreating his own childhood trauma in his new family life, all because he refused to admit his pain and deal with it. Since he couldn't deal with it, we his family would have to deal with it for him. Not because we wanted to, not because he consciously thought it was the better way, but simply because his not dealing with it on a conscience level compelled him to recreate that scenario in his life until he did deal with it. Things were going to get a lot worse.

They were an unprofessional lot, his new employers, but they were a lot of fun! My husband was "one of the gang" again, and he soon began to see me as the old ball and chain. In his personal journey of healing this past year, he would come to recognize that he put me in the role of mommy while he went back to being a little boy, hanging out with his friends and having a good old time. And mommy was the enemy, the kill-joy, the one to be snuck around, mananged and ditched in order to spend time with the people who really loved him- his boarding school buddies!

He was relating to me in a whole new way, and there was nothing I could do about it. If I tried to talk to him about the way he was being overly harsh to his son, he would blow off my concerns. This floored me! If I spoke to him about feeling rejected by him, and lonely, then I was the one with the problem. It was my perception that was off, not his behavior. I couldn't believe that this man, who once hung on my every word and praised me for my wisdom and insight, now treated me as if I was the most stupid person he had been forced to deal with all week.

It was truly unbelievable. I honestly could not believe it. And so I would keep trying to reason with him, assuming that I was somehow failing in my efforts to communicate my point of view effectively. However since he had put me in the mommy box (and he had a ton of resentment against mommy that I had no idea existed!) there was no way he was going to hear me. What once would have been a brief conversation became three day arguments. And this was actually to become the norm for many years to come, I am sad to have to write that down as truth. But it is the truth.

I truly just could not believe this was happening. And honestly, sometime Sunday afternoon, when the weekend was almost gone, he would often apologize and appear to try to understand my point of view. And so I would forgive him, and accept his excuse as to why this was a one-off but things would be better next week. But then he would come back that Friday once again arrogant and aloof to me, critical of our son, immature and reckless in his responsibilities. It was crazy, but I thought I was the one who was losing it because it did not make any sense to me AT ALL.

One person that did not suffer, at least it was not apparent yet that she was suffering, was my daughter. She remained Daddy's little girl. He ran to her with a smile of delight when he got home, while my son waited patiently to be noticed. Oh how it grieves my heart to write this down. I can see my precious son, smile frozen on his little face, as his leaps of joy at seeing Daddy again are brushed aside while the princess is whirled through the air by Daddy, Daddy looking her full in the face and delighting in her. My sons leaps are less high with every spin that Daddy twirls his big sister around. And then son gets the left-overs, a pat on the back and a one second smile and mom gets a perfunctory kiss on the cheek.

At first I just continued to throw my heart into volunteer work at church and in the home school community, and into creating the best home school environment I could for my children. And I believe that I did a stellar job in all these things, but still my heart was breaking. I was burnt out at my church. I taught the junior high Sunday school class and helped out with the youth group, and then when the youth pastor left I took over the youth group for a few months. Because I take my walk with God and my responsibilities as a believer seriously, I put 100% into this job. Yet at the same time, I was being persecuted and hated at home by a passive-aggressive man who would one day be the man I married, loving God and loving people but then go for several days haughty, self-centered and mean as a snake, albeit mostly in a quiet, unobtrusive way.

When his hatred did break out overtly, he was always quick to apologize for the outburst. In truth, my husband was just as confused as I was. One part of him wanted to serve God, but another part of him was reveling in the camaraderie of his new buddies. They were all about the fine foods, fun times and expensive things and they accepted him! He was in hog heaven. He liked all the things they liked. He would do anything to continue to win their favor.

Yet he still wanted to please God. Deep inside he knew that his heart wasn't right. He knew that what he was feeling towards me wasn't right, but he could not admit to any sin as grievous as hatred or resentment. He had no great passion for serving the Lord, like he had shown when I met him. Yet he went to church every Sunday and sometimes read his Bible. He would fall asleep in church, but he went! Proof positive that he was spiritually sound, and his wife was only being a stupid hysterical female. I was stunned that my husband could so steadfastly continue to deny anything was off with him, and even more stunned at this new misogynist man that had invaded my husband's body. What had happened to the man I married?

I found no help in my church. The women of my church considered me super-spiritual because of all my volunteer work and they had nothing to do with me. I sat and listened to my pastor expose people's problems in his sermons, so there was no way I was going to explain my heartache to that man.

So I started calling my sister-in-law, because I thought that she would truly care and find some way to help me through this time. I also (mistakenly) thought that my brother-in-law would help somehow. I thought they would honestly pray for my husband, and that my brother-in-law would find a way to talk to his little brother (in the power of the Holy Spirit) and help him to come back to God and his family with his whole heart.

Looking back, I can't believe how naive I was. My sister-in-law kept telling me to be submissive and pray (as if I wasn't already doing this!) and at first she would pray with me. But then my husband would come home over the weekend and things would be just as bad. Broken-hearted, I would call her again and get the same platitudes. Even though it was obvious my husband was becoming "worldly" and "materialistic" there was no advice ever offered but submit and pray and then the Lord will change Him for me. Only that never happened. So obviously (to my sister-in-law) I was lying about being submissive and praying. If I was doing it right, my husband would change, so I must be deceiving myself about my commitment to obedience.

Actually, she never came out and said those things, she just quit caring. I would call and she would act a lot like my husband (monosyllable grunts in answer to my side of the conversation, acting as if things couldn't possibly be as I described them) until I got the hint that she didn't want to hear from me. I am slow, and I can plow through a lot of passive resistance before I figure out I am being shunned. But one day the light went on for me, and I realized this wasn't a supportive friendship in the Lord. It wasn't a friendship at all. I resolved not to call my sister-in-law again unless she called me first. That was at least ten years ago. She hasn't called to check on me yet.

If only I was a bit smarter, I would not have been surprised at the lack of Christian support from my in-laws. But they were in ministry and we were long time financial supporters of theirs. I really believed that they loved the Lord and sought to do His will as sincerely as I did. I was shocked at their passivity in the face of our family's need. My brother-in-law never once said a word to my husband, never called to check on him, never cared enough about his own brother's marriage to get involved. This is an additional pain for my husband to deal with now in his season of healing.

I thought Christians all loved the Lord like I did. Boy what a shock to find out that many Christians love their doctrine more than their family in the Lord. I know I sound so naive and Pollyanish, but it is an accurate representation of my heart. If I had been in the know about my brother's denomination and the recent heresy going around in it, there were plenty of clues that my brother-in-law was getting in deep. He kept name-dropping about his buddy Phil Lancaster, who I assumed was an old family friend or something similar I should know about. Once I asked and was told he was a big deal among Plymouth Brethren, my in-laws denomination.

Recently I found out Phil Lancaster was the publisher of the flagship magazine of the patriocentric movement. It all makes sense now. My brother-in-law wouldn't help my husband because men don't need no stinking help. They are always right by virtue of being men. If his marriage fell apart, that would be his wife's fault and I guess they would show him lots of sympathy then. But until then I guess they would just shake their heads at all the poor man had to endure with his rebellious wife with a mind of her own.

I was still seeking the Lord with all my heart, in spite of my confusion and rejection, and the Lord did send help that brought great relief for a season. But how that came about will take "some 'splaining", so it will have to wait until tomorrow. But I can't end today's entry without plainly making one thing clear:

The Lord is faithful! He never stopped loving me, never stopped sending my a kind word at just the right time, never stopped meeting me in times of prayer with special ways of making His love for me known to my heart, never stopped giving me peace and wise counsel even in the midst of my strife and pain. Jesus never fails us. Jesus never forsakes us. Keep trusting in Him even when you are totally confused and feel abandoned by everyone in whom you trusted, because Jesus always comes through for his beloved sheep.

Isaiah 50:10 Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A New Career Twist

Wow. Writing my story is harder than I thought it would be. My hat is off to all the brave bloggers who have gone before me! Thanks for the inspiration. =)

I left off with my story with the beginning of my husband's career as a consultant. He started out with a large corporation and the promise of training to become the elite of the consulting world. He certainly has the smarts for it! And of course the idea of swooping in to heroically solve the unsolvable problems and then leave again, untouched by the petty politics of the client workplace, was extremely appealing. Think Superman of that database world.

It was not until very recently, as my husband began to heal from the toxic effects of his parents hardcore fundamentalism, that it occurred to him that he was actually recreating his childhood dynamics in our home at that time. You see, my husband is an old school missionary kid, sent off to boarding school at the tender age of six years old. When his own son reached the age of six, some unhealthy emotional autopilot inside of my husband's heart clicked on, and he was drawn into repeating the cycle of herioc abandonment in his own son's life.

The story changed slightly. He was off to rescue corporate America, while his own father was out to save the souls of remote tribal people in the jungle. His children got to stay home with the other parent at least. By contrast, missionary wives were total career women at that time, putting their children in 24/7 ten month a year total care rather than the 9/5 day only care utilized by the modern American career woman. It was a huge improvement for my children over his own childhood.

But what was eerily the same is the total emotional withdrawal of Dad from family life. The man who was once so close with his children hardly had time for them, and even less time for me. By the time he was six months into his new career, things were not working out for us at all.

Still, we both thought it was the fault of the big corporation. They required Monday to Friday travel, and if his plane was late it shortened out family time even more. Additionally, they required all kinds of paperwork to summarize the weeks events. If that wasn't finished on the flight home, it had to be done over the weekend. Plus there was dry cleaning to attend to on Saturday and packing to be done on Sunday. Every three months there was a weekend team-building meeting, so on those weekends he didn't come home at all.

The time we did have together was short. Everyone of us in our family longed for his love and time. He longed to be left alone and finally relax. I did my best to support both him and the children. We started having "snuggle night" on Fridays when Dad got home. We would all camp out in the living room on sleeping bags, telling stories, reading chapter books and praying together. It was a good experience. On Saturday morning Dad would make pancakes with the kids, always doing something fun and creative with shapes, colors or flavors.

Once the breakfast was over, it was time to go run errands (like the dry cleaners) and catch up on paperwork. Sundays we would go to church and after church it was time to pack. Sunday night we would go to bed early because he left very early Monday morning to get to the airport.

There was almost no romance at this point in our marriage. He was too stressed out, too tired, or he had no time. And since we had always had a meager sex life, this was not new. But it was unwelcome.

We had almost no time alone at all at this point in our marriage. We talked on the phone in the evening during the week, so we were usually caught up on events like bills, doctor's visits, lessons and home school on my part, client and co-worker relationships on his part. It was emotional closeness I was needing when he got home, and yet for some reason he was really bad at it most of the time.

The pattern was that I would present a need of some kind, for empathy or encouragement or some other heart need, and he would act put out. He would not want to be bothered, but being the passive aggressive guy he was, he would half-listen. When I was done talking he would be silent. This of course hurt and I would get angry. He would then ask what did I want him to say, and I would tell him and he would parrot it right back condescendingly. This is more or less what our married life would be like for years to come.

He would usually apologize near bed time, and blame it all on the stress of the job. He would promise again to get out at the end of the first year, once he had the experience on his resume. He was working alongside the owners of a smaller, more family friendly consulting firm. Maybe if he took a job with them, he could even work local. They would pay more, and the work-week would be shorter. If we could just hold it together for a year...

If he had been emotionally healthy enough to realize what was going on, that it was not consulting that was pulling him away from his family, but his heart wanting to pull away from family that drew him to consulting, things would have changed for the better much earlier in this story. But he was oblivious to that at the time, and it certainly never occurred to me.

So that year ended, and he left the big corporation to work for the smaller firm. Though they had no local work for him at the time, they expected to have something for him in six months, a year at the most. In the meantime, the work-week was shorter, dress code was casual and there was no monstrous pile of paperwork to fill out. There were no quarterly trips to attend. The owners of this company had families too! This was going to be much better for us all.

And in all the above ways it was. But what we didn't realize was that this new company was a surrogate boarding school good ole boys club. Joining this new firm allowed my husband to become even more distant from his wife, because now he had the boys to hang out with all week. Career wise, my husband was growing in leaps and bounds. Emotionally, my husband was regressing back to his boyhood days. And guess what? It is not good at all to be married to a child-man.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Home school regulations

I wrote earlier how important the book Family Matters by Dave Guterson was to me in formulating my desire to home school. The appeal of the freedom inherent in home schooling, the opportunity, the hope that a good balance could be struck between building a strong sense of security in family and offering a platform for launching creative and productive citizens out into the world- it's all in there.

So just to renew my memory, I bought a used copy off of for a pittance, and re-immersed myself in this man's thoughts. He is a clear thinker. He soundly goes over both the pros and cons, the certain and the merely potential, with home schooling.

One point that the opponents of home schooling have made from the beginning, is that it gives crazies the opportunity to isolate and indoctrinate their children. Mr. Guterson wisely points out that there have always been people who abuse their freedom, and yet freedom is so precious that we can't choose to surrender freedom, not even for a guarantee of perfect safety.

Of course there is no way to guarantee perfect safety in any society. Totalitarian regimes provide no more safety than a liberty-loving democracy. I think, in my American Midwestern way, that power loosely scattered over the whole populace is a better way to guarantee the safety of the individual.

And so, I am quite at ease with the current system of regulating/monitoring home schooling on a state by state basis. The Supreme Court has decreed that the state's obligation to provide safety and education to their citizens be balanced with parental rights by the "least restrictive means" test. I propose, however, that some states do a better job than others, and in ways that can't be measured on a standardized test.

I have home schooled in two states now, one with practically no oversight or interaction between home school and public school and another with more local interaction and more accountability. First I confess that I have strong libertarian leanings politically. In most cases, the fewer the laws the better.

But(you knew it was coming, didn't you?) where minors are concerned, because they have no political voice of their own, I think some restrictions are the mark of good government.

For example, I think it's a good thing that daycare centers have licensing requirements. I think it's a good thing that community organizations that work with children run criminal background checks. I am glad we have child protective service organizations, though it seems in many of the interventions that I am familiar with personally, their involvement is carried out in a less than ideal manner. ( I concede though that life itself is mostly messy and many times less than ideal, so it is only realistic to expect child protective services to work this way too.)

So it might not be surprising at all that I favor the state with more restrictive home school statutes, which also has accountability to the local school board rather than the state. I think it is good for home schooling.

The more restrictive requirements for record keeping are good for home schooling because they allow for the outside community to see what we are truly accomplishing. For those who think we sit in our jammies all day eating pop-tarts, our daily record of activities is available to our school board for inspection. And since the home school mom is keeping it in compliance with state law, she also has it available to share with skeptical neighbors and relatives.

(Disclaimer: I am writing this in my jammies, but it's a snow day! Hmmph. :p)

The fact that individual home schools are engaging an any kind of correspondence with the local school board breaks down the wall of misunderstanding and mistrust on both sides. In my former state, representatives of our local home school support group met with the appropriate local school board official every year. Some officials were hostile and skeptical, but with others we established good rapport.

In that state, there is much more interaction between the home school and public school world, with dual-enrollment allowed and encouraged. Public school sports teams are open to home schooled students who can pass the try-outs. People have an easier time of enrolling formerly home schooled students at the appropriate grade level in public schools, mostly because they can show what a student has actually been doing all those years. :)

In my former state/county, the established home school support group and the public school officials have such good rapport that the school board includes contact information for state and local support groups on their flier explaining how to comply with state home school laws. They don't have to do that, but a little good will goes a long way.

In my current state of residence, many home schooling moms would scoff and wonder why anyone would want or need a good rapport with public school officials. They don't plan to ever allow any of their children to attend a public school. They believe they are happy in their little home school bubble and that the less contact with people outside their little world the better.

Which is the third reason I believe that more accountability and more local accountability make for better home school citizens. Isolation is never good for anyone. Any mom doing her due diligence as a social studies teacher has pointed out that trade between peoples and cultures always results in a better way of life for those citizens. The more isolated the people group, they less healthy, happy, and technologically advanced that people group will be.

It holds true for individuals as well as civilizations: the more isolated, the worse off. Stone Age tribes in the jungle may have been cut off from the hippie drug culture of the crazy seventies, but they also don't have the wheel, antibiotics, or even shoes. Isolation has not been good for them.

When I moved to this state, I quickly discovered that the home school community here was weird. Even though I moved to a much bigger city, the support groups were smaller and stricter. Every single one had a list of rules you must agree to, some of them quite ridiculous. Many, if not most, of them are by invitation only, so as to keep out the undesirables. Each group demanded conformity on all kinds of issues, from home schooling style to religion all the way down to the style of clothing you could wear. The atheist as well as the fundies all share this totalitarian demand of group-think. I found it very bizarre, and other home school moms moving here from out-of-state have noticed the same pattern.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think the difference is the lack of accountability to local government officials. There is only one requirement- turn in a standardized test for each student. These test scores are mailed to the state. You are required to keep on hand a birth certificate, vaccine records, old test scores and proof that you registered your home school with the state. That's all folks.

I don't think this is good for home schooling. I think the lack of daily record keeping makes it look to outsiders like we're doing nothing even though we may be working hard every day. I think the lack of local accountability breeds suspicion and mistrust between public school officials and the home school community. But worse, I think the complete lack of interaction with our local officials encourages isolation and the weirdness that follows.

It is the weirdness and social isolation that is most disconcerting, both to me as a home school advocate and to society at large. If we as a group do not start distancing ourselves from the truly out of touch, we will share the shame with them when the day of accountability comes. And make no mistake, the backlash against isolationist home schooling is here. I believe it has only just begun. I would much rather have greater accountability on a local level than lose the right to home school altogether. And that is what some are calling for in response to home school isolationists- the end of home school as an option at all.

Well, that's my opinion for anyone who cares to know. I would not, at this point, freak out if people began calling for more (and especially more local) accountability from the home school parent in my current state. I think it would be a good thing. In fact, with all the crazy patriocentric weirdness in full bloom in my area, I would not even mind a home visit every now and then. The more open home school families are, the less suspicious people will be.

And if, in your home school, you are so busy with so many children that you are not providing an adequate education for your children, people will find out. Maybe that pressure will be a good thing. And if your home school philosophy sounds good on paper but is not preparing your child to be self-sufficient as an adult, people will find out. Maybe that pressure will be a good thing. And if your home is not a haven but a living hell, then people will find out. That surely is a good thing!

And finally, if you are doing an excellent job, though possibly messy and many times less than ideal like the rest of life, then people will find out. And that would also be a very good thing.