Monday, October 16, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Epilogue - Part One

I noticed while preparing for this post that the chapters of the book end BEFORE the Princess and Sir Valiant begin courting.  I suppose that's a stylistic choice based on the title of book and - perhaps - a dislike of ending on Chapter 13.

Personally, I'm still freaked out by the King's interpretation that Sir Valiant was asking to marry the Princess when Sir Valiant asked what qualities the King would be looking for in a suitor for the Princess.

Anyway, the King wanders off to tell the Princess that Sir Valiant, the King, and the Queen are all in favor of the Princess dating sorry, "courting" Sir Valiant.

As always, the Princess is off doing critically important stuff!

Returning from one of her frequent trips to the various villages where she joyfully and kindly met the needs of many who were fainthearted, poor, injured, and troubled. Today she had paid a special visit to her friend Maiden Flirtelia and had given counsel and encouragement to a girl named Simplicity whom she had met along the way. She also visited a sick mother and played with her children, gave some fabric to a needy family, and delivered a personal letter from her father to a village nobleman. The princess was learning again and again that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The more she delighted in her heavenly Prince, the more she wanted to share with others the fulfillment she had in Him. (pgs. 239, 241)
To recap, the Princess visited a friend, pontificated to a random kid who she'd never met before, provided minimal help to a sick woman, gave a raw material to another family and acted as a page.

 Whoo-hoo!  She managed to do two activities that Jesus wanted his followers in one afternoon.  That's a 40% return on her afternoon activities!

More seriously,  the Princess has power as a member of the Royal Family that she is squandering.  While not as powerful as a reigning monarch or the male heir to the throne, a sole daughter of marriageable age would have access to some money as well as great influence over the activities of noble families.  The Princess could be endowing orphanages,  establishing storehouses to supply goods to needy commoners or funding hospitals.  Instead, she's puttering around doing what she likes to do (e.g., play with kids) and giving away items she's finished as a hobby (e.g., fabric) and pretending that she's doing good works.

Notice as well that the Princess spends more time around children or alone than she does around people her own age or adults.  In my mind, that's an unconscious statement about the mental and emotional maturity of the Princess.

The King and the Princess meet somewhere out in the woods and walk to the castle together.  The King is noticeably distracted while the Princess talks about her day, but he brushes off her questions and changes the subject abruptly:

" My daughter"  he said, ignoring her questions, " what shall I say when one of the young men of the kingdom cometh to me to inquire about thy hand? There will be many young men at the summer contest. I would not be surprised to receive such request."

" Father, it seems that many young men seek only that which will bring pleasure or money. Some be good men, but they have not the vision for the greater tasks, nor are they willing to make the sacrifices that such tasks demand. Also, they often be proud and seek their own Glory."  She thought for a moment then continued, " it bothers me sometimes when I observe the young men in the kingdom. Do any understand the true battles of our day? Do any fight the good fight? It is this, not noble birth, that is true nobility." (pg. 241)

In real life, random commoners do not wander up to the King and ask to marry his daughter.  No.  Not going to happen.  Neither would the Princess so quickly dismiss noble birth.

Psst!  Princess!  Let me let you in on a little secret: sole bread-winners of ginormous, ever-growing families have to seek activities that bring in money all the time.  That's their main job in life besides keeping their wife pregnant yearly and being the spiritual leaders of the family.  When approached by a suitor, make sure he can bring in cold, hard cash unless you want to take a large drop in personal living standards.

The Princess derides the vision and sacrifices of the young men of the kingdom.  That's a hoot!  She lives in the lap of luxury - hell, half of the descriptions in the book read like a blurb from a linen sale catalog - but the only good she does for the community could be accomplished by an average 8 year old.  Pick up veggies for an old woman.  Play with the kids of a sick woman and orphans.  Hand fabric to a needy family.  Be a page for her father.  That's not the vision of an adult woman - so why should the readers trust her opinion of the young men of the kingdom?  I certainly don't.

Since the Princess has signaled so clearly that she'd court someone like Sir Valiant, the King continues to creep along:

Attempting to conceal his own enthusiasm, the king proceeded with another question. " My daughter, thou knowest the knight, Sir Valiant?"

The princess felt a shiver surge through her.  " Yes, thou knowest I have met him several times."

" What thinkest thou of him?" he asked calmly, rubbing his chin.

" Father, I have tried not to think of him --not because he is undesirable, but maybe because he is too desirable. I do not want to be distracted or consumed with that which is simply a dream." (pgs. 241-242)

The King has rough-rode over the Princess' thoughts, dreams and feelings through the entire book when he wasn't gaslighting her - but we are supposed to believe that he's suddenly concerned that he's unduly influencing the Princess towards Sir Valiant.  Nope, that's completely unbelievable based on everything we've seen so far in the book.

The Princess use of the word "several" should be changed to "twice in a few years plus that time I saw him announce a proclamation six years ago".   The Princess and Sir Valiant are strangers; it's way too late to try and white-wash that.

The last two paragraphs shows another insidious problem in Emo-Pure: single adults have been conditioned for years to "guard their hearts" and "keep every thought captive".  They can't instantly change that pattern of behavior even if the long-awaited suitor appears and passes inspection.

The next quote is one of the most telling in the book:

"But what thinkest thou of him?"  the king asked again.

"Of what I know he is true, he is kind-hearted, and... and he is becoming."  The princess tried to read the expression on her father's face, yet continued, " I have been impressed with everything I have seen of him. I have never talked with him at length, Father, but I have wanted to... How well do you know him?"

" Well, my fair one, your mother and I have been observing him and discussing his character. He indeed has conviction and is steadfast. He knows the battles we face and is the most zealous and faithful subject." (pg. 242)
The Princess has finally learned to parrot her father's beliefs and feelings about others back to him.

 That's the only conclusion possible for why the Princess is trying to read her father's expression while talking about the fact that she finds Sir Valiant attractive - and it's quite telling that she's mastered that immediately before she gets the reward of courtship/marriage.  Good girls who do not rock the boat by thinking, expressing unpopular opinions or having feelings get married; bad girls who do any of those things sit at home as old maids.

The main trait that the Princess knows about Sir Valiant is that he's hot.  The Princess has no way of judging Sir Valiant's "truth" or "kindness of heart" when they've met for less than two hours and have only ever exchanged small talk.   The King, on the other hand, knows that Sir Valiant says exactly what the King wants to hear.   Sir Valiant hasn't made any inroads against the Dragon or Giant that are "terrorizing" the country; I'm sure we'd have heard about that.  No, he's a good toady to the King.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on Sir Valiant.  After all, he's well on his way to moving from a random, nobody knight to heir apparent of the Kingdom.  Maybe he does have more vision than the King or the Princess.  I think Sir Valiant can see himself on the throne of the Kingdom quite clearly and gaining a conventionally beautiful, subservient, childish wife is a perk.   Most disturbingly, there's no one in the story who'd be able to see clearly enough to discern the difference between an ambitious, power-hungry usurper and a humble knight who wants to serve the Kingdom - except the Alligator who is kept on the edge of things.

After all of this, the Princess and Sir Valiant are officially courting - and I use the word officially because the King announces their courtship - or is it their engagement...Ms. Mally is very unclear about these things - at the end of the Ren-State Fair:
"Finally, he announced the news everyone was waiting to hear. Sir Valiant had won the heart of the princess! Not with talent or skill, not with words or money, not with bravery or nobility, but with a heart that was pure and a life that was true. The King was careful not to offend the other knights as he applauded the character and strength of Sir Valiant. Rather, he challenged and encourage everyone to follow the way of Truth, reminding them that God is always faithful to reward the righteous." (pg. 244)


 Nothing like damning by faint praise, King! Let us know how you really feel about Sir Valiant.  "He's unskilled, poor, cowardly and low-born, but hey, he's not given a hunk of his heart to anyone else, so I'm marrying him off to my daughter!"

Honestly, that's poor writing construction.  The purpose of that section is to demonstrate that Sir Valiant's most important quality is his pure heart and clean, brave living.  Stacking his skills first - "He guards the Kingdom from..... His bravery during.... His service to the Crown...." followed by "Above all of these things, his heart and life shines as an example (blah, blah, blah)".  Now, the same point is made - without making Sir Valiant sound like the town idiot.

In historical terms, this would be marked as the watershed moment that lead up to the fall of the house of the King.  The King has chosen his heir apparent to be a young, unconnected commoner who has accomplished nothing in defense of the Kingdom.  It doesn't matter how carefully the King tries not to offend the other knights; his actions speak far louder than his words - and implying that Sir Valiant is God's chosen due to his righteousness isn't going to go over well, either.

There is one last section in the book - a stilted conversation between the Princess and her husband SirValiant when they return from their honeymoon.  This is supposed to be inspiring - but I found it insipid, depressing and unnerving instead.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit: Letting Anxiety Rule Your Life

My life was riddled with anxiety from age 4-19.

 My younger brother died suddenly and unexpectedly from an undetected birth defect that greatly weakened his immune system. David was a week away from his first birthday.

 From that point on, I suffered from severe anxiety. I suspect I had a genetic predisposition to anxiety to start with - but David's death was like gasoline on a fire. I was terrified that my parents or youngest brother were going to die. I had panic attacks at school at the beginning of the year because I was sure my parents were going to die. After all, that's roughly what happened with David from my point of view: my baby brother was fine when I went to bed one night and dead in the morning.

As I got older, the panic attacks about being away from my family lessened although never went away.  Instead, I became a classic overachiever.  I studied all the time and was crushed by grades lower than a "B" - and a "B" was a sign I needed to work harder on my next assignment or test.  I trained, conditioned and cross-trained on my own outside of sports practices.  I pushed so hard that no one caught the fact that I had exercise-induced asthma until I was 16.  When I switched my attention to music and theater, I trained as extensively there.

The problem was that I was frantically trying to get the anxiety and resulting depression to stop by doing one more thing.    Ironically, the perfectionism I developed was making the anxiety much worse rather than better.

When I started college, I had a major episode of depression which required hospitalization.  While I was in the hospital, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.  The drug Klonopin saved my sanity; it tamped down the anxiety long enough for me to learn coping skills and gave me a chance to use those coping skills.  Thankfully, my anxiety responds well to SSRIs and I've seen a great therapist for the intervening 16 years who has taught me more coping skills while exploring the causes of my anxiety.

I share my story because my history has given me a finely tuned radar for anxiety in others.  When I read a story written by someone with untreated anxiety, my anxiety starts resonating.   This snippet from "Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit" by Teri Maxwell screams of untreated anxiety.

When my youngest child was a baby, she went through a stage when she wasn't nursing well at her breakfast time feeding. We decided that I should quit waking her up at 5:30 a.m. to nurse her so she would be hungrier at 8:30 a.m. As we began doing this, I found I became very nervous from 6:45 until 7:45 because I would not be available if she happened to wake up and be hungry. I was out of the house, walking, and someone at home would have to pacify her if she awakened. That time became miserable for me because of my anxiety over the baby. I asked Steve, and he agreed that we could go back to waking up the baby early in the morning. Do you know what happened? Rather than dreading having to get up at 5:30 every morning to nurse the baby I loved it. I was so happy to again have a peaceful heart during that hour I was out walking that I didn't mind, in the least, the early morning nursing time. (pgs. 33-34)

For readers who haven't had a young infant, the feeding time is always being adjusted by parents and the infant.   Babies eat larger amounts at less frequent feeds as they get older - but sometimes a baby is eating more heavily before a growth spurt or wants smaller amounts more frequently as a comfort during teething.  As a parent, I prefer that my son is hungry enough that he eats during a feed rather than eating for 2 minutes, playing for 5 minutes, eating for two minutes, telling me a story for 5 minutes which is his preferred feeding style some days.

In other words, dropping an early morning feed is pretty routine.

Reading between the lines, dropping the early morning feed worked fine. The baby never woke up hungry and screaming.  No one - not Steve or any of the older kids - had to pacify the baby until Mrs. Maxwell returned home.  Plus, with the scheduled exercise time, Mrs. Maxwell was in the house for a hour after the skipped feeding time and 45 minutes before the 8:30 feed.  If her littlest one was going to freak out over a missed feeding, Mrs. Maxwell would be in the house and ready to nurse.

No, the problem in this situation is the disabling anxiety that Mrs. Maxwell feels.  My heart goes out to her; anxiety that can hang on through sixty minutes of exercise is severe.  I feel a great deal of compassion because no one deserves to be enslaved to anxiety and there are many medical and behavioral treatments for anxiety.

 Heartbreakingly, the process of relieving anxiety by rearranging her schedule makes the anxiety worse over the long run because she never faces what she is afraid of.  One technique I've learned is discussing what I think is the worst-case scenario to determine that 1) that's pretty damn unlikely to happen and 2) the outcome isn't that horrible.

Here's an example using an imaginary CP/QF patient (P) and a therapist (T):

P: "I can't keep exercising without an early morning feed for my baby."

T: "What are you afraid will happen while you exercise?"

P: "Well, the baby will wake up, be hungry and cry inconsolably until I get home."

T: "Has the baby woken up so far?"

P: "No, not yet.  But she could."

T: "What would happen if she did wake up and start crying?"

P: "My husband would have to take care of her."

T: "Ok.  So the baby would be taken care of."

P: "But my husband shouldn't have to take care of the baby.  That's my job because I'm a good mother and wife."

T: "Tell me more about what being a good wife and mother means to you."

I don't know what Mrs. Maxwell's anxiety around feeding her daughter stemmed from but I'm willing to bet a trained therapist would find that she had concerns or expectations for herself that were unrealistic. 

I believe that most CP/QF adherents are attracted to the lifestyle in part due to untreated mental issues since it offers a simplified world view that promises safety and fulfillment in response to following some "Biblical" ideas.  My hope is that CP/QF believers think long and hard about getting a mental health screening from their doctors; the results can be life-changing.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 12 - Part Four

A quick recap of the previous post: God arranges marriages so girls/women should sit around and wait for some combination of men to set up a courtship for them.  If a girl/woman should happen to meet a guy outside of that, ask snoopy questions about his salvation status to kill time while her parents get involved.

This section is the second half of "Young Man Takes Initiative":
If the young man meets the qualifications, if you are interested, and if the Lord so directs through his Word and your authorities, now is an opportunity to begin building the friendship. As you proceed, it is best to first continue to get better acquainted in a group setting. I know one family that simply has a particular "interested" young man come to their home several times a week for supper and just to be with the family. The whole family is getting to know him well.

If possible, it would be nice for the two families to spend some time together as well. In fact, it would be ideal if both families could become good friends and possibly have ministry together. (pg. 230)

The conditional phrase "if you are interested" is the only discussion of consent in the entire section on how God arranges marriages.  At this point, I suspect most young women would begin a relationship with the guy.  If the steps previously stated had been followed, the man and woman don't know each other at all. Certainly not well enough to object to getting to know each other at that point. 

There's no discussion of how to bail from any of the next stages (close friendship, engagement or marriage) even though two of the three are not legally binding. This implies that when a guy and a girl agree to get to know each other they've started on an unstoppable journey that will end in marriage. That would be an excellent reason to demur from getting to know anyone of the opposite gender well in CP/QF circles.

  The rest of the sentence is absurd in the context of the steps.  If a guy doesn't meet the undefined "qualifications" set by your "authorities", the girl's not going to be allowed to get to know him better.  Expecting the Lord to direct you through his Word is a phrase that sounds elegant, but has no meaning.

There are so many potential pitfalls with getting to know a romantic partner amidst large families.

  • Some families don't get out much - so adding a new person to the mix creates some unconscious power plays and rivalries about who the new person likes the best.
  • Multiply the previous idea by 10 when combining two large families.
  • It's rough enough when the person who monopolizes the conversation is one of the kids - but when Mom or Dad wants to monopolize the conversation with the new person, no one has any recourse. 
  • Getting dumped for a stranger sucks.  Having a potential suitor fall in love with your sister - or brother - would REALLY suck especially since you have no emotional coping skills from previous ended relationships.
  • All of this cozy fraternity is based on an unspoken assumption that the two families will be united in marriage.  Now, potential couples have to weigh the effects a breakup will have on their families, too.  I'm not sure which would be worse - wanting to call off a relationship when your family loves the other family or wanting to marry someone when your family has negative feelings (unrelated to your future spouse) about his family.  Either way, the pain of the broken relationship has grown much larger than the average dating relationship.
I feel compelled to point out that the relationship is in the "Casual Friendship" stage.  In the rest of the US, casual friendship would be a safe description of people on sports teams, co-workers, or that neighbor down the street.  People can certainly follow Ms. Mally's scheme - but don't be surprised when potential suitors balk at bringing their entire immediate family to pass out tracts with their not-a-girlfriend's family.  Most people have too much self-respect to be put on display for the family of a possible romantic interest if their family passes inspection.....
Close Friendship

This next phase is an exciting part of the adventure --but one still requiring much discernment, caution, and patience. It is tempting to rush ahead at this stage, rather than taking enough time to get to know each other well in a not- too - romantic environment. As much as possible, the goal is to keep your emotions in check until you determine that this indeed is the life partner God has for you.

Allow this phase to take as much time as is necessary. It is important to get to know each other well. We accomplish this not just by being together, but by doing together. Choose specific ministry projects that the two of you can work on as a team. There are also many areas that will be important to discuss during this courtship period: your purpose in life, your future ministry goals, your doctrine , your convictions, your views of family and child rearing, and your spiritual walk. But it is still best to avoid intimate talks until there is official engagement. (pg. 230-231)

My mind is boggled.

"Close friendship" is not a synonym for "courtship"to start with.  A close friendship can span decades without expectation of moving into a different stage.  A courtship is a transitional period in determining if two people are suitable for marriage.

Keeping emotions in check while actively deciding if a person is a marriage partner borders on the pathological.  Part of marriage suitability is mutual attraction as well as affection.  Refusing to acknowledge those feelings is harmful enough - but failing to recognize the absence of those feelings brings heartache down the road.

Like in dating, relationships develop on their own timeline - but extremely short or long timelines can be a sign that something is wrong.  Short courtships may miss some disconnects between partners; long courtships can be a sign that someone is uncomfortable with commitment.

Spending scads of time working on ministry projects together during the courtship is a horrible idea.  People are seeing how they fit as life partners, not ministry buddies. Being together is an important part of determining compatibility - and not only in scant moments stolen from massed family gatherings.  Once a couple marries, they won't have a chaperone available to fill silences.

Did an editor read this section or was it written piecemeal?  In previous stages, a couple learned about their life purposes, ministry goals, and spiritual walk.  That was the thrust of the "Observe" and "Have Parents Stalk Future Boyfriend" sections - so why are we rehashing this again during courtship?  Has their beliefs changed massively? 

I guess a couple can chat about doctrine, but my marriage hasn't been challenged by the differences in belief between my church and my husband's church which I suspect are more substantial than the differences between sects of CP/QF.

If a person has previous convictions or ongoing criminal legal problems, they should disclose that to suitors. Oh, I know Ms. Mally doesn't mean that type of conviction - but she should.   Josh Duggar should have disclosed his multiple molestations to his future wife and Toby Willis should have let his wife know that he rapes kids.     A whole lot of shit is apparently being swept under rugs in CP/QF land so a woman who plans to be financially dependent on her husband while raising a very large family should be damned sure her husband isn't going to end up in a pseudo-rehab center or in prison.

The idea of laying out my future family life with a man to whom I can't say "I love you", can't hug or kiss seems completely out of whack.  By reacting to perceived imbalances in dating relationships, courtship has swung too far in the other direction.

Engagement is the home stretch towards marriage. Many long talks have already occurred, but ahead are some of the most special times and a greater level of intimacy as you enjoy a new sense of belonging to one another. A couple needs plenty of time together to have these necessary long talks that engagement requires.

But you still do not want to put yourself in any tempting situations. There are lots of opportunities to be together while just going about normal daily activities. Continue to maintain close accountability with your parents, and purpose to avoid even the appearance of evil.

Concentrate on the spiritual and continue to wait for the physical. I respect many couples I know who have chosen to reserve their first kiss for their wedding and all physical affection for marriage. (pg. 231-232)
Wow.  That'

I don't know what Ms. Mally thinks marriage is like - but it's not a series of long, deep heart-to-heart conversations interspersed with sex.

Communication is key in a working marriage - and yet  the couple has never talked about money, family issues, sex, or end-of-life issues.  These are difficult conversations that need to happen.

Let's talk about money for a minute.  Young adults from CP/QF families are in a different situation than many engaged Americans because they generally live at home prior to marriage.  This creates some potential sticky points for a young marriage that should be discussed:

  • Each person should find out how much money their current standard of living costs - a home, car, gasoline, utilities, internet access, food, insurance, and clothing.  Next, compare those numbers to the previous year's income of the husband.  Discuss what changes will have to occur for the new couple to make their budget work.
  • The new couple will presumably live on their own.  
    • Look up the cost of either a mortgage on a two-bedroom house or the monthly rent of a similar apartment.  Assume that the apartment will require at least two month's rent as a deposit and that a house requires a 20% down payment.  (Since rampant fertility is a design of CP/QF,  I'm going to assume that a one-bedroom or studio apartment is not workable.)  
    • Next, determine the amount of cash-on-hand needed to furnish the apartment/house with a double bed, a couch, a table, and a few kitchen chairs prior to moving in.
    • Determine the daily commute costs for the husband.
    • Revamp the budget to make these numbers fit.
  • Couples in the twenties not using birth control have a 90% chance of conceiving in the first year of marriage.  
    • Determine the cost of OB visits - one first trimester, three second trimester, 6-8 third trimester visits plus costs of delivery - under your health care plan.  
    • Determine the costs of an infant health care plan including 5-6 well-baby checkups in the first year plus two sick-baby office calls and one ER visit.  
    • Estimate the costs of diapers, wipes, and formula for one year.  (Don't skip this step if you plan to breastfeed.  Some women cannot produce enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed and some infants cannot safely grow on breast milk due to inborn metabolic issues.)
    • Assume an additional $50-100 in maternity clothing costs and random infant supplies.  (I bought all of my maternity clothes from thrift stores like Goodwill - but you will still need new bras and underwear both before and after giving birth.)
    • Add up the total costs of the previous four lines and divide by two.   This is least amount of money that having one baby every two years will cost.  
    • Revamp the budget to make the numbers fit.
Get my drift yet?  The reason many Americans have smaller family sizes is because raising offspring is expensive.  One reason many mothers work is that raising offspring is expensive.  One reason many people receive vocational training or college educations is that raising offspring is expensive.

Don't let CP/QF obsession with avoiding sexual contact before marriage hurry a marriage that will be marked by grinding poverty instead of waiting a few years for education and career prospects to pay off.

Good news!  Ms. Mally has lost most of her steam at this point so the section on marriage is short and completely unrealistic.

In God's amazing plan, the two become one. As women, we were created to be our husbands' helpmeets. We need to remind ourselves frequently that our purpose in getting married is not to get, but rather to give. We can be assured that, as we follow God's calling and honor his design, his plan is what will bring us ultimate fulfillment and joy. (pg. 232)

I've written answers similar to this before when I hit a question on an exam that I was completely unprepared for.   Since I wasn't sure what the right answer was, I did my best to string a few concepts together and hope that I was right.... but the most common outcome was being absolutely wrong.

Ms. Mally strung together the Biblical ideas of two people becoming one in marriage, women as helpmeets, a divine plan, and what is usually derided as a "modern feminist" obsession with fulfillment for a frantic punt that sounds like no marriage I've ever seen - and no marriage I would want to be in.

Well, the chapter continues for several more pages - but it's not worth going over.  Next, we move on to the happy ending of the allegory where the Princess and Sir Valiant have a deep heart-to-heart talk after their honeymoon.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 12 - Part Three

The exhort and advise section of  "Know That God Arranges Marriages" is completely theoretical so Ms. Mally begins by explaining that she can't answer any questions about how or when a person will get married because that's totally up to God - and the experience that God has in-store is going to be amazing!

I hate how cynical this sounds - but a lot of CP/QF courtship stories sound far more painful than enjoyable.

The majority of the chapter covers the steps from meeting an interesting guy through marriage.  


As the Lord brings someone into your path who is of interest to you, your first step is not to show interest or get excited about him, but just to observe. It's good when parents can help with this too. What are his goals? Does he know the Lord? Is there ministry or spiritual fruit in his life? Is he committed to the word of God? How did he treat his mother and sisters?" (pg. 229)

This phase seems to be at cross-purposes.  Girls aren't supposed to give pieces of their hearts away (whatever that means) but following these directions will lead to far more wasted time and energy as the girls -and their parents(!) - try to assemble a dossier on a young man before figuring out if he's available let alone interested in the girl.

Heck, even thinking through the advice shows a few gaping holes.   Trying to get answers to a half-a-dozen personal questions will make a girl's interest in a guy extremely clear and obvious to anyone who is watching.  Adding parents to the mix will increase the level of awkwardness without adding much important information especially when the girl and guy are simply trying to get to know each other.

IMHO, there are a lot of far more important questions that need to be answered before moving into a more romantic relationship like:
  • Am I in a good place for a relationship right now? 
  • Is the other person available for a relationship right now?
  • Am I attracted to this person?
  • Do we have interests in common?
  • Does this person treat all people respectfully- like wait staff at restaurants or that irritating teen at church?
An adult who is ready for a romantic relationship should be able to get the answers to these questions through their own observations, through interactions with the person they are interested in or from mutual friends.  Consider it good practice for forming adult networking skills. 

According to Ms. Mally, once a person has moved beyond observing, they can become casual friends.

"Acquainted as Casual Friends

If God desires to bring two people together, he will give opportunities for them to get to know each other in natural settings --at church, school, work, homes of friends, conferences, camps, Christian organizations, ministry projects, or in one of God's other creative matchmaking situations.

You do not need to date in order to get to know another person. You actually learn more about an individual by seeing him in real life situations. Anybody can act mature, romantic, and considerate on a date. But how does he live in everyday life? How does he interact with people? How does he respond to various stresses and pressures?" (pg. 229)
I agree with Ms. Mally that many, many people will meet marriage partners through work, school, church or social activities. 

I don't understand how that helps a homeschooled young woman who is a stay-at-home daughter of large family with limited means that home churches or is a member of a small congregation.  She can't meet new guys at friends' houses if she already knows the entire congregation.  Ministry opportunities will bring her into contact with those same people.  Going to camps, conferences and belonging to many Christian organizations costs money that she doesn't have access to.  That at least partially explains why so many CP/QF families have unmarried daughters who are over 30 in a culture that idolizes early marriages.

The second paragraph of the quote demonstrates the fundamental misunderstanding of dating that Emo-Pure writers have.  There is a world of difference between "going on a date" and "dating". 

Yes, most people can handle being romantic for at least an hour or two on a date - but keeping up a false front is tiring and most people will have their real personality come through.  That's why a person can gain as much information by watching how their date behaves towards others on a date - the wait staff, the crabby toddler at a nearby booth, or a rowdy bunch of teenagers.

Dating, though, transitions from the early days of solely romantic dates to longer periods of time spent together in a wide variety of settings including family and work events.

Actually, this entire discussion about dating is a moot point.  Casual friends exist in wider US society because men and women can be friends without becoming romantically involved. 
Young Man Takes Initiative

When the young man (or a young man's father) expresses interest, a new phase of the adventures suddenly begins. Interest has been specifically expressed! Now what?

It is at this point that parents (and/or other godly mentors) can play a key role in screening and protecting our emotions. If parents take the time to get to know a young man first, ask the many important questions, find out where he is spiritually, and discuss how your life goals fit together, think of how much parents can determine before we get too emotionally involved. This is a tremendous safeguard for us! I'm not talking about an "arranged"marriage. I'm talking about using common sense to avoid mistakes, pain, and heartaches. My parents understand how I think, and they know what I'm looking for in a spouse. I trust them. I trust God to give directions through them. If my parents have "checked out" a guy first, I will feel a whole lot safer in pursuing the serious matter. (pg. 230)

The first paragraph brought a basic truth home to me.  In spite of Ms. Mally's protests to the contrary, this courtship model could be an arranged marriage.  A guy - or his father (!) - could be observing and becoming casual friends with a young lady's parents instead of the young lady.  Honestly, sucking up to the parental units may well be more effective than winning the heart of the young woman. 

The second paragraph brings home how passive a young woman is supposed to be in courtship.  She's allowed to notice a guy exists and learn some basic facts about him.  Everything else is taken care of by her parents.   

The phrase "ask the many important questions" reminded me of the McDonalds' three hundred questions to ask potential suitors.  Whenever I need a laugh, I go to that list and throw a few of them at my husband.  I love how suitors are allowed to refrain from answering any questions that are too personal - but no one seems to question how creepy having the parents of a girl you want to date ask about a guy's exposure to porn including the extent and circumstance is....

I think I've figured this out: courtship isn't meant to make marriages; it's meant to scare off any potential suitors.

We are about halfway through the list; we'll cover the remainder in the next post.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit: Unrealistic Expectations for Moms

I am a stay-at-home mother by life circumstance rather than choice.

 My original plan was to finish up graduate school while teaching two or three labs a week while my little guy was a baby and toddler. Jack has two grandmothers and one grandfather who could babysit while I was at work.  I also imagined bringing Jack with me to school occasionally to show him off to my students, fellow graduate students, and faculty members. Many of my research times involved helping undergraduates work on outdoor agricultural projects so I dreamed of bringing my son with me along with a carrier for when he was awake and a pack-and-play with a canopy for when he needed naps.

Those dreams got placed on a shelf when Jack was born 14 weeks early and developed a long-term lung disorder caused by prematurity.   Keeping him healthy by sheltering him from germs and managing his reflux so that he continues to grow - and his lungs continue to heal themselves - became my most important goal. 

I've taken at least a year off in my graduate program both to give me time to care for my son - but also to give myself time for self-care like exercising and relaxing when my husband or parents can care for my son.

I've never idolized being a stay-at-home mother so I'm comfortable stating that being at home with an infant all day can make me more insane than teaching a classroom of risky teenagers.  Teenagers can talk!  I could ask students questions to figure out what was bothering them.  Most importantly, teenagers don't make sad, whining noises for hours at a time because they are teething.  My son adds new oddities to the mix like managing a medical appointment schedule that deserves its own secretary who could also deal with trying to make sure that all of his doctors are sending the correct information to each other.  Like every mother ever, I feel like I'm working all the time - but rarely have any concrete outcome to show for my labor.

Thank God my mom stayed at home with a medically challenging infant (my twin sister) and I have plenty of adult women friends who have raised their own families and are completely honest that young children are challenging.  The support these women give me keeps me sane.

CP/QF women - especially young women - have grown up expecting that raising a household of young childen will be the most rewarding and joyous experience of their lives.   I feel sad for these young women; raising my son has been rewarding - but I have had plenty of days where I would get so frustrated with my son's continual needs that I needed to put him safely in his bassinet (with tubes and cords corralled in a sleep sack) and sit either in the bathroom with the shower running or on the front porch until I calmed down.

Apparently, Mrs. Maxwell has had similar moments in raising her kids.

Let me share a story from my life several years ago. On this day, meekness did not characterize me. I had three school-age children plus a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby. I walked into the bathroom, in the middle of the busy school morning, to discover that the toilet paper had been unrolled all over the floor. Do you know what I did? I sat down on the floor and cried! In frustration, I raised my heart to the Lord, "Lord, there are just too many of them and too few of me!" Of course, the unrolled toilet paper was not the only thing that it happened in our house that morning, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Sometimes, as I consider that day, I wonder why it was so terribly monumental. However it was big enough to me then that I can remember it vividly enough to tell you about it today. (pgs. 17-18).

 I hear you!  Having a good cry in the bathroom is a sane reaction to being at home with six children - three of whom are under the age of five.  Mrs. Maxwell's prayer to God at that moment was honest, true and from the heart. 

And you know what?  There were too many of them and too few of her!  Based on the graduation dates from her blog,  she would have been homeschooling a 14 year old son, a 12 year old son, and a 10 year old daughter while managing a 4 year old, a two-year old and a baby.  CP/QF parents deny the existence of adolescence and the resulting battles at home - but I have to imagine having two teenage boys, a preteen girl and a mob of little ones under foot all the time would be exhausting.

I can hazard a few guesses on why the unrolled toilet paper was so monumental; it was one more thing to do when she was already pushed to the edge of what she could cope with.

I wish this has been my reaction instead: "Lord, those little guys are at it again. Thank you for giving them to me to love, teach, and train. Please, Lord, give me the energy I need to deal sweetly with them. Also grant me the courage and wisdom to discipline them. I love them so much, Lord!" It would have characterised a meek and quiet spirit despite discouraging circumstances. (pg. 18)

I never realized that having a "meek and quiet spirit" meant "lie to everyone especially God and yourself."  I believe that Mrs. Maxwell loves her children greatly - but the rest of that prayer feels phony.  The Bible doesn't require people to be thankful for everything that comes their way.  For example, the prophet Jeremiah has some pretty strong feelings about how crappy his life has become because of following God.  A great New Testament example is Paul who manages to spend a portion of each Epistle complaining about how hard his life is. 

Raising children - really, every form of caregiving - is hard physically and emotionally.  Caregivers deserve to be able to admit when they are angry, exhausted, burnt out or simply done.  Mrs. Maxwell's exhortation to immediately reframe the negative sides of caregiving into thanksgiving to God adds another level of stress to people who are already stressed - and that's unkind.