Monday, January 21, 2019

Maxwell Megalomania: How to Drive Off Blog Readers and Daughters

I'm excited today!  We've gotten real snow again here in West Michigan!  I know that lots of people don't like cold weather - but I thrive in chilly weather.  I love cross-country skiing and if we have snow, I can strap my skis on outside my back door and escape across the mile of fallowed agricultural fields behind us.   Even if we don't get enough snow to ski, the landscape looks much better with a fresh clean blanket of snow than it does with grey-brown dead annual vegetation.

In my last post, I discussed how I was triggered by a letter a Maxwell blog reader sent to Teri Maxwell that Teri Maxwell published in her weekly newsletter.   That type of personal discomfort is very rare for me when reading CP/QF blogs; having lived outside of CP/QF society for my childhood and adulthood I'm much more likely to be confused as upset.  The Maxwells, on the other hand, often give me second-hand embarrassment from their habit of ignoring basic social and family conventions.

This week has given us two separate examples of Maxwellian awkwardness.  The first example is a blog post written by Steven Maxwell in a snit about a comment from a blog reader that seemed pretty innocuous to me.  "Erica" had a question about whether avoiding entertainment could lead a person to become a workaholic.   Below is "Erica's" comment and the first few sentences of Steven Maxwell's reply:

I concur with the idea that entertainment detracts from more useful application of one’s energy, especially since time can so easily slip away when you’re distracted. My question for you is whether there comes a point in time when one is too focused on serious pursuits, i.e. being a “work-a-holic”? How do you balance focused learning or on-task time with relaxing fellowship time? Erica

Hi Erica,

First, I’m not sure it follows that the opposite of loving entertainment is being a work-a-holic. It seems like there might be a subtle inference of that in your question. That aside, maybe there are some who become too focused on serious pursuits. However, our personal experience and observations of others is that the natural pull/tendency is toward wasting time, particularly through various forms of entertainment, versus too many serious pursuits.

I'm honestly curious what spectra exist in Steven Maxwell's world involving "overly involved in pursuing entertainment" and "overly dedicated to working at the expense of others."   I think it's a bit messy - but I think people can visualize "entertainment hogs" and "workaholics" as opposite ends of a spectrum.   Maxwell never bothers to clarify what the correct oppositions are in his world besides "following Christ". 

Personally, I think Erica hit a nerve without meaning to.  I think Erica wanted an answer about how the Maxwells make sure they have enough fellowship.  Since Sarah Maxwell posts pictures of the Maxwell Families hanging out all the time, I'd suspect that a simple response about the holiday parties, memorized Bible recitations by the little ones and a run-down of how fun working together as a family on rebuilding homes. 

 Instead, Steven Maxwell starts by arguing with a reader about an implication in their question before launching into Bible verses.  That's a great example of control freak behaviors leaking out.

Erica - I think you deserve a real answer to your question. 

To me, a workaholic is someone who uses work to ignore or avoid problems in their personal life.

 I don't know if Steven Maxwell is a workaholic, but there is a theme in Steven Maxwell's writings of needing to control the lives of his family members to a pathological degree. 
  • His family sells "Managers of Their Homes" and "Managers of Their Schools" which encourages people to schedule the entire day of all dependent family members including wives and adult children.  The Maxwells believe that intensive scheduling "helped" Teri Maxwell through her periods of postpartum depression.  Personally, I wish that the Maxwells had sought out medical advice for Teri instead.   
  • Steven Maxwell pulled his oldest two boys out of organized sports at age 13 and 11 because he couldn't control exactly which peers they spent time with.  
  • The Maxwell sons are encouraged to purchase their own homes, but discouraged from living in those homes prior to marriage.
  • Seven out of eight adult children work in Maxwell businesses.  
  • Four Maxwell sons are married.  Two of those sons had previous public engagements called off after concerns surfaced over how entangled the adult sons were with their parents.
  • Steven brags about the fact that he purposely rejected chances for his kids to do fun activities like downhill skiing and flying in small planes so that the kids could not become addicted to these activities.  The fact that Steven flew small planes to an extent that affected his family financially and logistically is minimized on the other hand.
Personally, I find the Maxwell habit of disdaining nearly all written literature short-sighted. The world is filled with great works that strengthen and challenge adults.  By hemming the family insight to the Bible and carefully selected biographies of Christian missionaries, the Maxwells are missing so much of the glory of God.   I find their blanket ban on television and movies equally bizarre.  There is a lot of trash on TV - but there's a lot of really good, educational shows as well.  I've watched my way through plenty of history and science documentaries while crocheting replacement dish towels or sewing quilts for local foster kids.  A show about helping homesteaders showed me some techniques to maximize heat retention in a cold frame so hopefully we can grow some greens next winter.   I feel like the Maxwell disdain for media is a form of elitist snobbery as much as a form of sheltering.

The second example of Maxwellian awkwardness is Teri Maxwell's post celebrating Sarah's 37th birthday.  Feel free to read the post yourself but I can summarize it for you: "You thought you'd be married with kids by now.  Silly you!  Good thing your work review for the family business is positive. We'll review again next year." 

Obvious questions here: who raised Sarah to believe that her main mission in life was being a wife  and mother? 

Who structured Sarah's life to be so sheltered that the likelihood of her meeting a potential suitor was nearly zero? 

Who has used Sarah as the primary administrator of the forums on Titus 2 Ministries and as the shipping department for Titus 2 Ministries for the last 21 years? 

Who has benefited from the profits of the twelve children's books that Sarah has written?

The answer is Steven and Teri Maxwell. 

Sarah and I are in the same age cohort. 

We graduated high school in the same year.   I have a college education and an established career.  I'm finding unexpected pleasure in working as a substitute teacher in Special Education classrooms.  Sarah has been used as an underacknowledged laborer in her parents' and brothers' businesses while writing books about the joys of childhood.

My parents raised me with the expectation that I could marry and have children if I wanted - but that my life would be meaningful regardless of how I structured my family.   Sarah was taught that women should be wives and mothers; any other path was substandard.

My parents taught me that some people in the world were untrustworthy, but they trusted my ability to choose who I wanted to date and marry.  Sarah was taught that most men are predators and only her father could safely determine which men she should safely interact with.

My husband and I have been married for six and a half years.  I have a toddler boy who looks like my husband from the front and my younger brother from behind.  Spawn's got my nose and laugh as proof of maternity.  The two years since Spawn was born have pushed me in ways that I would have terrified me if I had known what was coming in advance - but I have grown into my own skin in ways that will benefit me and mine all my days.  Sarah has a gorgeous lab named Ellie.

I hope that Sarah finds her life as fulfilling as I find mine to be.  I hope that this year moves her closer to her dreams.  And - if nothing else - I hope this year her family learns to describe her with adjectives besides those used in job assessments.

Monday, January 14, 2019

I hate when the Maxwells get under my skin....

This doesn't happen very often, but I'm having a solid emotional reaction from reading a Maxwell article. 

Let me backup a bit. 

I've discussed my son Spawn's birth at 26 weeks due to rapid-onset preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome.   The 28 hours between when I received the news of my diagnosis and when Spawn was born by C-section were horrible.  The medication I was given to keep my blood pressure down and to protect Spawn's brain caused me to feel like I was running a fever, shake uncontrollably, and have the most gruesome hallucinations every time I closed my eyes.  I was more thirsty than I can describe, but I couldn't take anything by mouth because I needed an empty stomach in case they needed to knock me out and do a crash C-section.  Well meaning OB/GYN residents kept coming in and offering to talk about how I was feeling - but my BP spiked hard every time I acknowledged the terror I felt that my son who was kicking at my bladder might die when he was born - so I kept saying "No, thanks.  I'm fine."

I think the only reason I remained sane that second sleepless night was that I reminded myself that they would knock me out during the C-section because my platelets were so low that an epidural could paralyze me so if I could hang on that long, I'd either wake up from something like sleep and feel a bit better or I'd be dead...and that would probably feel better too since I'd be off magnesium sulfate. 

And then at 4am the nurse let me know that my blood work was good enough that they could put off the C-section until at least 6am which was the magical 24 window that no one thought I could make it too - I was really, really sick - and that my platelets were high enough they could do an epidural! 

So now I got to be awake during major abdominal surgery that was expected to involve enough bleeding that the doctors were planning on at least one transfusion for me and probably multiple transfusions.   I disliked that idea immensely and let my preferences be known - until the docs told me that it would be better for Spawn to not have anesthesia in his system while they tried to get him breathing.    One epidural later and I got to see my son cuss me and the world out after an uneventful birth. 

Spawn's time in the NICU was amazing - and sucked immensely.  I fell in love with Spawn fast and hard.  He was amazingly adorable with the tiniest fingers and toes.  Spawn lived to drive his nurses batty - so much so that I threatened to find Nurse Ratched - or someone trained by her - to be his primary nurse if he refused to let nice Nurse Jackie touch his isolette.  I also knew that Spawn would win out over Nurse Ratched or her followers because he's that kind of stubborn.    I loved him fiercely - but I had to sit with the fact that he had no metabolic reserve and his lungs were touch-and-go.   If another body system developed problems, he'd die.  There was nothing I could do beside waiting patiently...so I waited.  I comforted myself that once he got home from the hospital things would get easier.

Heh. 

I really needed that fantasy while he was in the NICU - and struggled pretty hard when he was about 38 weeks gestation.  That's the point I could no longer pretend he was going to go home "tube-free" off of oxygen and a feeding tube.   By the time he was ready to go home at around 42 weeks gestation (or 2 weeks adjusted), I had readjusted my expectations - and the layout of my home.

Spawn's infancy was amazing - and sucked immensely.  Newborns are exhausting.  Medically complicated kids are exhausting.  Communicating with four medical practices and two home visiting therapists is exhausting.  Anything involving multiple insurances is exhausting.   Combining all four at once made me into a highly efficient zombie. What little bit I remember of his infancy before about 9 months of age adjusted is either feeding him, washing bottles/feeding tube equipment, calling doctors, and setting up support from my parents to move him to and from the doctors' offices.

I had a very colorful prayer life during this time.   Like all parents, I had a golden dream of having a healthy term baby I could effortlessly breastfeed while I prayed my way through the Liturgy of the Hours. 

Heh. 

Honestly, I much prefer my spit-fire Spawn to that completely unobjectionable fantasy baby - and my prayer life as Spawn's mom was a whole lot more honest.   There were plenty of prayers that involved a whole bunch of swear words directed at God followed by "Pick someone else for once. I'm so sick of overcoming the dumb shit life gives me."  My other favorite was "If you want to have a conversation with me, God, I need more sleep or fewer doctor's appointments.  Your choice.  I'm taking a nap."   On the other hand, I was deeply grateful for the medical teams who cared for my Spawn-baby.  I don't know if the in-home nurses realized how much I needed to hear them say that Spawn looked great for a baby who was born so early - and that we were doing great with him, but I thanked God for them.   Watching Spawn yawn and stretch or suck happily on his paci made me feel the insanity was all worth it - and I was so grateful that he survived and was happy.

The reason I bring my prayers up is that angry, frustrated, bitter prayers are no less a prayer than prayers of joy, contentment, or trust.   That's biblical; read through the Psalms if you doubt it.  Teri Maxwell wrote a 5-part series called "Unwanted Feelings" that I can sum up as "Lie to God about your emotional state".  Part 4 is the part I found triggering.  Teri includes a letter written to her by a woman who gave birth to an extremely premature boy at 25 weeks who died. 

I have no problems with the letter; anything that a parent needs to survive the death of a child is pretty much ok with me.

The problem I have is that I can't tell if Amy E. - the mother in the story - has the right to show anger, frustration, sadness or distrust in God's Goodness without being rejected by her faith community. 

 Plus, including the letter in its entirety feels like a bludgeon to use against any woman who feels inconvenient emotions like anger, frustration, bitterness or loss of faith.   After all, Amy E. managed to trust in God - no, she managed to rejoice in God's plan! - when her baby died.  Why are you so hung up over (pick a problem)?

Thanks for listening.  I'm feeling a lot better. 

Plus, I managed to bounce a crocheted hat off the top of my husband's head when he fell asleep on the couch.  I've been threatening to do that for a while because his sleep apnea makes him snore and stop breathing if he's not wearing his CPAP.  Listening to him snort, snore and gasp is not relaxing for me....so I've told him to go to bed when he's tired or risk having soft objects bounced off his head.   That was fun.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Two - Part Two

 As I write this, I am listening to the sounds of late fall in Michigan: a steady rain and a gentle wind.

Since it is January instead of October, the rain is alternately freezing and melting depending on the fluctuations in air temperature.  The rain last night had left a half-inch of frozen ice on my windshield  and driver's side this morning and nothing on the other two sides. 

I'm short and my minivan is tall so physics is working against me applying effective force to remove the ice from the windows.  Fear not; I simply filled two liter pop bottles full of hot water from the tap and used hot water to de-ice the windows in less than 5 minutes.  I love science!

We made a trip safely to the local town to get a handful of documents notarized to finalize my husband's exit from the family farm.  Our son was remarkably good during the time we did a bunch of odd-and-end jobs that needed to be finished at the bank - and he got a branded toy football out of being ridiculously cute while wearing glasses to boot.

Once my adorable toddler went down for his nap, I attempted to use my transcription software to enter some more material from "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes.  Alas, another quirk of living in the country foiled my plans.   Our internet is fast enough during good weather but slows WAYYYYYY down if there is wind...or rain...or snow...or intermittent freezing rain.  I found out in no short order that our internet speed was so slow that the transcription program was losing entire chunks of sentences during processing.   Thankfully, there is no more new material in this chapter written by Ms. Baucham to go over - but there is one doozy of a letter.   Now, Ms. Baucham answers the letter in roughly the same way that I would, but very politely and kindly.  Mine tone is somewhat different....

Let me give you the pertinent part of the letter to read before I go farther:

I have tried to become more supportive of my parents' vision as a result of convictions springing from the documentary [ed: Return of the Daughters]... (I was already a stay at home daughter and all)... and to be a helper to my dad. Which usually goes over pretty well since my dad and I are very alike, have the same "love languages" etc.

So my question comes here.

My mom started to feel a little "jealous" because she felt like I was taking her spot of helping my dad, making his favorite foods, walking next to him while shopping, and all of that.

And that began my wondering...

How can I be a loving helper to my dad when my mom is his true help-meet and he is designed to only have one, and I am designed to have my own man to support and help but (in God's timing) he hasn't showed up yet? (pgs. 35-36)

*side-eyes teenager with her eyes all aglow*

Hell, no.  Shut that shit down.  Now. 

I would rather run into my daughter making out with the idiot, bad-news neighbor kid than having my same imaginary daughter start fawning over her father.  I would literally rather watch my kid be Tina Belcher to the neighbor's Jimmy Jr. from Bob's Burgers than have her start pulling that crap with her dad.   See, falling in love with a twit who is roughly the same age as you - and NOT biologically related - is normal.  Totally, completely and marvelously normal.   Teenage crushes are cliched for a reason; it's such a universal experience.

Aping your mother's relationship with your father instead of being around boys your own age?  Messed up.

And as worried as I would be on the psychological and emotional implications for how I was raising my daughter,  I have another issue as well - it's massively disrespectful to the woman of the house. 

All of the CP/QF emphasis on male authority in a home and marriage undermines the traditional understanding that children are under the authority of both their mother and their father.  The adult married woman of a household retained the unspoken right to run her own home, garden, dairy or small business as she saw fit.  Yes,  this woman was theoretically under the authority of her husband - but ONLY him.   There was never a time where an unmarried daughter received the same level of authority as her mother while the mother was still alive and able to run the home.

The examples given by the letter writer don't have much pull in my family - but if I had tried to sit in the front seat of the car (which would make Mom sit in the back), Dad would have told me to get in back.  Mom would have ordered me to get in back if she was already there.   I can't imagine interfering with grocery shopping - but if I did, I would have been put in my place by my mom...or dad.  When I wanted to help out with quilting when I was a pre-teen, my mom put me to work ironing.  I grumbled a bit because ironing is the least fun bit of quilting - but I would never have set things up so that I took the sewing part that my mom liked best.  My mom would have taken that part back.

I think my family experiences are why I'm a bit boggled by the fact the mom felt jealous.  Dude - it would never get far enough in my house for the woman of the house to feel jealous!  My imaginary daughter steps over a line and I tell her to step back.  I assume she'd step back across the line - but if not, I'll put her back across the line. 

As for the letter-writer's sensible question about how to be a helpmeet when you are not a helpmeet, that one should be self-explanatory.   You are not a help meet.  You may be a help meet someday - but that day is not today.   You may never be a help meet. 

What should you do in the meantime?  Get educated.  Learn how to be an asset to your family, your community and your church.   Figure out how you personally can make the world a better place.  All activities benefit the world around you - and they benefit you, too. 

Young unmarried women without much life experience are in a dangerous place if they become fixated on marriage.  Being overly focused on becoming a wife puts a young woman in danger of marrying the wrong guy. 

Don't get me wrong; I don't believe in soul mates or that everyone has one specific person whom they must find or will be unhappy together.  No, I believe that most people run into several people in their lives that they could be happily married to.

Far more importantly, people need to avoid marrying the people who cross their paths who are impossible to marry happily. 

Most of these people are genuinely benign like the guy I dated who didn't believe in lifelong learning at all.  He was a nice guy - presumably a good husband for plenty of women out there - but I am a lifelong learner and we'd have been miserable together.

Some people are malignant.  They have untreated personality disorders.  They are mean.  They are selfish.  They are raging narcissists.  They refuse treatment for mental illness.  When I describe people this way, it sounds so easy to avoid them - but these people often seem fascinating at first.   They shine.  They attract.  They make you feel important.  They lavish attention on you.  And the one that got me the most - you are the only person who really understands them.  (You know, deep down inside behind the obnoxious prat they are in public...) 

Keep your eyes on the prize of being the best person you can be.  The right person for you will want to support you in that goal...and not have to compete with that weird crush you have on your dad. 





Thursday, January 3, 2019

Homeschooling Badly: Maxwell's "I Just Want To Be A Mommy"

Thanks to the wild 'n crazy cold that's working its way through our family right now I haven't had time to transcribe more of Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes' book "Joyfully at Home".   Instead, I picked an article from my favorite rabbit hole of lost time: the articles section of the Titus 2 website.  Back in 2003, Teri Maxwell wrote an article meant to encourage home schooling moms who were thinking about quitting. 

As I was reading that article, I wondered about paradox of feelings in CP/QF belief.  In the article, Teri Maxwell describes a relationship with a Christian mentor she worked with during the first year Teri homeschooled.   As the unnamed lady and Maxwell met, the two women gained a lot of spiritual insight and the mentor decided that she wanted to homeschool her kids, too.   In describing her decision - which Maxwell calls 'justifying' - the other mother explained that she simply wanted to be her kids mother and not their teacher as well.   Interestingly, Teri Maxwell's emotional response to the woman's decision was an overwhelming desire to place her three children back in school so that she could be a mother to her kids and not their teacher.   In standard form, Teri Maxwell ignored her feelings and decided to continue homeschooling.

Personally, I get a feeling of impending doom at the idea of homeschooling my son - and I take my feelings seriously.   Teri Maxwell's feelings on hearing that a friend had placed her kids back in school weren't a single moment of nerves in an otherwise happy home schooling environment.  Teri Maxwell has been open about discussing her painful postpartum depression that she was struggling with when she started homeschooling her kids.  She's described being routinely angry and frustrated by the behavior issues of her two sons when they started homeschooling.   In all of her writings about homeschooling, there are precious few stories that involve positive feelings while she is actively teaching her kids.    None of these feelings means Teri Maxwell is an incompetent mother; it just means she's not a natural teacher of her own kids.   And guess what?  Very few people are!  Even professional teachers strive to keep their own offspring out of their classroom because being a parent-teacher can add all sorts of chaos to a functional classroom.

The next section struck me as both a fantasy and a form of shaming on women who send their kids to school:

In my mind, I pictured my friend’s children coming home from school in the afternoon. She would have spent the day in personal Bible study, prayer, exercise, housecleaning, reading, ministry, sewing, and cookie baking. As the children bounced in the door, they would be met by a beautiful, smiling mommy. I was sure she would have taken a long shower and blown her hair dry too. The children would smell the freshly baked cookies and scramble for a seat at the table. There they would happily discuss the excitement of their day in school. Finally, they would head outside to play while my friend started supper in peace and quiet. I just want to be a mommy too!

Let's discuss opportunity costs for a second.  CP/QF leaders and mommy bloggers seem ignorant of the idea that by making one decision a person accrues costs by losing opportunities that would come from other choices.   Homeschooling advocates rarely look at the full spectrum of opportunity costs.  First, the homeschooling mother loses a chance at having a different career.  The severity of that cost varies a lot depending on the educational and vocational skills of the mother, clearly, but all homeschooling mothers are choosing to teach without pay for a full-time job. 

Second, the children in the family lose the benefits of having professionally trained teachers in funded school systems.  Yes, some professional teachers suck.  Yes, all school systems are underfunded.  Even with those caveats, the likelihood that one parent can bring together enough educational resources to provide an equivalent education to the local public school system or local private/parochial schools is slim.  Replacing the number of potential business and romantic contacts that the average student gains through enrollment in traditional schools is hard as well. 

Third, a parent who wants to homeschool in a way that differentiates curriculum for their kids, protects the student from non-approved ideas, and has a large family quickly finds that homeschooling eats up all available time.  I think that's part of what Mrs. Maxwell was responding to in her glorious dream of a SAHM who has time for extras like exercise, sewing, cooking and ministry!

Finally, how does homeschooling - especially CP/QF homeschooling combined with extreme sheltering - fit within the larger purview of Christian ministry?  I've known many women who worked in low-paid or volunteer ministry jobs for years once their children were school-aged - and they were the rocks on which wonderful programs were built!  Some of them worked as personal aides for students with disabilities that were severe enough that the students needed 1:1 supervision.  The patience and understanding of child behavior that these women gained in raising their families blessed other families who had kids who needed lots of support to learn.

What about the time we spend in homeschooling? Have I taken off my “mommy” hat and replaced it with a “teacher” one? I am taking the place of a teacher in a classroom in my children’s lives, but I am still “Mommy” in the fullest sense of the word. My mommy role as a teacher began from the first words I quietly whispered in each newborn baby’s tiny ear. Almost everything my children have learned in their young lives, this mommy has had a part in teaching them. Being an official teacher in our homeschool is simply an extension of this natural teaching relationship that exists between a mother and her child. Really and truly, I just want to be a mommy!

Yes...and no. 

Parents do teach their young children scads of important lessons about self-care and how to interact with other human beings.   Humans are born at such a helpless state - and with such plasticity on how to do things like gather food, communicate, and play - that the first five years of life (at least!) focus on teaching kids the very basics of staying alive.   That is a huge part of development in young children and a core piece of human education.

Having said that, modern education quickly ramps up into areas where humans don't have a strong instinctual basis.  Humans have instincts around learning to eat, learning to speak/communicate, and use tools.  Humans don't have a strong instinct around interpreting abstract symbols for words.  Humans have an instinctive understanding of number sense - but peters out for most people beyond addition and subtraction.  Humans love sharing stories - but we tend to miss the broader scope of history unless we are actively taught it.   Humans love to explore natural phenomena - but we are subject to some fascinating logical gaps that can lead us down strange ways.   Once humans move beyond the basic and universal skills that all people have a desire to acquire, more specialized educators begin to appear.

To be blunt, professional teachers would not exist if all people were naturally at similar levels of teaching skill.   There are people who are born teachers.  There are also people for whom teaching is nightmarish in spite of their best efforts.   Most teachers are made from a combination of some basic talent combined with lots of hard work.  My heart goes out to all the women who are homeschooling in spite of the fact that they lack the desire, skills and training to do so because they falsely believe Jesus requires it of them.   Hint: there are NO verses in the Gospel about the importance of home schooling - because even then the idea was surreal.  Yes, women taught their daughters how to prepare food and make textiles - but I suspect that girls learned skills from other women as well. Likewise, boys learned careers from their fathers - or the man they were apprenticed to.

I thought about what it meant to be a mommy teacher beyond simply teaching my children facts and figures. What teacher in a school loves their students like I love mine? What teacher’s main goal in life is to see their students grow up to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? What teacher is going to cuddle a sick student on the couch, tucking that student in with extra pillows and blankets, while loving and consoling him through his misery? Hey, I just want to be a mommy!

Um. Yeah.  No, you really don't have to worry that your kid's high school math teacher has set her primary goal for the year as "Have all the students saved according to Steven Maxwell's requirements by the end of the year."  I feel quite confident in that point.  I feel equally confident that teacher is capable of teaching high school math - and that is the reason I'm sending my kid to interact with them.

And sadly enough, I have consoled sick students through days that they just plain weren't feeling well.  Morning sickness and final exams always made for a few rough days for unlucky female students.  But - and I feel like this should be obvious to Ms. Maxwell - most kids stay home when they are sick to be coddled and nursed by their parents since that's a natural part of parenting and family life.  Dropping "caring for kids while dealing with the normal run of illnesses" into the middle of an essay on homeschooling worries me quite a bit.  On the other hand,  I'm starting to see how CP/QF homeschool bloggers can blithely switch out basic life skills for advanced academic content if they all share such muddy logic skills.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter 2 - Part One

We've entered the third stage of holiday events in our house - Sick Toddler Time!  My little guy was a bit off yesterday.  Last night, my son partially awoke about once every 45-60 minutes, let out random wails for around 30 seconds, and fell back asleep before I could make it from our bedroom to his nursery across the hall.  By morning, I was bleary-eyed with lack of sleep when I fished my son out of his crib and realized he was running a temperature. 

I hate it when he's sick - but he did fine today.  He takes medication by mouth pretty well and he would take Tylenol after a few cursory whines.  Spawn would let me know when he was ready to go back to bed by pointing towards the steps or signing "Sleep".   The rest of the time he wanted to sit on my lap and watch "Sesame Street".  After a while, I couldn't handle another sketch about emotional regulation so I pulled an ace that I had reserved a few weeks before.  My husband had been scanning the offerings on Netflix and a documentary called "Tigers of Scotland" appeared.  The documentary was about the remnant wildcat population of Scotland that are a separate species than domesticated cats.   That was interesting to me - but far more importantly - my son loves cats.   Love might be too weak of a term.  Spawn ADORES cats.   If he sees one, he says "Hi, cat!" or "Miaow-Miaow!" at them.  That bought me 60 minutes of a happy toddler who cuddled on my lap while calling out "Miaow-miaow! Miaow-miaow!" every time a domestic cat, feral cat,  wildcat, lynx or bobcat appeared on the screen.  (Previously, he has meowed at tigers at the local zoo.  I'm enjoying the irony that his survivability is now less than it was as a newborn for large cats.) 

Heck, I wondered if the camera crew that spent six weeks looking for a wildcat to film only to get some less-than-thrilling footage of a mouse eating and a barn owl flying by just needed to add a cat-obsessed toddler to their crew.  I feel like Spawn's unbridled adoration would have drawn wildcats to wander around outside the blind. :-)

Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes has written two articles about her regrets of being a stay-at-home daughter as well as the awkwardness of rereading the book she wrote at age 19.   I have a great deal of compassion for her - but especially in having to hear the 'wisdom' she wrote when she was barely out of childhood.   Honestly, I don't think she was any more idealistic or dogmatic than so many young people on the brink of adulthood; she simply had the unfortunate piece of luck to have her writings published by a now-defunct cultic system.

As an outsider, the voice of the cultic CP/QF belief system shouts loudest when authors like Ms. Baucham, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin or Sarah Mally discuss alleged life events that sound fishy:

I have heard so many conversations between young married women who are sighing, "I wish I knew a Titus 2 woman who could walk alongside me! I have so much to learn!"

They talked about how they were trained to have a career, but not run a home; how they could oversee a business merger, but couldn't manage dinner; how they could juggle nine tasks at once, as long as none of those tasks included the difficulties of child-rearing. (pg.33)

The first item that sat oddly with me is the fact that Ms. Baucham at age 19 had been involved in more than one conversation among young married women.  Granted I married at an older age, but when I was around a group of newlywed and single women, I didn't start with "Oh, my God!  Marriage is hard, amiright?  Who will ever teach me how to wife properly?"   No.  Just no.  We did commiserate occasionally on the quirks of our respective husbands - but that is as much about pride that the worst thing about your husband is a minor quirk instead of  being married to a monster.

The second paragraph reads as an creative interpretation of the CP/QF mythos surrounding what secular education is and how it strips away a woman's ability to run a home or raise a child.  After all, families are responsible for training their kids to keep a home, not post-secondary educational facilities.  Certain families are better at teaching how to keep a home, certainly, but that is a different issue than whether women should have careers. 

I want to meet a woman who is capable - and has - overseen a business merger but is unable to solve the intractable problem that is dinner.   A person who has navigated the hazard-ridden, unmapped river that is a business merger may be a horrible cook - but I suspect they would be fine at either hiring a cook, purchasing ready-to-eat meals or ordering take-out.   Likewise, I suspect that there are plenty of women executives who are fine cooks; they simply choose to delegate that task to someone who does it even better than they do.

I also want to meet someone who can smoothly juggle nine-tasks at once - but fails miserably as soon as one of the tasks involve children.   IMHO, most of the problems with child rearing is that small children require caregivers to juggle nine tasks at once while continuously changing the order of priority for the tasks.  In other words, sauteing onions for dinner goes instantly from the first task of importance to the third when you see your toddler balancing precariously on the back of the sofa.  (The second most important task is "Occupy toddler so they don't do that again".  :-) )   The capricious and never-ending needs of infants and toddlers are the reason that women around the world specialized in gathering foods, food preparation and making textiles.   Women can hunt, mine or blacksmith perfectly well - but those activities don't mix well with the curiosity of toddlers.

This next quote is adorably naive in a truly teenage girl way:

As I sit here typing today, working on my first book and babysitting a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a two-year-old, I can only imagine the overwhelmed feeling that is sending many a new wife and mommy reeling. My youngest brother Micah  (a year old) will be up from nap soon, ready to eat. My three-year-old brother Asher is insatiably curious, and has me running outside every few minutes to answer his plainative knocks at the door. The two year old (Judah) will need a diaper change soon, and will probably have a smell that would send you running for the hills. Elijah is the oldest of the younger set, and he knows how to keep things in order. The only problem is, this little guy isn't exactly seen as an authority in his toddler brothers' lives.

So how am I not screaming my head off and running for cover? (pgs. 33-34)

Obviously, her response is that her parents trained her up right - which is what I would have responded at that age, too. 

The truth is that babysitting your four siblings in a household that contains two seasoned adults and her 15 year-old brother is nothing like being a young wife to a man who is starting his career while you are caring for your close-in-age preschool children.  It's not even in the same universe.  I know nothing of how long it took Voddie and Bridget Baucham to reach the point that he had a stable career and a consistent income - but the couple sensibly spaced their two biological children four years apart.  Since Jasmine is the eldest child, she may well have scant memories of any hard times the young family faced. 

The hardest part to foresee about having children before you do is the fact that your child is your responsibility.  I'm sure that teenage Jasmine could feed, play with, comfort, dress and handle the toileting needs of her young siblings - but that's the easy bit of parenting.  The weeds of parenting is making decision after decision after decision.   Deciding if the toddler is sick enough to need to go to the doctor - or will a doctor's visit simply exhaust a sick tot without speeding their recovery?  How will we afford the bill if we're a cost-sharing plan that doesn't cover non-catastrophic illnesses?  Should I start weaning my kid from their pacifier?  His doctor says yes, but his dentist says no.  My kid has refused to touch a vegetable in two weeks - should I be worried?

CP/QF leaders push young marriage and militant fertility - but different people are ready for marriage and parenthood at vastly different ages.  I've certainly known people who married in their early twenties, had a large family and did fine; I've also known people who married early, had a huge family and descended into the chaos of a dysfunctional marriage with kids who are barely hanging on.  My husband and I have been clear on one fact for a long time - we would have been terrible spouses in our early twenties.   We were too young and inexperienced.   We both needed time to learn additional lessons in patience, cooperation, tolerance and forbearance. 

My son and his medical struggles have taught me what I sometimes refer to as militant patience.   That's the patience that requires every bit of my strength to maintain because I want badly to have something I can fight against or do to promise a good outcome - but there is no enemy and is no magic bullet except time.  And so - patience that goes against every fiber of my being.  Militant patience.

Thirty-seven year old me does have one tip for 19-year old Jasmine, though.  Don't let the three-year old go outside without of an adult's line-of-sight, please.  I'm all in favor of free-ranging kids, but the kid needs to be old enough to not get hurt to due to impulsivity.  Three-year-olds have no decision-making skills other than "Let's try this!" - and that can end so badly in a safe area.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter One - Part Three

Happy Boxing Day!  We had a good holiday run here in Michigan.  There was a bit of snow on Christmas Day itself so I think we can count this as a white Christmas.  I'm enjoyed the last Christmas that I can get away with really half-assing Christmas decorations since Spawn's just barely two.  I greatly enjoyed seeing my sister, her wife and my niece who is growing up so fast.  Today, I'm simply chilling out and trying to get Spawn back on his normal calendar.  He's done really well with a slightly akilter nap and feeding schedule - but he didn't eat much at large family gatherings so he's wolfing down food today.   He managed to eat 5 chicken nuggets and a small fry from McDonald's which is a ton for a small 2 year old.

In our review of "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes I've pointed out the issues with the views of feminism she held at age 19.  The end of the first chapter connects the failings of modern feminism to the benefits that stay-at-home daughterhood (SAHD) brings to believers.    Ms. Baucham begins by pointing out the difficulties of fitting single adult women into the CP/QF view of female life where all women fit into a subordinate position to men:

Still, where do single women fit into this understanding of mankind? Though hierarchy and marriage may seem ordered enough to you, even the most die-hard complementarians often shrug their shoulders when it comes to how unmarried women fit into our understanding of male / female distinctions. While young men and married man are both trained to be leaders and providers in society, often times, young women are trained in the same pattern as young man, then told that, once they marry, they are given a different world to occupy. (pg. 26)

Hmm.  Why might die-hard complementarians fail to object to training young single women to be providers before marriage?  Well, not all homeschooled conservative CP/QF girls are lucky enough to marry within a few months of turning 18.  Since many - probably most - CP/QF families live below the federal poverty line due to a combination of very large families and limited career prospects of weakly educated men, sensible parents educate their daughters so that they can bring in income by their late teens or early twenties at the latest.  No one has proposed a serious answer to who is supposed to support an unmarried adult woman once her father dies so I'd assume that even stay-at-home daughters who can live at home while their parents are alive will eventually need to work.  For young women who marry, being able to earn money is still useful. 

Let's be honest - the skills that make a good employee translate well to being a good wife and mother.  Marriage is built around communication.  Being able to communicate clearly can smooth relationship difficulties.  Marriage requires cooperation.  Marriage requires compromise.  Marriage requires deciding which issues are worth a principled stand as well.  I've been concerned for years at the idea that a wife is supposed to be submissive to her husband in every issue that is not a Biblical sin.   The best outcome of that belief system in practice requires that a husband be able to make decisions that are always in the best interest of his family with minimal input from his wife.  Why minimal input from the wife? Well, it's hard to be totally submissive if you're giving advice...so better to remain as a child without knowledge or life experience.  The worse-case scenario has already been described in "Preparing To Be A Helpmeet" by Debi Pearl.  A girl can be married to a man who moves the family every two years in search of his next big idea that will end their crushing poverty or to a man who expects his every whim to be catered to by his wife and children while he abuses them.

Parenting brings an entire different level of organizational skill into play - but that's no surprise, right?  Oh! I always point out one fun factoid to the HS students I sub with: I totally used the math skills I learned in Algebra II to figure out how to make the exact amount of 24-calorie formula my infant son needed.   The steady nerves I developed teaching in rough schools along with the manual dexterity I acquired from years of lab work made inserting an NG tube on my son easy.   I was grateful for my years of experience managing the bureaucracy of education as I've managed the scads of different medical, educational and service agencies who work with my son.

[...] for a woman of my age - of the age of many of the young ladies reading this book - to still be single in Biblical times would be seen as an anomaly.

For a woman my age to be single fifty years ago would have been seen by many as an anomaly as well. (pg. 27)

The first sentence is not entirely wrong.  During Biblical times, people married very young compared to modern times with women marrying not long after puberty.

On the other hand, plenty of women in the Bible never married.  They were slaves or concubines instead.   With the much higher mortality rates, some number of women who married in their teens would be widowed by age 20.  I immediately thought of Tamar from Genesis 38.  Presumably she was married to Er when she was between 12 and 16 years old.  Er died and his brother Onan married her but refused to get her pregnant so God killed Onan.  Judah sends Tamar home to live with her father until Judah's one surviving son is old enough to be a husband.  Genesis 38:12 says that Judah's wife Shua died after a long time - so presumably her son Shelah was quite a bit younger than Er or Onan.   Tamar pulls off a honey-trap on Judah which seems quite risky if she was post-menopausal - but makes more sense if she was in her thirties.  Two thousand years later, the nascent Christian community was still trying to figure out how best to care for young widows - and there must have been a decent number of them since the solution for their care was to require most of them to remarry.

Likewise, the second sentence isn't entirely wrong - but I think Ms. Baucham made a claim based on a faulty understanding of history and statistics. 

Let's discuss statistics first.  The US median age of first marriage for women has been between ages 20 and 22 from 1890 to around 1980.  Median measure the central tendency of a data plot - so we can say that around 50% of women were married by ages 20-22.   Ms. Baucham's claim that she would have been an anomaly as an unmarried 19 year-old in 1950 is a stretch. 

Statistics have the advantage of presenting large data sets in a concise form - but the concise form by definition loses the finer grain of the data.   We have the median age for first marriage - but we don't have the total range of the data or the first and third quartile points that would give a better idea of when people were marrying.  Let's think about two examples.  In the first example, half of the women in the US married between the ages of 18 and 22 while 49.9% of women were married at ages 23-26 years of age.  In this first society, a 30-year old single woman is unlikely to find a marriage partner who is not divorced or a widower - and this is pretty much what the US was like in the 1950's and early 1960's.   In the second society, 50% of women are married at ages 14-22, but the next 49.9% of women who marry do so between the ages of 23 and 50.  In this society, being unmarried at 30 doesn't mean that a woman has no chance of being married - and this is pretty much what the US has been from 1890-1940 and 1970-1980.

This next paragraph is an example of how Ms. Baucham was better grounded in reality than the Botkin Sisters at a similar age:

Stay-at-home daughterhood - the practice of living at home, under your father's authority and parental discipleship until marriage - was normative during biblical times. While the passages that talk about daughters in this context are limited in God's word, they certainly do seem to point to the biblical validity of staying home more than they do to striking out on your own. However, it is difficult to make a case that not staying home between high school graduation and marriage is a sin. Moreover, because of the fallen world we live in, for many young women, stay-at-home daughterhood in the sense that I will be talking about it in this book is an impossibility because of your family situation. (pg. 28)

Yup.   Being a SAHD was normative in biblical times.  So was slavery, death in childbirth and foreign occupation for people who are keeping track of their normative biblical trends.

Making a case that a single woman living outside of male authority is a sin is more than difficult; it's impossible if you read the Book of Ruth. 

And yes - being a SAHD is impossible for ever so many women.  It's just not financially possible for many families - and I would argue that it's irresponsible for any family that can't create a trust fund that can keep each daughter at the same socioeconomic level for the rest of her life.  Each year that the Botkin Sisters, the Mally Sisters and the Maxwell Sisters are out of workforce, the less likely they are to be able to be integrated into the workforce when their parents die.  Fair or unfair, many women spend some time out of the workforce due to caregiving for children or the elderly - but these seven women have no work experience outside of niche-market family businesses.  I suffer secondhand embarrassment on their behalf when imagining them trying to explain what they've been doing for the last two decades of their life.  After all, we've all got family members or friends who have self-published stories, novels or poems while still managing to hold down a traditional job - so what have these women being doing?

Let's end on that upbeat note. 

The beginning of Chapter Two is one of the sections that I believe Mrs. Holmes finds difficult to re-read as a wife and mother - because 19-year-olds often have so very little life experience......

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter One - Part Two

Mr. Spawn is three days post-surgery and I am flabbergasted at how well he's been doing.   He tires out a bit more easily than he did before the surgery - but he's eating well, playing like a happy toddler and getting into trouble.

The fact his surgery went so well has taken a huge weight off my chest.  Spawn's a robust little trooper- but last February he had a cold that set him back for weeks.   Since then, he's weathered several colds without any major lags - but I was worried that this surgery would set him back again.   My concerns have turned out to be imaginary - and I'm thrilled.

On a similar note, I find writing about Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes' book "Joyfully At Home" to be far easier than any of the other books written by stay-at-home daughters.  Mrs. Holmes' writing is of an entirely different caliber of quality than the poor standards set by the Botkin Sisters or the Maxwells so reading it feels like a breath of fresh air.   Also unlike the women of the Botkin, Maxwell, or Mally families, Jasmine Baucham finds a man whom she marries and is raising a family with.  The other authors' books were written with all the energy and vigor of young women who believe that they will be in marriages that will be the envy of all their friends any day now - but as readers who are five to fifteen years in the future we know that that assumption is faulty.

Let's continue discussing Ms. Baucham's understanding of the evils of feminism when she was 19, shall we?

I know, this is not a popular notion. As a young, American woman, I have been told time and again how thankful I ought to be for feminism: it is giving me the right to vote and own property; it is giving me protection from an abusive marriage; it is giving me options beyond the scope of the Suzy Homemaker mold that women before the rise of feminism have been forced into! Women before the dawn of feminism had it bad. Right, guys? (pg. 25)

The people who created the materials for Vision Forum's homeschooling wing have a lot of  resulting ignorance to answer for; that paragraph is such a muddled mess of historical steps for women that untangling it is daunting.

Let me start with this statement: feminism is not offering protection from an abusive marriage.   No one can do that because abuse happens at a person-to-person level.  No, what feminism offers is the ability to leave an abusive marriage without losing all assets and all access to children born in the marriage.  In countries that are based on English Common Law, an unmarried woman had the ability to own property and custody of children born out of wedlock.  Once a woman married, her entire legal existence was subsumed by her husband.  Her husband owned outright all of the property either person brought to the marriage, any assets gained by the couple during their marriage and had complete legal and physical custody of their children.  Divorce was strictly confined and divorced women had little or no expectation of equitable distribution of assets or access to their children.   The most clear example I can think of was in the book "Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres" by Ruth Brandon.  Eliza Bishop was the married sister of Mary Wollstonecraft when Eliza suffered a bout of what we would now call postpartum depression.  Since Eliza was an adult, she could legally leave the home of her husband - but if she took her infant daughter with her she would be guilty of a felony.   Eliza left - and most likely never saw her infant daughter again before the baby died at 11 months old.  Eliza left - and spent the rest of her days working as a companion, a governess or a schoolteacher to try and earn enough to live on.  She had no financial support or settlement from her estranged husband - and no reason to expect one.

Getting a divorce today still requires bravery since legal proceedings and starting a new life are challenging - but at least women have a chance of eventually gaining financial independence after a divorce.

In terms of Suzy Homemaker, she's a myth perpetuated to idealize the decorative, protected wife and mother of upper-class Victorian times.  She re-appeared for a few decades in the 1950's and 1960's for white middle and upper-class women during the exceptionally rare economic times that allowed families to be supported by a male breadwinner of limited education.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news - but that level of economic prosperity regardless of education for white males is never returning.  People who idolize that time period ignore the fact that the prosperity of the 1950's was built on a massive infusion of government cash to veterans through public housing, VA mortgages and the GI Bills support of education plus the oft ignored fact that the other countries that had manufacturing skills had been bombed into ruins.  Oh, and the generally ignored fact that this largess toward white males came at the expense of women and men of color who had also sacrificed for their families and countries during the 1930's and 1940's. 

I think a more realistic historical idea for married women is as half of the economic engine of a household.  Women have always either earned wages directly or done unpaid work in the home that frees other members to produce materials or earn wages.  CP/QF bloggers glorify the stay-at-home mother as lovingly doing things at home - but they generally ignore how much work she completes.  The cost of child-care for an infant or preschool child is often equal to or more than the amount that most women can earn plus we would need to factor in the cost of a cook and a maid to do basic cleaning.   Plus, women nowadays have far more time and energy available to interact with their young children than they ever have in the past.  I suspect young children spent far more time under the general supervision of their mother or older sibling while the older members of the family worked on food production, food preservation and the never-ending process of creating cloth from fibers or skins.

For unmarried women or women whose children are older than 4, the historical model was far more tilted towards working.  Women worked on their farm, in the homes of wealthier people, or in industrial settings.

Really, the dependent adult woman model that underpins both the SAHD movement and the CP/QF married woman ideal is far more of a historical abnormality than the "feminist" model of recognizing that women work throughout their lives in and out of the home.

I feel like I've read and wrote about this quote before:

[...] although, before the dawn of our modern egalitarian leanings, women and men occupied completely different roles in society, we have the legacies of women like Abigail Adams, Sarah Edwards, and Anne Bradstreet, and others to show us that this position was not one of mental or spiritual inferiority, but one of order. (pg. 26)

Is there a Vision Forum brochure somewhere that writes about the glorious anti-feminist views of Abigail Adams, Sarah Edwards and Anne Bradstreet?   I feel like I've run into this sentence - or one strangely similar - in the Botkin Sister writings somewhere. 

Regardless of where they got this drivel from, it's still wrong. 

Abigail Adams wrote her husband frequently to tell him push the rights of women to vote.  To point out the obvious, her candid and fervent requests to her husband didn't lead to women voting during her lifetime - or the lifetimes of her immediate descendents. 

As for Sarah Edwards, I can't find more than a few surviving letters she wrote to her children.  The stories of her life that are embellished and shared among conservative Christian women are second-hand accounts of how nice she was to visitors to her home and how much her husband worried about her when he was dying.  All of this is nice - but it's a far cry from understanding how Sarah Edwards felt about her life personally and privately.  Her daughter Esther Edwards Burr left a far more honest set of journals prior to her death at age 26 and she struggled mightily with the stresses of being a wife and mother.  Cynic that I am, I often think that Sarah Edwards' main selling points to the CP/QF crowd is her convenient silence on troubling ideas combined with the fact that her descendents are both numerous and include some famous people. 

Anne Bradstreet works for CP/QF families as long as they pick the poems she wrote carefully.  If they stick to "To My Dear and Loving Husband", she is completely unobjectionable.  If they include "Before the Birth of One of Her Children" where she implies that her husband might remarry someone who abuses her children after she dies or "In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth of Happy Memory" where she explains that women can be excellent warrior rulers, she becomes much more objectionable.

In the next section of the first chapter, Ms. Baucham begins explaining the rationale of being a stay-at-home daughter which will lead to our next post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter One - Part One

Hello, everybody!  I wrote this post in bits and pieces over a week-and-a-half so forgive me for the jump backwards to before Spawn's surgery!

Life continues jogging on in Michigan. 

This has been a rapid descent into winter year where we got accumulating snow starting in early November instead of early December.  The accumulated snow has not been terribly deep, thankfully, but it's been just consistent enough to be annoying.   I dawdled at mowing my lawn in mid-October and now I've got a six-inch long lawn growing underneath snow.  Two nights ago, we had strong winds caused by a warm front that brought our daytime temperatures from the high 20's-low 30's to the high 40's - low 50's.  That's ideal grass-cutting temperatures, in my opinion, but we had a slow, steady rain that prevented me from doing any lawn work.  Right now, I'm afraid to step on my lawn for fear that it's become a bog that will swallow my legs to the knee.

On the flip side, the hard freeze has stopped my seasonal allergies dead - so that's been marvelous.

Spawn's eye surgery is next Monday.   He's been medically cleared for everything.  After a 90 minute long opthamology appointment where three highly trained doctors had to independently verify that his eyes are still crossed AND a team of super-technicians had to take photos of his eyes looking in eight different directions, I declared that insurance claims departments should have to provide their own people to take the photographs. This was universally acclaimed by eye doctors of toddlers.  My son is a very mellow tot who seemed to think this was another example of adults acting weird - but trying to get a not-yet-verbal kid to understand that he needed to look up and to the left is a Sisyphean task.

The best advice we got from the cadre of people in the eye doctor's office on applying eye ointment was to do it as sneak attacks while he was sleeping in the morning and nap time.  He's going to be awake and fighting at bedtime - but my husband and I are both home then so we'll just immobilize him and swoop in. 

On a positive note, after a week of eye ointment, I think Spawn will look more kindly on his physical therapist.  She - after all - does not attack him with eye goop when his guard is down like his psychotic parents.

After reviewing two Maxwell books in a row, I needed a break.   A friend recommended reviewing "Joyfully at Home" by Jasmine Baucham.  Ms. Baucham was a featured spokeswoman for the Stay-At-Home Daughter (SAHD) movement after she was interviewed by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin for their documentary "The Return of the Daughters".  I own a second-hand copy of "The Return of the Daughters" but I have not been able to force myself to watch it yet.   "Joyfully At Home" was written after the documentary was filmed and was published in 2010 when Ms. Baucham was 20 years old.  In 2013, she graduated from Thomas Edison State University's online program - possibly through the use of College Plus.  If Ms. Baucham did use College Plus, she is the first person I've heard of to successfully earn a degree using that program.    In 2013, she met Phillip Holmes who she married in 2014 - which means she's the first SAHD published author I've heard of who got married.  Currently, she has a little boy who is close in age to Spawn and she appears to be pregnant with her next child.  Mrs. Holmes teaches two days a week and looks forward to homeschooling her kids once they are old enough.

The first chapter of "Joyfully At Home" is pretty much the standard overview of why Western Civilization is falling apart due to evils like feminism and how being a stay-at-home daughter is part of returning the US to its rightful path.   The section on feminism is strangely similar to writings by the Botkin Sisters:

Feminism is poisonous.

[...]

If feminism was simply the notion that women are of equal worth to men, it would be something that I supported wholeheartedly. (...)

But, also, as Christians, we need to be aware of the dangerous side of feminism: Egalitarianism, for instance, or the idea that men and women are interchangeable. Androgyny - the eradication of gender lines. A sense of entitlement - saying " I deserve this or that" or " I am woman, hear me roar!"(...) Sexism - the sneaky idea that women are of more value than the messy, awkward, mentally inferior, and naturally chauvinistic men in their lives. Defensiveness- the idea that women have to fight for their rights because men are hardwired to dominate and abused them. (pg. 25)

Feminism is the idea that women and men deserve equal rights.   That's it.  As ideologies go, it's very simple.   The bit that conservative Christians dislike is the practical applications of equal rights for men and women - like women should receive equal pay for equal work.   Conservative Christians are equally freaked out by the idea that leadership and authority should be a meritocracy where the people who have the most skills should lead rather than an assumption that men should always lead instead of women.

The rest of the ideas that Ms. Baucham stated are a part of feminism are a mix of straw-men and strange definitions. 

Egalitarianism is actually the idea that all people deserve the same rights. I don't like using the term "interchangeable" because it implies that people are like the parts in a machine and can be swapped out willy-nilly.   People are more more complicated than mufflers on a car.  No, egalitarianism could better be described as not letting arbitrary reasons like race or gender exclude people from opportunities. 

Androgyny means a mixture of male and female characteristics or more broadly that some people don't fit neatly into a binary gender system.   I'm not sure why androgyny is so scary to conservative Christians; letting someone else be outside a binary gender system doesn't force conservative Christians from being as gender-conforming as they want to be.  The Botkin, Duggars, Maxwells, Mally and Ms. Baucham can all live in pink floral dresses with long hair if they want.

A sense of entitlement is a genuine problem for practicing Christians - but what does feminism have to do with that?  I find CP/QF wet-dreams of an uneducated man earning enough income to support a 12 or more person family to be far more entitled than the idea that a woman could be president of the US.  Or how about the recent election whining spate of QF families who want parents to be able to vote for their minor children so that conservatives can win election again?  That's insanely entitled - and insanely self-centered.  I also feel compelled to point out that CP/QF families have been frantically breeding since the late 1980's-1990's and have failed to breed/keep enough members to be an actual political force - just ask the Santorums or Duggars.

I adore how feminism is always accused of being sexist.  It's as tone-deaf as the white conservatives who keep blabbing about people of color are really the racist ones......

Eh...the defensiveness isn't because men are hardwired to abuse women; it's because societies tend to have institutionalized ideas that disproportionately harm women, people of color, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ persons.   Ironically, I think Mrs. Holmes has come to realize that as she's stepped out of the hothouse that protected and insulated her as the daughter of Voddie Baucham.   She's mentioned on her website that being the only African-American girl at those purity balls was not fun; I wonder if she's realized that the Botkin Sisters' adoration of Rushdoony means that the Botkin Sisters were more than willing to be Jasmine's friend - but Jasmine marrying Noah Botkin would be viewed as immoral because Rushdoony condemns interracial dating and marriage.

Ms. Baucham has plenty more to say on the topic of feminism - but I'm going to stop here so I can cover her next few ideas in the depth they deserve. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Fast Update: Spawn's Surgery

Good news!  Spawn's surgery went just fine.  He had a 9 AM surgery and we were home by 2PM. 


I should have a new post in the next few days, God (and post-surgical toddler) willing!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: The Appendices

I like to learn something new every day.  Today, I learned that there are two plural possible for the word "appendix" in the English language - and that the one with the "c" is more commonly used when describing added materials at the end of books.    For the title of the post, I originally entered "appendixes" which didn't look entirely right - but I couldn't explain why either.  I think most of my confusion came from the fact I'm certain I've ran into both spellings before but seen the "x" version more frequently due to my science education background.

The Maxwells end their self-help book "Making Great Conversationalists" with three appendices.  Appendix A is a list of questions to teach kids to ask other children.  Appendix B is a list of questions for children to ask adults.  Appendix C is Steven and Terri's testimony about becoming Christians.   There is a LOT of overlap in the questions from Appendices A and B from earlier chapters so I'm going to simply highlight the really, really, really bad ones.

I'm skipping Appendix C because a testimony about being saved written in first-person plural by two very straight-laced people is exactly as dull as it sounds.

Appendix A only had one new area that surprised me:

Vocations (for older children)

If you could spend your life doing any job, what would that be? Why?

What do you want to do in life?

Why do you feel God might be calling you to that? (pg. 206)

These questions are strangely open for the Maxwells. 

The Maxwells espouse that daughters should marry and raise children while sons should be small-business owners in areas that require no post-secondary education or training that can't be done at home.  Now, the Maxwells have failed to launch any of their daughters into their "adult" roles of wives and mothers and their sons have an equal track record of business failures as successes - but equally importantly, the Maxwells strongly believe in sheltering their kids from any ideas that might draw the kids to different paths or goals.    Did Steven and Teri Maxwell really want to risk little Mary, Anna or Sarah being told by a friend that she was going to be a teacher, a dancer, a doctor or a business owner when she grew up?  How awkward was it when Christopher was telling people that he really wanted to be a EMT or rescue pilot when Steven was working on crushing that dream through emotional manipulation?

See, resilience is a trait that extreme sheltering misses.  Kids who are exposed to a wide variety of ideas since childhood usually maintain basic levels of calm in the face of a new, foreign idea.   When I ran into kids or teens who espoused strict gender roles, my reaction was "That's odd and a bit disturbing" but it didn't really shake my core beliefs.   Keeping kids in a stripped-down, sterile intellectual environment where they are only ever exposed to the "correct" viewpoint leaves them highly vulnerable to throwing out their entire belief system when exposed to the broader world.

CP/QF people instinctively understand this because have terrible rates of converting and retaining believers.  That's why Christian Patriarchy has accepted Quiverfull beliefs so enthusiastically.  It's the only way of keeping their churches going.

Spiritual

Where are you going to be in a million years? Why?

Have you been saved? Would you tell me about it?

Do you read your Bible everyday? What are you reading now? Anything special you can remember from recent readings?

What person from the Bible would you most like to have a conversation with? Why? (207-208)

The first question messed with my brain.  Assuming that people believe that God and heaven exist outside of the physical universe that means that time ceases to exist after death.  It's kind of like asking "what color is a transparent object?"   Maybe that confusion is the point; the CP/QF kid can swoop in with some tracts and high-falutin salvation spiel while the other person is trying to figure out what the question means.

Please do not ask people for their salvation stories.  The fall before I met my husband I went with my best friend and her mom to a "Harvest Festival" in a local rural community.  At this point in my life, I was a confirmed urban or blue-collar suburban resident - but I did think that the pole barn that we were setting up various dishes we brought seemed suspiciously clean.  There were no oil stains on the floor.  There was no lingering smell of rotting vegetation or animal dung. 

Turns out that the "Harvest Festival" was a two-part gig. 

The first half was a tasty potluck and social event only marred by a daft, intrusive game where we got signatures from people.  Normally, I like games like that - but I could not ask anyone "Were you saved after age 30?" or "Are you a single person over the age of 25?"  Admittedly, I didn't have to ask the second question since my bestie and I simply signed for each other - but I signed that for a lot of people by simply saying "I fit number 18 if you've still got that open."   The process was weird - but not nearly as weird as watching a guy who thought he could recite the Gettysburg Address panic or when the enthusiastic announcer recommended that the single people over the age of 25 look around for potential marriage partners out of the other singles there.  I felt a bit better when I happily yelled back to the announcer that all of the single people there were ladies - so they must have been in favor of homosexual marriage, yes?  In hindsight, the ten or so people in charge of the party spent most of the night wandering around telling their salvation stories to anyone who would listen while the 90 or so locals avoided them like the plague.

Second half of the night was a play put on by the local youth group about how great it is to die as a teenager when you are saved.   Um....no.   Just say no.

I learned an important lesson that night - when locals leave a party en masse, follow them.  The locals knew about the crappy salvation pitch after dinner and made a hasty escape.  I also learned that hearing salvation stories is so unpopular that only hosting a meat-heavy potluck can get new blood on your property.

The questions about the Bible makes me wonder how many people who do honestly read the Bible blank out when asked about it.  On the flip side, I can talk fluently on my Bible readings - but I don't read the Bible every day.

I'd really like to visit with Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law.  I'm fascinated by the amount of intelligence and planning she used to get pregnant by Judah when Judah refused to do his duty to her by giving her his last surviving son in marriage.   Oh, wait.  Is this appropriate for children?  No - but most of the Bible isn't child-appropriate.

The remainder is from the appendix B - or question kids should ask of adults.  Personally, I survived by answering the adult's standard questions about my schooling and after-school activities then went on my merry way. 

Vocation

Do you enjoy your work? Why? Why not?

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

Do you plan to continue with this job long-term? (pg. 208)

Let's not encourage burnt out adults to unload on kids about what they dislike about their jobs, ok?  I've always thought the "kids should interact with all ages without restraint or preference" theme in sheltered homeschooling to be bonkers - but I assumed that adults were still expected to filter their thoughts and experiences when around kids.   Similarly, the ability to filter out emotional content from adults' work experiences is a lot to ask of a teenager let alone a kid.  Teens learn through interactions with peers and overhearing adult conversations that sometimes people need to vent about negative experiences at work - but venting doesn't mean that the person's job is horrible or in trouble.  Kids don't have that kind of filter for experiences so listening to Steven Maxwell describe all of his horrible coworkers may scare kids or make them think Maxwell's job is hideous when more mature listeners would take the same story with a large grain of salt.

 Experience

What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to do? (pg. 208)

People, do not ask this question of others! 

This strikes me as a question that a trained therapist in a solid relationship with a patient might ask cautiously due to concerns about the strength of emotions that could be unleashed.  Teaching children to ask this question of others is cruel in two respects.  The more obvious cruelty is towards the person asked the question.  No one deserves to have memories of having an animal put down, ending a long-term relationship, dealing with medical crises or being abused dragged up by a random kid.  It's especially insulting since the reason these questions are taught is because the kid's parents are too high-strung and controlling to let the kid watch TV, read books or participate in activities that most kids talk about freely.  Nope, they don't want their kid exposed to that - so it's ok instead to teach your kid to drag up memories of cutting off relatives who are addicted to drugs as a conversation starter!

The second cruelty is what happens when an adult with poor boundaries replies to a child who asked this question.  For example, if asked this question I would reply something like "My son was very sick when he was born and that was hard - but he's healthy now and I'm happy about that".   An honest although inappropriate response would be to describe what it was really like when my son coded in my arms.  Should I describe the horror of having your baby go from pink and wiggling to grey, unmoving and limp in less than a minute?  My mute desperation that I might be watching my baby die?  My terror that I may well go on breathing for decades after my son stopped breathing - and how could I survive that?  Should I tell a kid that I believe I aged 10 years in the two minutes from when his nurse called a code to when he was breathing again?   Do they need to know that I've spent hours working through the panic and helplessness I felt that day in therapy? 

Obviously, a kid - or even a teenager - doesn't need to know that.  Dropping my emotional burdens on a minor would be irresponsible - but so is teaching your kid to ask people extremely loaded questions.

We are done - DONE! - with this book!  My next review will be "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine Baucham.