Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Pitfalls of Wealth Signaling in CP/QF life: The Maxwell Sisters


The wheels have fallen off the Maxwell wagon in fairly short order. 

Anna and Mary Maxwell are going to school out-of-state in West Virginia at Appalachian Bible College.  Sarah has moved out of her parents' house and is living on her own.

In the brief post on these two momentous events, Steve (in Teri's voice) mumbles something about how Anna and Mary are learning about missions and how Sarah's moving out is because of ministry.

If the extended stay-at-home daughterhood of Sarah, Anna and Mary Maxwell is based in morality or virtue signaling, none of this makes sense.

The Maxwells are very outspoken on how college is an expensive pit of lapsed Christians who are waiting to drag other people down.  Bible colleges may not be as laced with poison - but everyone should be able to gain the same information at home through a dedicated course of self-study.   

So why send Anna and Mary to West Virginia instead of locking them in their bedroom with whatever the fundamental Baptist version of the Little Rock Bible Study series is?

The Maxwells are equally clear that living alone is morally impossible due to the sheer amount of temptation to masturbate or have sex with a random stranger.  For the few people who are not swayed by that crystal clear rationale, the Maxwells march out the shopworn idea that renting an apartment is financially foolish "because you get nothing out of it!".   (You know, outside of use of said apartment.)

If that is true, how could two parents send their oldest daughter into financial and sexual ruin?

Maybe the Maxwell morals have changed.   If they did, we'll never hear about it.  

The bigger issue, I think, is finances. 

Yes, Steven Maxwell worked for years in a well-paid corporate job - but he also had eight children and a stay-at-home wife.   That's going to limit the amount of savings and assets accumulated compared to a family with 2 kids and a wife who works part or full time.

After leaving the corporate world, Steven started a business that took quite a few years to become profitable.  After all, the initial push of his business was printing and internet forms - two areas that were dated and rapidly contracting while he was building the business.

Over the past twenty years, the Maxwells built two profitable businesses and had at least three others fail.   That's an incredibly normal track record for starting businesses - but that likely ate some capital from the successful businesses that was not passed onto the partners.

The two successful Maxwell businesses are supporting fully or in part the majority of the Maxwell children and grandchildren right now.  John and Mary are the only two Maxwells who are not listed in connection with Nathan or Joseph's businesses right now.

In addition to the Maxwell for-profit business, the Maxwells have had Sarah run their non-profit Titus 2 ministry.  Sarah seems to have run a decently tight ship and had time to write the much more successful Moody book series - but Steve has also launched a huge money pit of presenting conferences under the flag of Titus 2.   Between buying land to park a tour bus, purchasing a broken-down tour bus, and spending lots of time and money demolishing said tour bus to create the death-trap on wheels they named Uriah, the conference gig was badly in the red before the first conference.

Add in gas costs,  the hotel costs in spite of Uriah, and mainly the reality that the Maxwells struggle to have conversations with non-family members and the Maxwells put a whole lot of money into a dead-end.   

Next thing Steve knows, twenty years have passed.   He's rapidly approaching 70 years old and the money he has saved through his career has to last not only the 20 years that he and Teri are likely to survive - but stretch to last the lifetimes of Sarah, Anna and Mary Maxwell.  

That's unlikely to happen - so the Maxwells went to Plan B. 

Sarah, who has been working a lot of hours on Titus 2 along with working for her brothers' businesses since she was a teenager, presumably has a good nest egg built up.  She's got her own cute red car and a home - which may be a house, an apartment or a condo - and with a little bit of luck, her brothers can help smooth the wheels of getting her first job for a non-Maxwell. 

In one of those twists of fate, a single women who is 39 is very over-the-hill in the insular CP/QF world has much better dating  sorry, courting,  prospects in wider society.

Anna and Mary seem to have less financial assets than Sarah - but they are also younger. 

Going off to college is a great way for the two of them to mingle in a larger crowd of people.  Once the awkwardness of being around people their own age wears off, college is a great place to make friends and network. 

Hopefully, someone will cue them in that a few of the degrees there provide greater options for careers than others.  For example, taking the elementary school teaching degree that aligns with the West Virginia Department of Education or doing a nursing degree in conjunction with another college gives a single adult woman far more options than a Biblical Counseling Degree with a concentration in Women's Ministries. (Friends don't let friends get fake counseling degrees.)

In terms of dating, well, Mary's not much older than the upperclassmen.   Anna's probably older than most of the undergrads - but they do have graduate degree students and an alumni network.  If the sisters join different churches, that will double the number of single guys they run into.  

The student handbook has a really detailed list of places where couples have gotten caught doing untoward affectionate activities like holding hands - so keep that as a list of places where the staff are keeping a close eye on - and get a bit more creative.

Now, ABC has some rather intrusive rules about getting married during the school year or too close to the beginning of the next school year.  I suspect the rules are in place to deal with housing snafus rather than anything else - but Mary and Anna have both had way too much experience with controlling adults to need to add another level of oversight.  

As such, I took a look at the school's calendar. 

May is a lovely month - and a great time to get married if you want to be sure that 1) you are out of school and 2)you are married for at least two months before the start of classes.

Best wishes from one who thinks this is a great step for all three of you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Maxwellian Escape: Anna and Mary have escaped the family compound!

OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!!

Anna and Mary Maxwell have gotten multiple states away from the Maxwell compound.

Multiple freaking states!!!! *shrieks with triumph*

My twin sister cued me in that Free Jinger had noticed that the Maxwell girls were featured in beginning of the year pictures from Appalachian Bible College.    I'm a firm believer in verifying information myself so I found the pictures on Facebook.

I got them by searching "Appalachian Bible College" and choosing the post that seemed filled with pictures of college orientation.  The fourth picture in is of a tug-of-war game.  Mary and Anna are seated in the bleachers about six rows up on the right hand side.  Anna's wearing a bright blue top while Mary is dressed in a red t-shirt with shorts. 

Mary is located right above the head of the last tug-o-war guy on the right;   
Anna is is above her to the left.

Having glanced through the student handbooks for married and single students I can safely say that the college has been influenced heavily by ATI beliefs on proper dressing styles for men and music - but the Maxwell girls are multiple states away from their parents!

Reading about the musical restrictions placed on students made it clear I have done one thing right with my son: he's getting better and better at the lyrics of "Whup Jamboree", "Johnny Jump Up" and the presumably less offensive "Leaving of Liverpool" thanks to his love of what he calls "Mama's songs" and the rest of the world calls CDs by Gaelic Storm.   What can you expect from the son of a couple who told people that our song was "The Fields of Athenry"? 

I'm gleefully happy for both young women.  Living with 87 other unmarried young women is likely to expose them to differing worldviews - even if the overall culture of the college seems to be slightly more conservative and structured than most Catholic high schools.   

Really, anything is a good break from the Maxwell commune.   

Good luck to them both!

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Six- Part Two

Hello, buddies!

I had my appointment with my OB a few days ago.  While stating frequently that she was open to whatever decision I made about attempting another pregnancy, she was also very clear that she was very concerned that I would have another severe pre-eclampsia event leading to an early delivery.  She had had two previous patients with a similar case history as I had.  One patient had a later successful pregnancy; the other's next pregnancy ended in severe pre-eclampsia leading to delivery at 24 weeks instead of 30 weeks.

That was before explaining all of the additional issues that could come up from being 40 when pregnant to me and a baby.

Hearing all of this stung a bit - I don't think anyone likes hearing that they are an obstetric train wreck -  but my main thought was that I didn't want to bet everything our family has gained over the last four years against the off-chance of having a healthy pregnancy. 

I'm sad.  I'm angry at times.  I'm relieved as well; there were a lot of mild annoyances with pregnancy that I was not looking forward to at all.  

Right now, I would like to have another child in our family - I just don't think the kid will join us through biological means.   I'm going to take at least through the New Year off from planning how to expand our family to let myself think and feel whatever comes up about not having another biological child.

At the same time, I realized at my OB's office that I was much less afraid of having another medically complicated child in our family than I was the severe guilt I would have at causing a child to be medically complicated by choosing to get pregnant knowing that my odds of a healthy, term pregnancy are poor. 

Spawn's infancy and toddlerhood were so very hard in some ways - but I know a whole lot more about how to manage medical and developmental complications.   Like...I know now that I would have gotten a better response on my worries about his speech development from his neurodevelopmental pediatrician than I did through Early On.  Since his at-home special education treatment though our local ISD was a complete shit-show, I'd follow my gut instinct and keep him in Early On with therapists I liked and coordinate care through medical rehabilitation until he was old enough to transition to school-based therapy.

I suspect my husband and I will end up either pursuing adoption of a medically complicated infant (or a preemie of some kind) or doing foster care and/or doing foster-to-adopt when Spawn's a bit older.

Random subject change: let's talk about papal infallibility for a second. 

I'm Catholic and the Catholic Church as always been discussing the limits and rights of the Pope.  Off and on since at least the 1500's theologians have been proposing different ideas about if and when the believers of the Catholic Church can be certain that something taught by the Pope is correct.  Some popes have been very agreeable about theological limitations on their teaching authority; others have viewed any limitations on their power - temporal or spiritual - as a personal insult.   

Most fascinatingly, there's an apocryphal story in the Church that the definition of papal authority was set when a pope in the 1800's ended the ongoing debate by calmly declaring that the pope was, in fact, infallible.   This story is completely untrue - but it does fit the level of mild confusion and love of tradition that the Catholic Church is known for.   

In 1870 during the First Vatican Council, the definition of papal infallibility was set as occurring when the Pope speaks with all of the following conditions attached.  The Pope must be teaching ex cathedra which means as the leader of the Catholic Church.  He must be teaching on a point of faith or morals.  This point must be meant to be held by the entirety of the Church.

How often does the Pope issue a papally infallible teaching?  Very rarely.  There are two agreed upon statements about the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary that are viewed to be infallible that have happened in the early 1800's and 1950's.   There are a few others - like 10 others - that are agreed to probably be infallible that cover information about the nature of God and Jesus that were made between 400 AD - 1800AD.

Long story short: rarely a Pope makes a teaching on faith and morals that Catholics believe to be a true revelation from God based in tradition that we should accept.

Why am I bringing this up right now?   Well, in the next quote from Marina Sears' opus "The Battle of Peer Dependency", God gets really irritated with Marina for not raising her kids as if she's more infallible than the Pope:

One day, the battle between may son and me had become very grievous. After he left the house, I am ashamed to say, I stomped my foot and said to the Lord, " I only want him to love You with all his heart, soul, and might. Why doesn't he love You all his heart, soul, and might?

In my spirit the Lord answered me by saying, " Marina, why don't you love me with all your heart, soul, and might?"

" Me, Lord? I do love you with all my heart. You know how I have sacrificed so that I can rear these children. I have not sought a life of my own. I did it because I thought that was what you wanted me to do."

Then He said, "Remember when it was just the children, you, and Me. We would talk and spend time discussing the future for the children. You remembered that it was I who created them and knew the plans I had for them. You would ask me what curriculum to use or what Bible verses to memorize. When you became friends with all the other homeschooling families you began to ask them what they were using. You were caught up in the academic flurry of higher education rather than considering my higher plans. Marina, your children don't love me with all of their heart, soul, and might, because you don't!"

It was at that moment I realized what the Lord was saying was true. I have left the Lord for the esteem of others. It was more important for me to know that my friends thought I was a good homeschooling mom, rather than what the Lord thought of me. I myself had fallen into the trap of peer dependency. (pgs. 79-80)
Yup. God expects Marina to parent as if she's more infallible than the Pope.

When the pope speaks infallibly, he's making a statement that has been crafted in conjunction with information from bishops stationed around the world.  Generally,  the College of Cardinals has weighed in on the theological and practical ramification of the statement.  The work of theologians outside of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is crucial to the formation of the statement.   

A infallible papal statement is a group effort with lots of moments of disagreement, discussion and reconciliation of ideas.   

Marina Sears, on the other hand, has ruptured her relationship with God by taking advice from experienced homeschooling parents.  

Does that even make sense from a Biblical perspective?  No, not at all!  Throughout the Bible, people are interacting with other people and taking really good advice from them.  Think of Ruth getting advice from Naomi about how to approach Boaz or Esther and Mordecai working to save the Jewish people or Elizabeth and Mary caring for baby John together.

Marina Sears' revelation that God wants her to only discuss homeschooling with Him is oddly aligned with her personal wishes, wants and desires - in spite of her much belated declaration that she had succumbed to peer pressure.

Most importantly of all is Mrs. Sears bald admission of her basic motive.   Marina Sears chose a highly restrictive way of raising her children that reduced her personal opportunities.   She made a completely valid choice - but she cannot expect that her children in return will remain dependent on her forever.  

After all. "I want my son to love You with all his heart, all his soul and all his body" has the unspoken clause of "which he will show by doing what I tell him to do for the rest of his life."

That's a problem.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Prayers for the Maxwell Family

 The Maxwell Family - especially John and Chelsy - could use some thoughts and prayers right now. 

 Chelsy gave birth at 30 weeks to their first daughter Madeline after some kind of pregnancy complication.  

Madeline is a good, healthy weight but she's having some difficulty with her lungs right now.  As of yesterday, she's on a ventilator and needed pneumothorax tubes placed to remove free air outside of her lungs. 

That is, ironically, the exact same issue I had after I was born way back in the day.  Back when I was born, the ventilators that were used were often overpowered for preemie lung tissue and 'popping' holes in lungs was a common occurrence.   When Spawn was born, I was a very minor celebrity in the NICU as a former micro-preemie grown into a real adult.   The younger nurses (say under age 40) were horrified that the older ventilators were that damaging.  The older nurses assured me that pneumothorax was rare nowadays - but did happen occasionally to preemies in spite of their best efforts.

I hope for her family that her recovery is as simple as mine was; I needed two pneumothorax tubes placed to let the holes in my lungs heal - and then I turned into a feeding, growing machine.  

I'm having a mess of feelings right now. 

Sadness for the family because I know how unsettling NICUs are at first.   Sadness because my son is the best thing I've ever done in my life - and having a medically complicated child was the hardest thing I've ever been through - full stop.   Sadness because I don't want anyone to go through that ever again - and as much as I know that Madeline is going to be fine - I'll feel sad and nervous until she's breathing room air

Anger at the Maxwellian attempts to "rah-rah" pro-life crap in the middle of an update. (Jesus Fucking Christ - Madeline is at 30 goddamn gestational weeks.  Neonatologists agree that it is unethical to not try and resuscitate a baby whose only health issue is prematurity after 25 weeks gestation - and most will try at 24 weeks if the parents want to try.  No one was going to not intervene on a healthy baby girl born at 30 weeks.) 

Sadness because I saw far too many families who had a greatly wanted child who died in the NICU due to prematurity or a home birth gone terribly wrong.   

Relief that Chelsy didn't join the millions of women who died in pregnancy and that Madeline is likely going to be fine.

Anxiety because I'm seeing my OB this week to talk about my specific chances of having a baby born at the same gestation or earlier in a future pregnancy.  My husband and I would like one more baby - but the thought of a micro-preemie birth again makes me terrified.   I'm not so much scared about the risks for me - but I don't want to put a baby though that.   

I've not had guilt about Spawn's early birth; the complication was so rare and took such a strangely rapid course that no one could have prevented it.  The most common response to doctors and nurses to hearing my story of "I went from normotensive to severe pre-e with class I HELLP in ten days and the fact I was in multiple organ failure was only discovered because I was having nondescript abdominal pain" was "Oh, thank God you got to the hospital in time" said by a person wide-eyed with horror.  Medical professionals had seen much worse cases where the mom and/or baby died prior to getting a HELLP diagnosis - so I'm glad I called my OB when I felt sick.

I worry, though, that I'd be unable to forgive myself if I had a baby born that early or earlier again because I know I'm at higher risk for any of the complications of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy on future pregnancies.

 I have a whole list of questions about probabilities of pre-e and premature birth and what, if anything, the doctors could have done if we discovered my blood pressure was climbing in the week before Spawn was born.   Maybe we'll decide to expand our family by adoption from foster care.  Maybe we'll decide we are ok trying another pregnancy.  

I really don't know - and that's ok, too.  

That's why I've been posting less than usual recently.   When I have a lot of feelings, spending time pondering the quirks of CP/QF theology is not great for my mental state.   Instead, I exercise, hang out with people and spend time outside.  Soon enough, I'll be more settled - and the vagaries of CP/QF theology will keep until then. 

I am very glad that Chelsy and Madeline survived birth.  Pregnancy and childbirth are great when things go well - but so many people have forgotten just how dangerous both can be when things go wrong.  I'll be praying for them all - including the rest of the Maxwell clan.  They might drive me nuts on a theological level - but this is a hard time for them too.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Six - Part One


Chapter Six of Marina Sears' parenting book "The Battle of Peer Dependency" teaches her readers far more about how her brain works and what she expects out of life than I expected.  We've seen in other portions of the book how she's very rigid about her personal beliefs and expects her children to join her in being a shining example of God's providence for widows and orphans.   She also frequently denigrates the normal behavior of her two oldest sons by twisting the reactions of her youngest sons to justify keeping her children sheltered and excluded from the rest of the world.  

The first quote begins to explain the paradox that defines Marina's life:

Shortly after marrying Jeff, we joined a bible-believing church where I began to study Scripture, and it soon became my desire to be a woman of faith. I admired the godly heroes of Scriptures, my pastor's wife, Patricia Gentry , and wonderful Christians, like Corrie Ten Boom who was at the top of the list. Since I was in a " classroom of suffering" I had hoped it would be a natural byproduct, but I was wrong.  Just being in a painful situation didn't guarantee that I would glean the wisdom and character that God wanted me to acquire. As I searched Scripture for the formula to success, I found that I, like most people, am looking for something like 1 + 1 =2 . This type of formula was based more on what I could do to help, how I could manipulate, or control the situation, rather than by faith, trust in God. As they continued to search, I discovered there is a formula found in Scripture, but many, wishing for instant results, may be discouraged in the journey. (pg. 79)
Marina Sears is stuck between two mutually exclusive premises.

Premise One: There is no single, formulaic method to achieve success in life.

Premise Two: There is a single, formulaic method to achieve success in life!

All throughout the book, Marina Sears' writing is often scattered and hard to make sense of.  In re-reading this chapter, I realized that one of the reasons for her difficult writing style is that Mrs. Sears is often combining examples of Premise One in the middle of trying to prove Premise Two.   In this sample paragraph, Mrs. Sears explains that suffering alone doesn't automatically give people character or wisdom.  I think that's a fair statement; suffering can lead to character and wisdom or it can lead to brokenness and muddled thinking.  That makes the statement about suffering =/= wisdom and character an example of Premise One: there is no singular formula in life.  

So...the paragraph is chugging along fine when Sears declares that formulas are about controlling and manipulating the situation rather than trusting God.   Surprisingly to her, I would also agree with that statement.  Mrs. Sears throughout the book shows no faith in anyone.   She doesn't trust her sons to be able to handle going to play volleyball because it doesn't serve the family purpose.  She doesn't trust any other adults to be involved in the training or education of her sons.   Most jarringly, she often claims that she trusts God, but she spends so much time trying to manipulate her sons to do whatever she wants that I really doubt she trust God's Leading in her sons' lives at all.

While that's a jarring confession combined with Mrs. Sears' lack of self-awareness, the paragraph has held together with the overarching theme that "there is no one formula for success in life".  

Then the final sentence says "Ha, ha! There actually IS a formula - but you posers are too weak to carry it out!"  

Good Lord, woman!  This entire book is chalked full of Mrs. Sears trying to manipulate her growing sons to stay dependent on her to make decisions - and generally failing miserably.   By some ironic fluke, Chris and Davey are remarkably impervious to Mrs. Sears' attempts to guilt-trip them into living at home forever.  

Here's another great example of an inchoate paragraph caused by trying to force a paradox to work: 
Faith does not believe that if I do certain things God is obligated to bless me and change my child. Faith understands that God, the Creator of my child, has given me a gift. The gift is the child whom He has entrusted to my care, to nurture, love, and train. These are my responsibilities as a parent. What is not my responsibility is whether or not my child will love the Lord his God with all of heart, soul, and might. Understanding and then making application in one's life of this principle is very important in rearing children. For who can change the heart of another individual? Can we, as parents, do things to influence and change another's heart? The answer to that is yes.  Realizing that as we influence our children, God is in control and he does the changing. (pg. 79)
Most of this paragraph follows very basic Christian dogma.   Most Christian groups believe that God is ultimately in control of changing someone's heart and that a person's willingness to have God change their heart helps the process along.   Different denominations and people disagree over how much to emphasize a person's willingness to change compared to God's Grace - but the two ideas do co-exist.

Marina Sears also sticks to a fairly common and uncontroversial application of parenting.  God gives parents the responsibility to raise their children to be good people - but the faith journey of their child is ultimately between God and the child.  Honestly, that makes basic sense from any point of view because faith is a internal attribute of a relationship between God and a person.  I cannot force any two people on Earth to trust each other - and similarly - a person's willingness to trust God is based on the state of their relationship with God which is affected by a myriad of factors that are out of anyone's control.  

In this vein, Mrs. Sears holds to Premise One - "there is no one formula for success" - until the last four sentences of the quote.     Near the end, Mrs. Sears asks a rhetorical question about the ability of one person to change another person's heart.   The standard response to that question is "No, the only person who can change their heart is the person themselves (or God)."   

Something in that question triggers a major shift in Mrs. Sears' thinking.  After having stuck with Premise One for most of a paragraph, she modifies the question to deal with the specific case of parents and children before diving into Premise Two - "there is a formula for success that I know".  

The most bizarre thing for me as a spouse, parent and professional is the fact that Mrs. Sears last paragraph completely ignores any sign of agency in the child regardless of age. In Mrs. Sears' world, a parent controls a child - that's what "influences" is short-hand for - and in return, God makes the kid's heart into the form that the parent wants.   

That's a good recipe for a piece of computer controlled equipment - the user puts in the desired specs and the equipment performs - but it's palpably crazy as a theological concept and devastating as a parenting technique.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Five - Part Five


I'm writing this while listening to my son describe each of the toy cars he's packing into a new "Thomas the Train" carrying case his Oma gave him. 

He's grown and hit so many developmental milestones in the last year that I often feel like I have a completely different child than I had two years ago. 

Between a year and four years of age, Spawn stopped singing.   Six months ago, he started singing again - and I'm amazed how many songs he learned while listening to songs on the radio in the car and listening to me sing around the house. We were playing on the floor yesterday when he asked me to sing "the song about what a bus does" with him.  I really enjoyed singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with him.

He's really into pretend play now and I find playing with him to be delightful.  Right now, he wants to pretend to be adults doing jobs that he sees around in the world which means he wants to be a mailman or a cashier or a farmer.  He's been "helping" in our garden by planting corn seeds in a bed that we were going to leave fallow as a composting area.    Hearing him exclaim "Mama!  I'm a farmer!" makes me smile every time.

Spawn can walk enough with one handed support that he can make it around our small local grocery store without needing to sit in the cart.   In fact, he also wants to be able to carry the small basket I use while we are there - but Spawn's still a bit short for the baskets at the store as evidenced by the fact that the basket drags on the ground when he tries to carry it.    Instead, I can usually convince him to help me carry it.   He's also very helpful at putting the items in the basket after I take the off the shelf.  

Marina Sears, I hope, enjoyed similar simple pleasure moments with her children when they were young.   Reading her book "The Battle of Peer Dependency" leaves readers with the impression that Mrs. Sears spent every moment of her children's childhood wishing that she had a different group of children who were more docile, more tractable and less independent.   Here's a revealing quote from the fifth chapter:

Sitting in a conference, listening to a workshop on finding individual life callings, I found myself wondering if God might also have a calling or purpose for the family. Different families had crossed our paths over the years that seemed to have a family purpose, but I saw that as a rarity rather than the norm. It seemed, as though my spirit had suddenly been taken aware of the fact that Jeff's death did not take God by surprise. Nor was He baffled by the strong personality traits my children possessed. It seemed as though the spirit of God was urging me to understand that he had put us together as a family, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, spiritual gifts, gender, and birth orders. All these factors together would tend to pull the family apart until I realize that the molding and blending of these traits were what would speak to a lost world. (pg. 74-75)
I was a bit taken aback by Mrs. Sears' surprise and dismay that her children had strong personality traits - and I doubt she viewed those traits positively.  I'm surprised at her surprise because Mrs. Sears clearly has a powerful personality herself!  She's spent the book explaining repeatedly her belief that her family needs to be a shining beacon to the world showing off God's Providence to widows and orphans - and she'll be damned if her kids get in the way of that goal.    

I've spent a few weeks trying to think of any family I knew that had a "family purpose" - and have been completely drawing a blank.   I suspect that's because most families are content enough to do whatever motivates them without needing to trumpet their purpose to everyone they meet.

More broadly, Mrs. Sears isn't picking a family purpose by deciding what makes sense based on her family.  She's using the idea of a family purpose to shame, guilt-trip and force her kids to follow her whims for as long as she can.   Why do I think that?  Well, this next quote is a doozy:
It is sad to discover that many other parents think that the only purpose of parenting is to provide instruction, provision, and protection for their children until they reach 18 years of age. These children are then considered to be on their own. Parents, who go a little bit further and believe the children are a part of the family until marriage, still miss the mark.. (pg. 75)
There is no escape for Mrs. Sears' children.   She is setting up a paradigm where she is to be in charge of their lives forever regardless of age, marital status or presence of children.   

Will that work?  Probably not.  There's yet to be a Christian Patriarchy family who has married adult children who has not lost one or more of those children to increased worldliness.  Not because the kids have become anything like the average secular family, but because the parents have gotten so used to having the personal whims of the parents satisfied at all times that a child's choice of doing something differently is treated like a war crime.  (See the Maxwell response to Jesse living in an apartment and the Duggar response to Jill.)

Is it Biblical?  Nope.  While there is definitely support for Hebrew men acting in concert with their paternal family line in the Old Testament, we have relatively little support for the idea that there was one paterfamilias who was making decisions for the entire family line.  On the other hand, the Bible is filled to the brim with people acting outside of the rules of patriarchy.   Men stole the birthrights of their older brothers.  Women disobeyed their husbands and fathers.  Mary appeared to conceive Jesus out of wedlock.  Jesus and his disciples were all pretty much behaving outside of family lines while various concerned and exasperated family members tried to stop them.  

If you remember nothing else, remember that Mrs. Sears would have stopped the Apostles from following Jesus.  That's the kind of great advice you're getting from this author.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter 5 - Part Four

 Hello on a hot, dry day in Michigan!

I've been a bit spoiled the last few years because we've been getting decent rain amounts during the growing season.   This year feels different, though, because our grass is already going dormant in patches three weeks earlier than usual..   I've started carrying water out the six fruit trees and four fruiting shrubs we have; I haven't done that since the year I planted the trees when Spawn was a baby.  

Spawn's old enough that he finds all of this fascinating - but not quite coordinated enough to be much help yet.   Instead, he will take some toys and play in a spot where he can watch me until I'm done.   I appreciate that - and he's old enough that when I say something like "Please move your trucks so I can walk down the steps" he knows which toys to move.   He's getting more and more mobile every day.  Spawn can walk several city blocks with one handed support so we've been going to more and more places together.  (The fact that the number of COVID cases locally has dropped to less than 10 per 100,000 helps as well.) 

After four years of being nervous about the cows on our property, he's decided they are the best toy he has.   Every day, he collects a handful of cars and we walk out to show the cars to the "mama cows" and the "baby cows".    The cows seem duly impressed and some of the older ones have started to moo in response to Spawn asking them questions.   Today he collected pieces of corn and wheat to put into the bed of his toy pickup truck so he could pretend he was driving a feed truck.  

We are slowly making our way through Marina Sears' parenting book "The Battle of Peer Dependency".  I've been a parent for a relatively short time - but nearly every advancement Spawn makes drives home how very little I like any of the ideas that Mrs. Sears shares.   The fifth chapter is about how parents and children should form a tight-knit, indivisible group that fulfills the emotional and social needs of the family.   Honestly, her ideal family sounds claustrophobic as hell.   In this post, we'll look at an example that Mrs. Sears shares that manages to both undermine her theory while being used as a guilt-trip towards her older sons: 

An older brother or sister who invites a younger sibling to go with him or her on an outing and stays involved with them as the activity progresses will assure the younger sibling of the older sibling's love. This became real to our family at the camp in Michigan. Ben, the son of the camp pastor had just turned 16. This meant that he had recently acquired his driver's license, something that every young man anticipates. The day before camp started been lost his driving privileges. This saddened him, but he kept on and fulfilled his duties at the camp very well. At the close of camp, my youngest son Jeff, was approaching the bus which would take him home. He was nine at the time and as we reached the bus, Jeff noticed Ben was walking towards us. What Jeff didn't know was that parked across from the bus was Ben's family vehicle. He had just been given back his driving privileges, and was eagerly approaching his vehicle for the drive home.

Jeff yelled out to Ben, " Hey Ben, are you going to ride in the bus?"

Ben then said the most amazing thing. "Jeff, do you want me to ride in the bus?"

"Sure,"  Jeff said. 

So Ben, smiling, put his keys in his pocket and got onto the bus with Jeff. (pg. 73)
This story to me is fairly average and rather sweet.   There have been plenty of times where I was a kid who appreciated spending time with a teenager from another family - and plenty of times where I was the teenager.   Like the idealized youth minister from the previous post, the main benefit of having a relationship with a person from a different family is that both parties are enjoying the relationship without the normal stresses that occur in family life.   

The weird bit is that this entire anecdote points out all the flaws in Mrs. Sears theory that nuclear families should be self-contained.   

First, Mrs. Sears is the person who brought her four children to a camp situation in the first place.  I'm assuming she was working as a lecturer or something like that - but that doesn't change the fact that she's profiting from other families choosing to interact with other families.   Even worse under her theory is the fact that she is the instigator of bringing her family to the camp in the first place! That's the wages of sin!

Second, her family seems to be fairly integrated into the camp structure.  Mrs. Sears knows a whole lot of background information about Ben and his driving practices.    Either she was talking with other adults about raising their kids and succumbing to peer dependency herself or one of her older sons picked up that information from Ben himself and they were being peer dependent.   Really, even knowing Ben's name is dangerous; an ideal family wouldn't need to know Ben, right?

Third, we have no information on what her other three kids are doing during this time.  Maybe Chris, David and Camille are all deep into peer dependency - or maybe they are each hanging out with other multi-age groups.    Maybe they are asleep on the bus.   Maybe Chris is hanging out with Ben's younger brother who has taken a shine to him.    

Last unrelated point: Mrs. Sears is comparing apples to oranges again.  Earlier, she was disturbed when Chris and David as pre-teens wouldn't bring their five-year old brother to a volleyball game for preteens.  I still think the boys made the right decision; a five year old isn't going to do well at a junior high volleyball pickup game.   Meanwhile, Ben's a shining example of sacrifice for riding the bus instead of driving his car - but in this case - Ben is delaying a solitary pursuit for an hour or two instead of dragging a kid to an age-inappropriate activity.   This is a rare situation where I am very confident on this point because Ben and I were both teenage drivers in Michigan around 1994.   At 16 with his first temporary license, Ben wouldn't have been able to drive with any minors in the car with him.  (This was a statute to limit teenagers from driving with other teenagers.)  Ben's choice was certainly sweet - but Jeff wasn't asking him to tag along to a high school pick-up basketball game, either.

I stared at him in astonishment and with a broken heart. I was amazed that young man would be so sensitive and understanding with a nine-year-old boy. I was amazed to see that he understood the need of Jeff's heart. What Jeff was truly asking Ben was if he wanted to ride with him. The sensitivity and picking up the need of Jeff's heart was incredible. The sadness came as I wondered if Jeff's own brothers and sister would be so kind. Did they understand the needs of each other, and did they even care?  Were their own brothers and sister important to them, and did they desire to be with them, regardless of the activity, circumstances, or what age group was there? 

I realized in that instance what a tragic mistake I've been making. I had actually trained and encouraged my children to prefer people outside of our family to be their best friends. My heart was broken as I thought about the state of my family, and what I was going to do.  (pg, 74)
Mrs. Sears' plaintive wails about how she's lead her family into peer dependency AGAIN has gotten old.   We've had it happen when she joined a home-schooling church when Jeff was 2 or 3 followed by the volleyball game when he was five and now she's screwed up again by the time he was 9.    That's not a ringing endorsement of the ability of any family to live this lifestyle.

Mrs. Sears often brings up transient, mild distress on Jeff's part - or equally transient and mild pleasure - as a rationale for keeping her family on a tight leash.   I don't think that's because she's particularly in-tune with Jeff's feelings or that she favors him.   No,  Jeff is the youngest and most dependent especially compared to Chris and David who are 7 and 5 years older than Jeff.   Being extremely solicitous of Jeff's feelings covers slightly Mrs. Sears' long-term plan of keeping her children dependent on her for as long as humanly possible.

Why do I think this?  Well, in her hand-wringing story, she's equally critical of the ability of her two older sons and her one daughter to be perfectly in tune with Jeff's needs.   Since Chris is around 16 and David roughly 14,  I can see how she could make the argument that the two boys should be more able to suss out what Jeff wants and needs even if I find the argument faulty.   Her daughter Camille, though, is one to two years older than Jeff so she's 10 or 11 when Jeff is 9.   Why is she being held liable by her mom?   Shouldn't Jeff be more in-tune to Camille's wants and desires?  Jeff will be the leader of his own family after all.    

Mrs. Sears may seem more invested in Jeff's needs - but she is using Jeff's needs to camouflage her desire to keep her family isolated and dependent.   

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Five - Part Three


Spring is finally in full swing here in Michigan.   My son discovered that dandelions form lovely balls of seeds that people can blow on to scatter the seeds.  Now, that's a different thing from him picking or blowing on the dandelions; according to him, that's entirely my job.   Honestly, I don't mind.  I enjoy watching the seeds scatter lightly on the air and settle down into the grass.

On a completely unrelated note, our lawn is generally either bright yellow or fuzzy white with dandelions.   I find that they complement the crabgrass quite well especially in the fall when the crabgrass reddens.

I'm nursing a mild sunburn that's more embarrassing than painful.  Now that the insane spring season has hit my workplace I've been doing shifts in the garden center along with the paint department and service desk.  The embarrassing bit is that I forgot sunscreen on a sunny day and also forgot that working on light colored concrete means that I get hit with reflected UV along with sunlight.  That meant I was burnt on my arms with around 30 minutes of sun exposure.  Thankfully, the hat I was wearing plus my ever-present mask blocked enough rays that my face wasn't burnt.

We are chugging along in Marina Sears' parenting book "The Battle of Peer Dependency".  In the fifth chapter, Mrs. Sears spends a lot of time harping on the evils of divorce, name-dropping the evil of homosexuality, and claiming that most of our problems come from the fact that people spend too much time around humans who are not members of their immediate family.  

How second-generation humans are supposed to reproduce or support a family while spending as little time away from their family of origin is not covered at all.

Quotes like the following one do a nice job of illustrating why trying to read this book as an outsider is baffling and comical at the same time:

Breaking away from the traditional view of family is essential. In this view, each member of the family is independent of each other. Each person has his own agenda, schedule, and life. This life include separate classes at church and school. These classes are age divided, grouping only peers together. Most churches segregate the family even further by having young people sit in an area designated for youth only. This gives the young person the illusion that their group of peers is equal to their family. One of the dangers with church youth groups is that the youth minister must have the hearts of the children in order to accomplish his goals. The youth group itself becomes a family unit with the youth minister and his wife acting as the surrogate parents. (pg. 72)
Yes, my four year old often has a completely separate agenda than I do.  He prioritizes playing with toy cars and avoiding eating food much more strongly than I do - but this does not cause me to write a book about the breakdown of American family life.

I feel like I've covered this so many times - but the reason that schools and churches divide up classes by age is that age is a pretty decent predictor of abilities.   A group of 15 seven year old is far more likely to be at roughly the same conceptual level for learning reading or discussing a theological topic than a group of consisting of 15 people aged 0, 1, 3, 5, 7,  9, 11, 13, 15, 17,  21, 31, 41, 51 and 61 years old.  As people get older, the age categories get larger which is why putting adults aged 30-80+ together in a group causes far fewer headaches for a teacher than having an age class of 0-29 years all together.

I've been to a lot of churches.  I've seen a few that have an area where teens sit together - but I've also seen many, many churches where families sit together.    I don't know where Mrs. Sears gets the idea that sitting with your peers at church makes a peer group the equivalent of family, though.   It's not like the teen immediately receives legal emancipation or is given enough money to exist independently of their family of origin.  

If your teenager prefers their youth minister and his wife - because it's got to be that gender configuration - to your parenting, I'd assume it's mostly because the teen doesn't live with the youth minister and his wife.  I think every young teen and pre-teen has fantasies of living with that adult in their life who is fun, lively and not encumbered by making sure the house isn't trashed, everyone is fed, bills are paid and the youngsters are passing school.  

Of course, if you refuse to let your kids hang out with anyone besides their family of origin while cutting them off from most activities for not being "Christian" enough, the bar for "fun adult" becomes so pitifully low that everyone looks like a better parent than Marina Sears.

The claim of a youth ministry program becoming a family unit is bizarre.  There's no shared housing.  There's no legal or cultural expectation of financial support of the members by the youth minister.  The youth minister can't access medical or educational records for the teens nor can they provide consent for medical procedures or changes in educational programs.  

Just because Marina Sears feels threatened by any caring adult who gets near her kids doesn't mean the adults are actually undermining the family structure.

In this quote, Mrs. Sears makes several extravagant claims without any support:
It would seem natural to conclude since young people are segregated into peer groups in school and in church, the amount of time that they are with their peers far outweighs that of home and family.  Each family member creates his own friends and schedule. As a young person this is how I was raised, and it was the norm. Each of my brothers had his own set of friends; I had mine, and my parents had theirs. Still, it wasn't uncommon to hear someone introduce a friend as: " This is so and so; he is a friend of the family." Having people be friends to the entire family is unheard of in our present day. Young people have been so segregated in our society that few can adequately converse outside of their own peer group. (pg. 72)
 The first claim is that young people spend much more time with peers than with "home and family".   Let's clear up the easiest bit first: as long as the older teens are sleeping at home 7 days a week, spending a hour getting ready in the morning, and two hours or so in the evening with homework and relaxing the amount of time "at home" is going to be larger than the time they are in school or activities. 

The amount of time the older teens are with family is harder to quantify simply because parents are usually working at jobs.  I could see how a teen who was going to school, working and involved in after school activities could spend more time with non-family members than with family.  I do have one caveat, though.   The peer group of this busy team is not one homogenous group.   At a medium to large size city, there might be no overlap between classmates and teenage coworkers at a job.   There'd also be a different group of teens in youth ministry and slightly different groupings in the after school activities.  The unique make-up of these groups that change over time make it much less likely that peers become the "family unit" of the teenager.

Mrs. Sears is roughly the age of my parents.  I think I'm roughly the same age as her older kids.   Since Mrs. Sears claims that no one has friends of the entire family any more, a single counterexample can invalidate her claim.   I can think of four people who we'd have described as friends of the family - and the number keeps going up as I think about it.  Our elderly next door neighbor was a peach and we all liked spending time with her.  We had several families who I'd still count as "family friends" - including my lifelong best friend and her family.  

And just saying - my son loves to talk to older men who ideally are as gruff or tough looking.   He's got a group of local men who are kind of loners who he shows his toys to and chats with.   I'm also friends with a bunch of older women who share quilting and crocheting tips with me.

Most importantly - we're like 3/4 of the way though the book and she's still never supported her obsession with sheltering kids with any Gospel quotes and precious few Bible quotes.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Five - Part Two


Spawn and I were enjoying our walk to the corner after he got out of preschool when he stuck his thumb out at me and said "Mama, what's this?"

I tried not to flinch as I replied, "That's a splinter, Spawn.  I'll fix it when we get home."

I hate splinters - and this one was fairly big in a very small thumb.  A very small thumb attached to a little boy I adore and who I hated the idea of causing transient pain to prevent a worse infection.

We got home and I got out antibiotic/ lidocaine ointment, tweezers and a band aid.   I showed Spawn all of the pieces and told him that I needed to take the splinter out of his finger because the splinter could cause his finger to get sick if it stayed in.  (I had no idea how else to explain an infection to him.)  I also told him that I thought I could get it out without causing pain - but he could tell me if it hurt.  

He let me put antibiotic ointment on first.  We turned all the lights in the living room on so that I could see a bit better.  The good news was that the splinter wasn't deep at all - but it was long and most of it was trapped under a thin layer of skin with an inflamed part at the farthest end.  I tried to catch the free end farthest away from sore spot with tweezers but the tweezers were too large to work with easily.  Spawn was starting to get anxious so I decided to quickly press on the opposite end to force the free end out a bit farther, then grabbed the free end with my fingernails and removed it in one quick motion.

Spawn yelped and started crying when I pushed down.  I felt like the worst human ever - like Nurse Ratched set loose in a kindergarten - but I got the splinter out.   

I snatched him up in a big hug and apologized a bunch of times for the fact that his finger hurt when I took it out.   I really, really hoped I could do it without hurting him - but removing the splinter did hurt.  

I think I said that in part because I remember adults telling me all the time when I was a kid that things didn't hurt as much as I thought they did.   That drove me nuts - and made me much more afraid of medical procedures.  After all, adults of all stripes didn't think splinters or scraped knees hurt when I found them very painful - so how can I trust their opinion of if a shot hurt?  

I also praised him for being a brave boy.  I told him it's completely ok to cry when something hurts - but the fact he didn't try to push me away or clench his hand shut let me get the splinter out fast.  That made him smile spontaneously - and he declared "I'm brave like Bail-Bail" which is a reference to his favorite character on "Word Party" - a quiet, gentle elephant named Bailey who another character calls Bail-Bail.   Spawn often reminds me of Bailey - and I'll sing Bailey's song about happily sitting under a tree daydreaming when we sit together on a curb watching traffic in our small town.

Walking with my son after school.   Sitting on a curb watching cars go by.   Singing silly songs.  Catching up with my husband about our days.   Nursing minor injuries and illnesses.  To my way of thinking,  that's the nuts and bolts of family life.  

Marina Sears in her memoir/parenting book "The Battle of Peer Dependency" completely disagrees with me.   After struggling to recognize the point of chapter five - titled "The Family" - I finally recognized that the point of chapter five is to entreat families to retreat into a tight huddle containing the nuclear family only.    Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are completely ignored in this description of family with one exception I'll discuss in a future post.   Families consists of two parents and their biological children - and everyone had better enjoy a close, happy relationships, damn it!  

Here's a pretty standard example of how American families are screwed per Mrs. Sears:

It seems as though the modern-day definition of the traditional American family unit has evolved into people living in the same house, eating one or two meals a week together, and sometimes enjoying a family night or yearly vacation with each other. With hectic busy schedules, many families do not see each other together as a unit except for these times. Sadly, we have replaced the intimacy and fellowship of parents and siblings with our peers. Students are spending more time away from their families and more time with her own age groups. Essential quality time has been delegated to teachers, friends, youth leaders, and other parents. (pg. 66)
Mrs. Sears waxes nostalgic for a way of life that never existed. 

The idea of a family unit that only consisted of two parents and their offspring would have seemed absurd to Americans within the last 150 years.   Family units for European settlers generally contained multiple generations, extended family and servants.  Young people were sent out of their homes to work on farms, in businesses or as domestic servants prior to marriage.   This means that married families had servants who were either living in the household or at least sharing one or more meal a day.   A much higher death rate for working aged adults meant that many marriages were ended by death of one spouse while dependent children were still young.   This lead to many households containing a mixture of step-children and the children of close relatives who were either orphaned or whose family needed temporary alternate care arrangements.    

The only thing that made American life different from life in European countries is that there was not a permanent servant class.  Men and women started as dependent children, lived as servants or apprentices in other families, and eventually became the managers of their own dependent workforce of children and servants.  

More broadly, Mrs. Sears tends to idealize the nuclear family while ignoring the importance of larger community connections.   Why are pre-teens and young teenagers especially so obsessed with their peer groups?  Because they are at an age where they are learning the cultural attributes that will mark them as a member of an age class that will be working together as romantic partners, parents and business associates for the next few decades.    Is that phase a bit obnoxious?  Oh, yes.  It was obnoxious when Mrs. Sears did it, it was obnoxious when I did it and it will be obnoxious when my son does it - but humans are often rather obnoxious during certain developmental phases and we all survive it.   What happens when parents opt their children out of being around peers?   The family runs the risk of having their children bypassed for business and romantic partners.   

In that respect, having the majority of sons who work in a family business is as problematic a sign as having multiple daughters are unmarried by their late twenties; both are a sign that the family is so isolated that the adult offspring are struggling to separate from their family of origin.

This next quote is delightful in its own way:
Recognizing that Satan has perverted the intent and function of the family, parents will be able to accurately define from Scripture what God has designed for their family.  While attending a family camp in Michigan as the ladies' speaker, God gave me a clear, visible definition of a Godly family. This family was comprised of a dad, mom, and three sons. The interaction among family members was incredible.. Brothers delighted in the company of each other, and parents delighted in their children. At the center of the family was the inward and outward evidence that, as a whole, they all delighted in the Lord. (pg.  70)
I have a few impertinent questions. 

Why is Marina Sears a speaker for women at a conference if the Divine Plan for families is to be utterly self-contained at all times?   This speaking gig by her own standards is Satanic because it is drawing her away from her sons and daughter and all of the intimate quality time the five of them are supposed to spend locked away together.

If age-segregation is an evil above all others, why is she the speaker for the adult women instead of having the entire family listen to her?   She might proffer something about how women are not supposed to teach men - but if that is the case - shouldn't the Divine Plan of family togetherness mean that all speakers are male?   Yes, obeying the Divine Plan will greatly impinge on showing off how much better her family is at being SuperChristians than the rest of us - but isn't that the price a person pays to follow the Lord?

Since when does the Bible state that outward evidence of delight in the Lord is adequate evidence of the internal state of a person's soul?  I remember a whole lot of quotes in the Gospels about white-washed graves and pits of vipers - but nothing explaining that looking good in the eyes of the community was what Jesus really wanted from followers.

In a disturbingly relevant example, the Duggar family appeared to most people to consist of siblings who delighted in each other and parents who delighted in their family.   Sure, a lot of us thought their were cracks in the system - how can two parents support and spend real time with 19 kids while enmeshed in a cult? - but the extent of Joshua Duggar's abuse of his siblings and continuing abuse of his wife through having affairs and other minor children through consumption of images of child sexual abuse didn't make the family seem less functional on the surface.

On the flip side, my family unit of my husband, me and our son is fairly functional - but we often look like frazzled, slightly overwhelmed people.   I am the person who had to drag a screeching toddler into playscapes since he was frightened of being around other children. (He'd laugh happily when it was time to leave.)  I wear shirts inside out and backwards about twice a month.  I've ended up at the grocery store three times in one day because I forgot to buy the same item during two previous trips.  I'm always a bit bleary-eyed when I pick my son up from school on Mondays and Tuesdays since I take naps while he's at school to try and catch up on the sleep I miss while working late on Sunday and Monday nights.  Spawn gets really excited when "Daddy and Mama and Spawn all play together!" because my husband and I work opposite shifts to manage working while caring for a small child.

We might be frazzled - but neither my husband nor I have abused children so I'm good with my life choices.   

By Mrs. Sears' rules, my family is Satanic.  By every else's rules, we're thriving during a challenging time - so be aware that her book is toxic as all get out.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Maxwell Mania: No One Is Allowed to Have a Bad Day!

I started this post prior to the announcement of Joshua Duggar's arrest on possession of images of child sexual assaults - and realized that I needed to redo the entire thing.
Let's be honest: training women to be good victims is the overarching theme of CP/QF life.

You start young by doing a half-assed version of homeschooling that prioritizes indoctrination over thinking skills of any type.  (See this recent post by Steven Maxwell to see how well one of his granddaughters has been trained in Maxwellian analysis of literature. Since the granddaughter is 11 or 12, I would hope that her grandmother/mother would be beginning to teach how to write a summary conclusion paragraph - and that is not a great example even for a junior high school student. )  

You continue in their teenage years by depriving your daughters of work experience while ideally teaching young women that the only virtue that matters is having an intact hymen at marriage.   If at the same time you can manage to convince them that all men outside their family are either going to rape them or convince them to have sex then abandon them and a parent-led courtship is the only way to prevent their lives falling apart like a Victorian novella, all the better.

The most effective method of teaching someone to be a victim, however, is to police their emotions rigorously.   Label a tiny bandwidth of emotions as allowed - like happy! content! - while labeling all other emotions as wrong.   

The part that would make this hard for most people is that we've learned that there are extenuating circumstances and that we should provide added kindness when someone is in the middle of a hard time.  For example, we'd assume that someone would look sad or tired or grumpy if they were dealing with a flare of chronic pain.  In the wider world, that would be a normal, acceptable reaction to illness because being ill makes you sad, tired and grumpy.   Instead of chastising the person, we'd offer whatever comfort we had available - medication, cuddling up on the couch with a favorite activity, or making them a beverage of their choice.

Compare that with Terri Maxwell's self-dismissal of a miserable health day for her in "Unwanted Feelings - Part 5":

I have lived with chronic back pain for many years. One day last week, I had my normal back pain plus a new pain that caused me to hurt every time I took a deep breath. I knew this new pain was temporary and would be gone in a day or two, but it still hurt right then. In addition, I had a sort of allergic reaction in my mouth that was causing the roof of my mouth to burn, ache, and itch. That morning a family member shared with me something I had said to them that they felt had an attitude behind it.

Were any of those very big problems? No! However, added together that day, they presented a spiritual battle. Rather than fight the spiritual battle with my thoughts of self-pity, I decided to cry.
Let's be honest: that sounds miserable.   

Terri's at higher risk for chronic pain than most people due to the fact that she's a woman, she's had a long history of untreated depression, and she's had eight pregnancies go to term.    Depression is a brain-based illness - and leaving it untreated means that the person's brain is producing chemicals that seem to make the person more susceptible to pain.   Scientists aren't sure why women seem to have more chronic pain issues than men - but repeated pregnancies, the physical demands of breastfeeding combined with the rigors of caring for small children do put women at risk for back issues.   Bluntly, the human back is designed to be used in a four-legged quadruped gait, not a two-legged bipedal gait.  Pregnancy adds a large amount of weight to the abdomen while stretching the abdominal muscles due to the increasing volume of the uterus.  People tighten their abdominal muscles to protect their back - but that's not a workable option during the second half of most pregnancies.   Add in the fact that a woman's body is producing a large amount of a hormone that loosens the ligaments and tendons in her body so that her pelvis will be able to expand to birth a baby - and it's pretty amazing that any woman who has been pregnant has a working back.

That's just the chronic pain issue! 

I had pleurisy once when my son was an infant.   That caused stabbing, ripping pain in my chest every time I breathed deeply.   I've never been that miserable in my life - and I include every physical complaint of being in multiple organ failure when my son was born with that.   There was nothing I could do to distract myself from the pain because I had to breathe.     I ended up in the ER because I had thought I had a pulled muscle - but the pain was spreading and getting worse by the minute.  I was given an MRI to verify that I didn't have a pulmonary embolism and then given a heavy duty steroid to end the inflammation in the areas surrounding my lungs so I could heal.     What I remember most from that ER visit was the fact that after the MRI I got into a pain cycle that was so severe and unrelenting that I started thrashing around on the gurney and lost the ability to control my breathing at all which meant I was alternately hyperventilating and gasping.   Thankfully, the nurses watching my vital signs recognized that I needed help and the room filled with people.    The nurses needed to get me on nasal oxygen and give me some pain medications in my IV - and that's the only time I remember being so out-of-it that I kept throwing my arms in front of me to keep the nurses away from my face.  I was very apologetic once my oxygen levels stabilized - and my nurse told me that I had nothing to apologize for; my body was obeying a very primitive set of commands to protect myself rather than any rational thought.

Let's discuss the hell of allergic reactions.   A good, solid allergic reaction for me makes me want to remove my own skin using my fingernails or some other sharp object.    I don't generally give in to that temptation because I do not want a raging staph infection - but if I have an allergic reaction, assume that most of my mental energy is going to preventing me from scratching the area raw.   The worst bit for me is that the itching is so obnoxious that I prefer the pain of raw skin to itching - so I'm literally having to remind myself that the relief I get from creating a wound on my skin is not a good life choice.

Honestly, if I had all three of these things going down, I'd be on my way to either urgent care or a doctor's office.   

Terri Maxwell, on the other hand, gets a lecture from her husband about how she said something with 'attitude' towards him.    He's quite a catch, isn't he?

My husband would be driving me to the doctor - and he says he likes my attitude, thank you very much.

Instead, Terri makes a list of how having a very natural cry on a day where she's quite ill and Steven is a dick makes life hard for everyone else:
Here is the outcome of my good cry.
  • Red, puffy eyes
  • A terrible headache
  • A runny nose even after I stopped crying
  • A perpetuation of my self-pity
  • A bleak countenance
  • A concern in the family manifested by them asking me if I was okay
  • An insecurity in one family member indicated by her thinking she was the cause of my crying
  • A sadness that pervaded our home that evening.
As I evaluated that period of crying, I couldn’t figure out one positive benefit that had come from it. All the outcomes were negative.
Looking like crap after crying is pretty normal.   My eyes puff up when I cry; it's annoying - but it does pass in a few hours.  My nose also gets runny, but nothing compared to what I deal with during allergy season.   The headache will go away if Terri drinks a good amount of water and takes an NSAID of her choosing.   

Does she get blotchy?  I get blotchy - and my son is as blotchy as I when he cries.   The last time he got upset about something while overtired I realized that he gets blotchy all over his scalp as well.

In terms of self-pity, well, no one else seemed particularly concerned about Terri - so she deserved to do some self-care if nothing else.

Now, when she describes that her family members were asking if something was wrong and that one of the daughters was upset that she might have caused Terri's sad mood, I assumed the Maxwell offspring were young during this interlude.   Everything is more complicated when you have a house filled with small children and there was a time in the late 1990's when Steven, Nathan and Christopher were working outside of the house leaving Sarah and Terri to deal with five kids under 10.  I could see easily how if Terri was sick, the small kids could very easily blame themselves for their mom being sad and sick.

Turns out the post was written in 2012; Nathan was married with children, Sarah was 30 and Mary was 15.   There's literally no reason Terri needed to be out of bed that day since she had at least Sarah, Joseph, John, and Anna as adults living at home who could hold down the fort.  Crap, Jesse and Mary were certainly old enough to feed themselves and do their classwork for a day.  

In that case, the amount of emotional enmeshment in the family is weird.   In every family, there are days where one or more member of the family is having a rough day.  Most families make a game attempt to help the other person feel better - but most also have emotional boundaries to continue having a nice day in spite of someone else having a bad day.

The lack of emotional boundaries is part of what CP/QF families try to instill in their children.  They don't do this because it is healthy; they do it because it primes the entire family to hustle rapidly to fix any issues that bother the male leader of the family.   The downside is that the rest of the family can end up sad and isolated when one of the non-leader members is upset but the leader doesn't care.

The Maxwells present a carefully curated set of vignettes to pass themselves off as an ideal family - but the reality is pretty brutal when you see the amount of distortion of family members required to keep up the illusion.