Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Not That Complicated: Wrap-up

I've spent more time thinking quietly in the last three months than I have in years.   Truthfully, I didn't think about the Botkin Sisters or CP/QF until late last week.  Taking an unplanned break has brought a painful truth home:

By following the rules of Christian Patriarchy, the Botkin Sisters have missed life.  

Life means seeing people as fellow humans made in the image and likeness of God:
  • My husband and I were waiting for an elevator at my son's hospital when a Mennonite couple exited a down elevator.  We waved at their robustly healthy son who looked to be about 2.  The mom saw my bag of breast milk (which means I'm headed to the NICU) and said quietly to me, "Our son and his twin sister who is upstairs (e,g. is in the hospital) were born very early here, too.  I promise it will get better soon."  I teared up and thanked her.  I replied, "My twin sister and I were born very early.  I got better right away but it took my sister longer.  She was in and out of the hospital when we were toddlers - but now she's wonderfully healthy.  It will get better for you, too."
  • My son's biggest cheerleader is a Somali cleaning woman who gives us an update of how well he was doing when she was cleaning his area.  Understandably, the election of Trump terrified her especially when he closed the borders to Somalis.  I hope that my explanations of her rights as a permanent resident of the United States and how the Judicial Branch can block the Executive Branch from acting against the Constitution gives her as much comfort as she gives me every time she tells me my son is a "big, big, healthy, boy!"
  • Has the Botkin Sisters book prepared any of their readers for interacting with all people as befits an understanding of people created in the image and likeness of God?  No, this book has given explicit examples of treating people who fail to conform to upper-middle class standards of respectability in the US as fallen scum.
Life means giving pieces of your heart away:
  • I am grateful for my husband's ex-girlfriend in Ireland.  He clearly loved her and she loved him - but he couldn't move to Ireland and she couldn't leave her younger siblings at least one of who would be too young to remember her well.  Under Emo-Pure (emotional purity) rules, I should hate her and be anguished at the loss of a chunk of my husband's heart.  Instead, I am grateful for the time they had together, happy that my husband and I have created a life together and hopeful that she's formed the wonderful family she deserves.
  • Emo-Pure implies - and occasionally states - that reserving your heart for your husband will keep you safe from heartbreak.  In truth, all things this side of heaven will end. 
    •  I saw the terror in my husband's eyes as he realized our son might die due to a severe premature birth.  He didn't tell me until months later that he was terrified because he realized that I might die during the c-section if the doctors couldn't control the bleeding because my platelets were so low.  
    • I started sobbing just before being taken for the c-section because because the doctors were going to have to do medical procedures on my son that would cause him pain to keep him alive - placing IVs, placing an ventilator tube - and there was nothing any of us could do because the other option was both he and I dying.
  • This book has failed to prepare their readers for the messy, painful realities of being a loving human and offers instead a sterile, crushing form of self-protection that will crush and destroy the hearts of the people who practice it.
Life means working with the talents God gave you:
  • The OB and NICU units of our local hospital - which is a regional center - are staffed mostly by women.  My OB is a woman. Of the team of 8 medical staff who ran my C-section, only the anesthesiologist was a man.  The neonatologist who lead the team who stabilized my son is a woman as were the NICU staff members who helped her.  All of the neonatal nurse practitioners are women.  There are over 200 RNs in the NICU; less than 10 are men.  
    • Now, according to the Botkin Sisters, these are women who traded off marriage and a family for a career.  The doctors underwent 8 years of post-secondary education and a three year residency; the nurse practitioners did 6-7 years of post-secondary education with at least one year of nursing full-time in between college and their graduate degree.  The nurses have a four-year nursing degree.  Clearly, that's completely incompatible with being a wife and mother.
    • Alas, no one remembered to tell the women this - the majority of the women are married and have children.  
  • There are plenty of options for people who don't want to do a full 4 year degree.  A two-year degree leads to a LPN, a physical therapy assistant or a respiratory therapist.    Shorter training programs exist for phlebotomists and surgery technicians.
  • Heck, there are tons of options for people who don't want any post-secondary training.  The Botkin family is emblematic of Christian Patriarchy's disdain for people who work as employees rather than owners of their own business.  Yet, a cashier who who is pleasant, cheerful and capable can make his or her many customers in a day feel a bit better about life.  
    • There is one particular cashier at the cafe at my son's hospital that I'm thinking of right now.  She's fast and very, very pleasant.  Our interactions are short - but the relief I've gotten from knowing that I can pay for my lunch without any complications or delays while also seeing a smiling face has been a ray of hope and comfort during times where both seemed to have disappeared behind clouds.  (I only wish that more people had told her how much her work means to parents at the hospital.)
  • This book fails miserably at showing readers how to live as a follower of Christ.  There is no emphasis on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned or any of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Instead, a self-important and self-centered form of Christianity where personal and family image is idolized to the detriment of God is celebrated.

    I'm glad to be done with this book.  Sharing my home with the glassy, brittle images of the Botkin Sisters was unpleasant.  Next on my reading list is "Before You Meet Prince Charming" by Sarah Mally.  

    Side note: Is writing a book about living as a CP unmarried daughter the kiss of death for getting married?  Sarah Mally is older than I am by a few years and unmarried.  I'm starting to see a theme.....


  1. I've enjoyed this series and your thoughts about the book. I definitely agree with all the things you pointed out in this post. Sadly Christianity isn't always focused on acting Christ-like. Congratulations on your baby! I'm glad you're both doing OK!

  2. I feel sorry for the Botkin daughters. They've been robbed of the normal joys of life -- exploring new ideas, befriending people who are different from oneself, falling in love, pursuing an education, finding a career -- by a toxic subculture and a smothering father.

    Do they know how much they've missed? Will they ever realize what they've missed inside the Christian Patriarchy bubble? I hope they break free someday.

    1. Unfortunately, I think they have no idea what they've missed so far. CP has created an insulated bubble in which the Botkin Sisters can spend their whole lives without being exposed to the outside influences that might cause them to think about their lives.

      I wish better for them - but they've been rewarded their whole lives for obeying their father so it would take a huge amount of psychological energy to make that break.

  3. Thank you for reviewing this, I could never read it myself because the crazy is just too much, but having it in pieces was good. And to have it reviewed by someone who could identify why all this was toxic was important. I appreciate the wrap-up here and the contrast with real life and the reminder of the humanity we all need to stay in touch with.


  4. Mel, I've been reading some awesome articles by Lenora Thompson, a newer writer who's been studying the psychology of narcissism because of her own familial abuse all through childhood and most of adulthood (almost all emotional and mental abuse). In a two-part piece, she listed several characteristics of cults she found in her research and noted that regardless of doctrine, cults pretty much have the same traits. She also found that narcissists share these traits. Her article was called "When Family is a Cult", and these are all the cultic traits she listed. The similarities between these traits and several well-known CP families are alarming, particularly Geoff Botkin.

    1. Love-bombing.

    2. The group displays…unquestioning commitment to its leader…as regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

    (Here, Lenora notes, "I remember this one time, oh I must’ve been twenty-nine, when Dad sat me down and demanded to know who I planned to vote for in the upcoming election. “I just want to be sure you’re voting for the right candidates,” he said." On a similar note, James Mcdonald stated years ago that he doesn't need to follow his daughters into the voting booth; he "knows their hearts" and knows how they'll vote, i.e. the right way.)

    3. Questioning, doubt and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

    4. Mind-altering practices.

    5. Leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear…

    (It's fine for parents to draw the line at certain clothes their teens wear, but the Botkins have placed more than once special emphasis on asking fathers how they want daughters to "represent the family" in their dress. In one esp creepy passage in So Much More, a girl said she often tried to wear colors that pleased her daddy, essentially dressing FOR him).

     6. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members…

    (Yeah, this one doesn't need elaboration)

    7. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

    8. The leader is not accountable to any authorities…The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends).

     9. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

     10. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with…friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

    (Here's another note from the author, stating, "I find it odd that narcissists don’t seem to have hobbies. Maybe I’m wrong, but their goals center around maintaining the illusion of perfection…and that takes a lot of time and energy leaving little leftover for hobbies, pleasure, the enjoyment of life. In fact, they don’t seem to think of life as something to be enjoyed. For a narcissist, it’s something to be conquered. A span of years to prove themselves worthy of life. A pass/fail grade. And, unfortunately, they pass this philosophy down to their families."  This strongly reminded me of David Botkin's noting proudly how his dad had zero hobbies or sports enjoyment, bc he had "more important things to do.")

    11. The group is preoccupied with making money.

     12. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

    (Brings to mind Stacy Mcdonald and so many other QF parents' bemoaning teens wanting to be with peers).
    13. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

    (In So Much More, the authors gave a full quote from someone saying children should have little socialization with anyone outside the family).

  5. Hi, Im homeschooled but I've enjoyed what I've read of your blog so far. Y'know, I've always felt these people were living in a dream world, always wanting to look perfect but never living the ideal. True followers of Christ dont care if they have a perfect society or the perfect family, they care about helping those around them feel christs love. As Marjorie Pay Hinkley said:"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
    I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
    I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.
    I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.
    I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
    I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.” sorry this comment was so long!

    1. What a cool quote! That's such a great way of living for Jesus in the world.

      Don't worry about comment length; I like to read :-)

  6. I just finished reading this series and I just wanted to shout "just date already" at the Botkins sisters the whole time. Most of their problems have already been solved by society at large. Guys don't want to talk to your dad just to go out for coffee? No need in dating. Guy doesn't realize you are interested? Flirt and/or ask him out. Don't meet many eligible batchlors working for your dad? Online dating. Guy too interested? Just turn him down you aren't reasonably for soothing his ego.