Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 3 - Part Two

Let's see... the allegory for this section was memorable mainly for the jarringly bad anachronisms and weird horsemanship although a bit of overwrought angst over talking with a boy was also present.

Now, we slide smoothly into the nuts and bolts of how to guard your heart.  

Now that I think about it, the book hasn't covered why a girl should guard her heart.  That's a rather strange oversight since Ms. Mally states in the preface that she wrote this book for younger girls who shouldn't be exposed to problematic examples of how girls have sinned in the past.  I'd want to include a chapter that indoctrinated...I mean, explained the idea of guarding your heart to the girls who read it.

Oh, well.

These books are getting less painful as I've allowed my expectations of writing to go from "professional publishing quality" to "average high school composition after editing by the teacher" to "rough draft from a young high school student.

Ms. Mally starts off with three anecdotes.
"Guys do lots of dumb and immature things to get girls' attention (and vice-versa). My mom told me that when she was in college, guys used to shoot peas at girls during lunch. Using their spoon as a catapult, they would send peas through the cafeteria and onto a table where some girls were trying to enjoy their meals. Probably not the best way to introduce themselves!" (pg. 50)

Friday, March 24, 2017

When Love Isn't Enough - DYI RAD Treatment - Part Two

I've been thinking about why I'm having a strong reaction to how the Musser family restricted Katie's therapists to no physical affection and only the minimal amount of physical contact.    I think there are two realities of my life that are at play now.

First, I really liked my physical therapists when I was a kid.  I had a male physical therapist when I was in pre-school named Larry.  In the last post, I told you that I saw him 4 times a week to work on loosening my calf muscles to allow my heels to touch the floor while walking.  He was amazing!  He made PT a lot of fun which is important.  Physical therapy requires keeping muscles at the point of tension for stretching and working muscles repeatedly to strengthen them which is tiring and tedious. As an adult, I could see the long-term benefits when I needed PT to recover from an injury; as a kid, I thought that adults' obsession over my heels touching the ground was stupid.  Left to my own devices, I would have done permanent damage to my legs because kids are not good at seeing the big picture.  Larry's skill at making PT fun - and being someone I enjoyed being around - was critical to my long-term health.

Second, I had to make some real choices about how my son would interact with people while he was in the NICU.  The nursing staff was amazing - but I'd be lying if I didn't feel jealous sometimes.  His primary nurse was spending 12 hours a day with him when I was still sick enough that seeing him one hour a day left me exhausted.  When choosing a primary nurse, I could have chosen someone who was less affectionate or demonstrative towards Jack so that I would never have to worry about feeling jealousy again, but I did not.  I picked nurses who were excellent technical nurses while Jack was on a ventilator who also clearly expressed happiness and affection towards him.  I wanted Jack to be surrounded by loving people who rejoiced in his feisty personality.  I wanted nurses to talk to him, sing to him, give him affectionate touches and enjoy him so that he would learn that interacting with people gives comfort.  Yes, I felt jealous sometimes - but that's MY problem to deal with as an adult does.  I would not make my son's life harder to make my life easier.

I feel angry when I read these posts.  The reason that RAD is problematic is that the child suffers.  The withdrawn form means that the infant has no easy way to receive comfort from adults; the overly-rapid attachment form - which is the type that Susanna self-diagnosed - isn't a true problem for infants and toddlers because parents act as gate-keepers to keep unsafe people away from the baby.  Treating the rapid attachment form is important so that when the child is a child, teen and adult they develop the skills to attach to safe people and avoid unsafe people.  For Katie, this is a non-issue; she has suffered such severe brain damage due to horrific malnutrition that she always need gate-keepers for her own safety.    This means that Susanna was actively depriving Katie of pleasant interactions with safe people so that Katie would show affection preferentially towards Susanna since Susanna is her Mama.  Even Susanna's definition of attachment annoys the hell out of me - a sign of bonding in toddlers is that they act horribly around their care-givers from time to time while being super-sweet to outsiders.  The reason is that kids only push boundaries with people they feel safe with.

Question: How do you feel her attachment to you and your family is going?

Answer: Up until it was given a hard test, we would have said Katie’s attachment to us was stronger than it is. She has obviously made enormous progress from where she was, but everyone has been keeping an understanding and appropriate distance.

The hard test was her physical therapist. I could tell right from the start just by the therapist’s body language that she thought we were overdoing this no-affection thing. She really pushed the envelope. I had thought Katie had made more progress with attachment, but it hadn’t been tested by someone being that physical with her, holding her upright face to face, singing to her, and being all playful and lovey, et cetera. Katie’s response immediately clued me in.

Monday, March 20, 2017

When Love Isn't Enough: DYI RAD treatment - Part One

My little guy had his first at-home physical therapy (PT) appointment last Monday.  Lisa, his PT, examined his muscle tone and strength.  At the end of the exam, she gently wrapped Jack up in a swaddle blanket and cuddled with him so that he'd have a positive ending to exam.

My eyes filled with tears as I saw my little boy cuddle into the arms of his PT.  But my tears were not for me or for him.

I was crying because I realized how much the rogue, DIY RAD treatments that the Musser Family used for Katie took away from her.

For readers who are not familiar with Katie's story, Katie was adopted from Bulgaria at 9.5 years of age after experiencing extreme neglect.  She weighed 10 pounds 9oz and was 29 inches long at 9.5 years of age.  By comparison, my nearly 3-week old son weighs 9 pounds 2 oz and is 20 inches long.  Katie was born with Down Syndrome and extreme sensory deprivation coupled with barely enough food to sustain life have created permanent brain damage.

At some point during the adoption process, the Mussers decided that Katie has RAD - or reactive attachment disorder.  This is a real psychological disorder where infants who been had limited emotional support during infancy fail to show normal responses to stable caregivers.  This disorder is more common among infants who have received poor institutional care - but it is not a given that all children who come from even the worst situations will develop this disorder.

RAD shares symptoms with many more common disorders like childhood depression or autism.  A trained psychologist will be certain to exclude those disorders before diagnosing RAD.  The DSM-V specifically notes that a diagnosis of autism precludes a diagnosis of RAD - in other words, if a kid has autism, they can show symptoms that look like RAD - but the underlying problem is autism, not RAD.

Katie shows symptoms of autism that are consistent over time.  If her autism was solely based on lack of stimulation and interaction in her orphanage, her problematic self-stimulation and self-soothing behaviors should have diminished noticeably within months at most while with the Mussers since the Mussers clearly provided her with a stimulating and supportive home environment where she and Verity were the youngest kids.  This is part of the problem of diagnosing RAD without follow-up from a psychologist or psychiatrist - even a tentative diagnosis of institutional autism would need future checks to see if Katie's symptoms followed the normal, expected course.  If they did not, either a more aggressive treatment like targeted counseling for Susanna, Joe and Katie would be needed or a new diagnosis would be sought.

I remembered a post I read a few years ago when looking into Tommy Musser's accidental drowning. This was a long Q &A that Susanna posted after Katie was at home for a full year.  The post had some sections about controlling the amount of "physical affection" that any therapists that worked with her that struck me as counter-productive.  I'm looking at this idea in two separate blog posts following the original post sequentially and providing commentary in a linear style.  (I'm a tad tired with my little guy at home.)

Katie is enrolled in our local IU-13 program. She was first assessed in our home by a speech-language pathologist, a physical therapist, a psychologist, a vision specialist, and an occupational therapist over several visits last winter. When Joe and I met with the school district in the spring, we explained to them what our educational plan was for Katie and waited to see whether they would be willing to help us carry that out or not.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Three - Part One

Chapter Three is entitled "Guard Your Heart".

Nothing like some more empty threats of how your life is going to massively suck if you fall in love more than once in your life.

Random - and rather sleep-deprived - side tangent: How do widows and widowers fit into this Emo-Pure scheme?  The Bible mentions that widows and widowers existed.  Both the Old and New Testaments allow remarriage for people who have lost their spouses to death.  One of the Epistles strongly encourages young widows to remarry.  Does that mean the second marriage is decimated by memories of the original spouses?  Is the second marriage a holding pattern until death comes?


Chapter Three's allegory is simple because it is extremely formulaic.  To prove my point, I'll give you two hints then see if you can guess the outcome of the chapter.  I've already given you the first hint: it's the title of the chapter.  The second hint is that the Princess decides to go to the Spring Fair after discussing it with her parents.

*hums the theme from Jeopardy*  Time's up!

Here's the synopsis:
The Princess has decided to go to the Spring Fair. While leaving the castle, the Princess is stopped by the Alligator. The Alligator congratulates the Princess on beginning to socialize with others her own age and gaining exposure to the ways of the world. The Princess denies that is what she is doing. At the Fair, she hangs out with other young ladies. She meets Sir Eloquence, a young Knight who seems brash and over eager by CP standards. The Princess interacts with him in a friendly fashion, but does not let him accompany her home. She is confused over how to act around Sir Eloquence and decides to ask her parents about the situation.

You get points if you predicted:

  • A conversation with the Alligator - one extra point for predicting that the Alligator makes more sense than the Princess
  • Meeting an unsuitable young man
  • The Princess feeling angst or confusion 
  • The Princess deciding that she just has to talk to her parents about her love life.
  • Bonus point if you predicted that Victory the horse reappears.
Please, someone needs to let Sarah Mally ride a horse - for my sanity if nothing else.  The chunks of the story involving Victory are memorable because I lose any ability to suspend my disbelief around equestrian details that both excessive and wrong.  

"She fed Victory an apple, mounted him gracefully, and enthusiastically begin her journey. Victory seemed excited today too. "(pg. 45)
  • The first sentence grates on my nerves because there is no purpose to the sentence at all.  There is no need to tell us that she gave her horse a snack, climbed on him and was super-duper happy at the whole thing.  All of those ideas are so mundane that including them in the story detracts from the allegory.  
  • A running theme in the CP writings for young women is the frequent use of sexual metaphor unintentionally and this is one of the good ones as well.  
The next bit of horse-work made me pretty sure she'd never ridden a horse.
"As she was riding across the bridge just outside the castle she was stopped by a voice. [The alligator is in the moat. The two of them chat.] " Thou art mistaken, sir," she replied, and she turned Victory to face the moat, (....)" (pg. 46)
  • I'm working on two assumptions here.  First, the bridge runs perpendicular to the moat.  Second, the princess is of normal human height and proportions.
    • When she is riding across the bridge, Victory is facing parallel to the bridge and she is facing forward.  
    • When she hears the Alligator, she reins in Victory so he's facing along the bridge and she turns her head to face the Alligator in the moat.  This is reasonably comfortable, allows her to see the Alligator and lets her continue on her journey quickly if she wants to move.
    • Then - mid-sentence no less - she pulls Victory's head to one side, nudges him forward from a stop to turn 90 degrees, waits for the horse to re-settle himself and continues a conversation with an alligator whom she can no longer see!  Victory's body is now acting as a screen between the Alligator and the Princess and no one seems to notice this.
Last horsey bit for this chapter - I promise.
"Upon her arrival, she entrusted Victory to the town stable and began to mingle with the young ladies chatting in the park." (pg. 47)

  • The anachronisms are causing me to go a bit batty.   
    • Is a town stable the same thing as a municipal parking lot?  You know, the local horse care board collects a tax on locals to fund a stable (complete with horse feed and attendants) so that the landed class can ride their horses into town from the suburbs and shop at the local boutiques.  
    • I don't know anything about these "young ladies".  Is the local nobility having a meet-and-greet in the local park (funded by taxes collected by the park board)?  Is a princess gallivanting about with commoners?
  • Why set an allegory in a historical time period if the author isn't going to bother and research the period at all? Why not create a fantasy land after Tolkien, Lewis or Pratchett?  

""The princess made friends quickly. She never acted as if she believed she ought to be treated as royalty. Rather, she was quick to serve, to fellowship with the villagers, and to put others first. Her kind words, gracious manners, and loving action were obvious to all. In fact, if she had taken note, she would have realized that she received much more respect and honor as a result of these humble actions than she ever would have gained had she demanded admiration from others or proclaimed her own importance. But she did not even notice what others thought of her, for, as I said before, she was a true princess." (pg. 47)
  • Dear God.  That might be the most smarmy passage I've ever read.  
  • The princess was at a picnic according to the passage and an accompanying drawing.  I can force the ideas of "fellowship", "gracious manners" and "kind words" to fit a teenage girl at a picnic - but "not being a bitch" isn't really something to write home about.  More importantly, I can't figure out what she could do to be "quick to serve", "put others first" and complete "loving action".  The closest I can get is waiting in line for a buffet and saying "No, you go first.  You can have the last cupcake".  Again, this is not the kind of behavior that deserves such an asinine passage.
  • I find the idea of the people at this party racking up honor and respect points to the Princess an overreach.   No one cares that much about a sheltered Princess who is slumming it.  (And yes, this has the feel of slumming....)
  • The main theme of the last chapter was that the Princess cared A LOT about what other people thought of her.  The King kept saying that she didn't care - but the Princess cared - and still cares as far as we know - what people think of her.   Having the omniscient narrator proclaim otherwise doesn't change the Princess' thoughts and actions from the previous chapter. This is true even if the omniscient narrator decides to switch from third-person to first-person for a single sentence and the editors don't bother to change.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Two - Part Three

Let's see if I can remember what's happened so far in the chapter.  First, we were horrified by a creepy-as-hell rose analogy for emotional purity.  Next, we learned that Christians marry non-Christians because of dating with a variety of nonsensical reasons to support that assertion.

The next section attempts to tackle explaining why dating is still wrong if both parties are Real Christians (TM).  She has various paragraphs dedicated to explaining why God is opposed to dating of which one stood out to me:

"Most young people plan to date a number of individuals in order to get to know a variety of people-- then pick the best one to marry. What they fail to realize is that the process that forms bonds begins with the very first relationship. Then the break-up process is very painful. In other words, the world's way involves the pain of separation. God's way involves no separation." (pg. 37)

There are so many problems:

  • The first sentence makes dating sound like shopping for a used car - go to a dealership, drive a few cars, look for dings then purchase the one you like the most.  That's not how dating works! .   For people looking to marry, people don't usually get to start a bunch of potential long-term relationships in a short time, bail out of each of them, then go back to the one you liked best and tell that person that you really want to start the relationship again.   A better description would be sequentially moving through relationships with potential partners.  Some relationships are short encompassing a date or two before the relationship is ended; others last for months or years.  
  •  Dating has a wide spectrum of options running from "enjoying a short-term romantic relationship with no expected strings attached" to "beginning a relationship in hopes of finding a long term relationship spanning years or decades" - but I've never seen anyone pull of the idea Ms. Mally has successfully.  (I'm trying to imagine going back 10 years later to a guy I went to a single dance with in high school or college - my version of no expectation dating - and saying "Hey, I've dated a heap of guys since we broke up and I think you're the best!  Let's get married."  I don't see that ending in a wedding....)
  • Humans form bonds.  Most humans form bonds very easily and experience pain when those bonds are broken.  I've been feeling sad for a few days around writing this post because my son will be leaving the NICU soon.  I am so very glad he is coming home - and I am sad because I've made many friends among the staff at the hospital he is at.   Arguing that dating creates bonds that are more painful than any other kind of bond is silly; I'm finding saying goodbye to the people who kept my son alive and supported my husband and I through these hard months more painful than the break-up of many of my short-term dating relationships.  
  • All things this side of heaven will end.   Even the most perfect courtship that ends in a happy, harmonious marriage producing a phalanx of children and lasts 70 years will end when one spouse dies.  God never promised a separation-free life; only help to survive the hard times.

Now, we move into how Sarah Mally understands dating in real life.   She bases her beliefs on her personal experiences of watching people date in school prior to her family's introduction to home-schooling.  This is an interesting choice since Ms. Mally left her Christian school at the end of fifth grade where most of her classmates would have been 10-11 years old.

Allow me to paraphrase the anecdotes:
  • One of Sarah's friends was boy-crazy in fifth grade according to Sarah.
  • Sarah went to a weekend retreat when she was 13 with other young teens.  The other teen girls she was with spent most of the weekend talking about who liked whom.  This bothered Sarah.
This sound remarkably similar to my memories of junior high at a Catholic elementary school. In fifth and sixth grade, we girls were extremely interested in the boys; the boys were completely clueless and disinterested in us.  In seventh and eighth grade, the boys became much more interested in the girls.

Really, the only difference between my memories and Ms. Mally's anecdotes is the spin each of us place on them.  I look back at those times fondly; we were all pretty confused but very enthusiastic about romantic interests.  Ms. Mally remembers those times as people going off the deep end and away from God.
"All this dating seemed foolish to me the time, but looking back on it now, it seems even more silly. And not just silly-- dangerous. It was almost like a big game: Date. Have fun. Break up. Date someone else. Have fun. Break up. None of these kids were considering marriage, so what was the goal of their dating? In Scripture, we do not see any examples of couples pursuing romantic relationships except for the purpose of marriage. I would assume that most of the friends I met this Christian event 13 years ago are now married. Do you think they're dating experiences over the three-day event are benefiting their marriages today?" (pg. 40)

  • Dangerous is far too strong a verb to use here unless she has an actual anecdote about how one of the people referenced before ended up dead or severely injured by early teenage dating.
  • The kids were far too young to get married - but they were gaining skills that would lead most of them to marriage someday.  Skills those kids were starting to acquire include:
    • Reading and sending non-verbal cues to show interest in potential dates
    • Communicating interest or disinterest verbally
    • Thinking of and executing interesting activities with a romantic interest
    • Evaluating their personal enjoyment and satisfaction within a relationship
    • Managing personal relationships within a larger community of peers.
    • Navigating break-ups on both the personal and communal level.
    • Learning coping mechanisms for strong emotions like infatuation and disappointment.
  • Some percentage of "courtships gone wrong" stories occur because young adults are diving into romantic relationships with marriage as a goal before they've learned the skills that most people start picking up by observation or by practice in adolescence.
  • The sentence " I would assume that most of the friends I met this Christian event 13 years ago are now married" struck me as filled with oddities.
    • Ms. Mally is not in contact with any of her "friends" from junior high.  I had one close friend from junior high who I stayed in contact with until she passed away as an adult.  I've stayed in sporadic contact with about half of the 40-odd kids I was in the same grade with between K-8th.  By sporadic contact, I mean we are either FB friends or I have run into them somewhere in the last 20 years.  
    • Since I kept in light-weight contact with my classmates, I can safely state that around 25% of them were married by age 26.  No one married prior to 22 or 23 to the best of my knowledge.  Half of us married between 27-30 and about 20% married between 30-35.  The handful of folks who have not married yet are in long-term relationships or have been in long-term relationships.  I bring this up because CP/QF books on courtship/dating often over-estimate the number of human beings who marry young - and thereby add to the level of anxiety for women who are unmarried in their mid-to-late twenties.
  • No, Ms. Mally, I don't think your friends's marriages were irreparably harmed by their forays into dating as a young teen.  In fact, their marriages occurred in no small part to the fact that your friends were learning skills that made finding their spouse easier for everyone.
Ms. Mally explains she's following God's way by waiting for God to introduce the right person in her life and by keeping her parents involved when she starts courting.  This is presented as ground-breaking and revolutionary when those two ideas are pretty common among people who are dating.  I always figured that if God wanted me to be married, I'd meet someone who I wanted to marry and who wanted to marry me.  Ms. Mally and I differ in how much initiative we allowed ourselves to take.  I signed up for online dating; she is waiting for her prince to appear among people she knows.  Likewise, my parents are good people and want me to be happy.  I trusted their opinions highly when I was dating since I knew they had my best interest at heart and wouldn't interfere unless they saw red flags in a relationship that I missed.

The final hurdle to jump in this chapter is the sensible question of how young women will meet eligible men if they don't date.  (For me, the bigger question is how young women will meet anyone if they are home-schooled, home-churched or part of a small, isolated denomination, and do not work outside the home.)  Ms. Mally assures readers that they don't need to date to find out what a person is like:
""You are probably acquainted with dozens of boys whom you are sure that you would never marry. And do you know what? You didn't have to date them to find that out!" (pg. 41)
  • That is some horrible advice.  In fact, neither my husband nor I would be here if our ancestors followed that advice.
    • My mom and dad met for the first time when Mom helped her older brother move into his college dorm.  Mom was 16, completely stuck-up and obnoxiously preppy.  Dad was 20, told horrible jokes and was in full-on-hippie mode.  In short, Mom and Dad found each other completely repugnant when they first met.   In spite of that, they found each other far more interesting when they met again two years later.  They fell in love and got married at 22 and 26 respectively.
    • My husband's maternal grandparents met when Opa was standing with a friend of his on a bridge when a boat passed by them.  On the boat was a lovely young woman who was amply endowed.  Opa nudged his friend and asked if he knew the name of the young woman "with the great tits".   His friend did know who the young woman was.  She was his younger sister - and his friend was not amused.    He refused to give Opa a ride home from the dance they were going to and warned his younger sister about his pervert friend.  This lead to her avoiding Opa for several months.  And yet, they've been happily married for over 60 years having moved from the Netherlands to Canada followed by the US.
That, my friends, brings us to the end of Chapter Two.  The next chapter is titled "Guard Your Heart".  I'm sure we are in for some great times.

On an unrelated note, my son is going to be coming home soon.  I am going to try and publish two posts a week - Monday and Fridays - but my energy level may not be up to that for long.  I do promise, though, to come back someday :-)

To my first-born son on the day we expected you to be born

Dear Jack,

You are thirteen and a half weeks old - and yet today is the day we expected to meet you.

I didn't have a birth plan.  I didn't know if I wanted skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping, or rooming in.  I hadn't packed a bag for the hospital and we hadn't picked out an outfit to bring you home in.  I thought I wanted to breast-feed, but our class was scheduled for early February.  I was actively looking for a sardonic stuffed animal to bring with me to the breast-feeding class; I had ordered a stuffed methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) toy which was awesome, but too small for the class.

None of that stuff mattered, thankfully.

I had been waiting my whole life to have a baby - and I was so thrilled to have you.  I cried when I got a positive pregnancy test.  Seeing you wave your arms and legs around at the 12 week ultrasound blew my mind.  Your dad and I joked for weeks that you were saying "Look!  I have fingers!  Look at my fingers!  Ooh!  Legs!"  I breathed a sigh of relief at the 20-week ultrasound when your heart, spine, and brain looked good; I worry too much since your Uncle David died so young. Watching the technician visualize the blood flow to your kidneys and your umbilical cord left me gasping with delight.  You were so perfect - and completely you.

And then - all of a sudden - you had to be born far too early to save us both.

I spent the night before your birth in frantic prayer.  I wanted you to live.  Live and be happy.  Please, let him live and be happy.  I'll do anything.  Please.  I don't need my organs to work perfectly after he's born; damage me before hurting him. Please.  He's so small - I'm grown so let me take the damage.  Please.

When Dr. Erinn was delivering you, I could hear her talking with someone.  Apparently, you were up to some tricks.  The delivery team couldn't get ahold of you to keep you in place while she opened the uterus.  Well, and then you tried to stay put by shoving a foot into a Fallopian tube.  You are clearly my son and the son of your Dad.

I didn't hear your actual birth; I was throwing up rather loudly.  Eventually, I started looking around to see if you were born.  I heard Dr. Haines say to Dad "You want to trim the cord, Dad?"  I let out a breath that I had been holding since the night before; you had to be doing well if the NICU team could let Nico trim your cord.

I stared at the drapes and then threw up again. (Really, vomiting while having an epidural in place isn't too bad.  That was a nice surprise.  Bet you love that bit of information :-P )

All of a sudden, a voice says "Melinda. take a look at your son."  I turn my head towards the voice and there you were.   No one had told me that I might be able to see you in the OR.  You were perfect - and crying!  Dr. Prentice had told us yesterday not to worry when we didn't hear you cry - you were young, the cries are really quiet and most preemies don't cry.   You were crying!  The hat for the CPAP mask covered most of your face so all I could see was your chin and cheeks - but you were perfect and making the most heart-breaking and adorable "wah, wah, wah" sounds.

I told you what was in my heart: I love you so so much.  I'm so glad you are safe.  You are totally worth it.  The disembodied voice - I still have no idea who it was - told me I could kiss you before you went to the NICU.   I felt like a kid on Christmas; I got to see you and kiss you!?!?  I gave you a little kiss on the chin.

Later that day, I got to see you in your isolette.  I wanted to see you but was scared, exhausted and hormonal which made me feel crazy.  Your dad brought me down in a wheelchair with a nurse in tow since I was still on one-to-one nurse coverage.

I wanted you to live and thrive and grow.  I knew that you might not make it - 26 weeks gestation is so little - but I hoped to see a sign that you were here to stay.  I wanted you to know how much I loved you, how much your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins loved you.  I wanted you to know how amazing the world was - flying kites, learning to swim, petting kittens, watching fireflies on a summer night - in hopes that you would be able to stay here.

I wanted to give you hope and strength, but you were the one who gave me strength.

I saw teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy you in the isolette.  Dr. Prentice had told us not to worry if you didn't move much since you weren't used to moving against gravity and you needed to save your strength.  Apparently, she forgot to tell you that piece of information.  You were waving your arms in the air.  You were grabbing the cords to your heart monitor with your toes - as smoothly as if your toes were fingers!  Your tiny hands were exploring the new textures.  You grabbed your CPAP mask and clutched a piece of it for a few heartbeats then tapped your fingers along a different piece of plastic.  All of a sudden you reached your eye-protection which was a strip of flannel.  You paused for just a second, then tapped your fingers along the flannel discovering a new texture.

In that moment, I had the hope I needed.  You were exploring this world with gusto - so however long you were with us you would experience life to the fullest.  That's all I wanted for you.

You've grown into a strapping, healthy baby now.  We tell people that you are a few days old - which is true in a semantic sense - and watch their eyes pop at a 8 pound baby who can hold his head up for a few seconds while we hold you in a sitting up position and focuses on objects.  (A nurse kindly - but firmly - asked us to stop doing that to people in the NICU.  It was messing with parents of actual newborns who thought their newborns were slow.  We must have forgotten to give the punch line of "He's 3 days old but was born 14 weeks ago.  Oops.....)

I love you, little man.


PS.  Yes, I know I finished this a few weeks later. What can I say?  You were so cute I got distracted.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Two - Part Two

The allegory in this chapter covered why emotional purity is like a rose torn to pieces.  Moving into the self-help portion of the chapter, Ms. Mally starts teaching us about the evils of dating.

The introduction begins blaming dating, modern culture and general lack of thinking for the current trend of awful marriages.

"If you look at the fruit of the American system of dating, there is reason to be seriously concerned. The majority of modern marriages end up in divorce. Few marriages are truly happy. And many enter into marriage with injuries, emotional handicaps, and scars from past dating relationships." (pg. 34)
  • Sloppy transitions and failure to explain conclusions are two ongoing problems that CP/QF literature is ripe with.  Yes, I know that your audience is strongly inclined to view dating as evil, but that does not absolve the author from laying out a connection between behavior during dating and behavior during marriage.
  • The old "50% divorce rate" trope is trotted out again.  There are so many problems with that statement....
    • Measuring divorces as a function of marriages is a statistical nightmare.  There is no federal requirement that states collect or publish the number of marriages per year so researchers are left trying to estimate out the data based on cohorts like everyone who was married in the 1980's.
      • With that qualification, the lifetime divorce rate of people married in the 1970's and 1980's was estimated at between 45-50%.  By comparison, the divorce rates for the 1960's and the 1990's were placed between 30-35%.  The reasoning for the uptick in the 70's and 80's had more to do with society transitioning from a breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage to a marriage between loving equals.
    • I would be remiss not to point out that the highest rates of divorce in the last three decades has been among couples who marry young without college degrees while the lowest divorce rates are among people who marry later in life and have degrees.
  • I need some data - or even some compelling anecdotes - to support the claims that most marriages are miserable because the people entering marriage are emotionally devastated from dating.  Now, there are plenty of anecdotes about people who were hurt by emotional purity before marriage.
After the introduction, the chapter takes a sudden left turn into the topic of the importance of Christians marrying other Christians.  This section starts with Ms. Mally describing a time she was met a young woman at a friend's house who was getting married to a man who was not a Christian.
    • Ms. Mally glosses over the fact that the young woman doesn't seem bothered at all by the fact her fiance is not a practicing Christian. 
    •  Ms. Mally also implies the young woman is marrying someone she only met 6 months ago which is the time that the couple started dating.  That may be true, but the two may have had a previous friendship before dating.   
  • From this bland memory, Ms. Mally extrapolates that the woman she just met is making a illogical and ruinous decision because she and her intended formed an emotional relationship that would be too painful to break.  For me, this feels like a major over-reach of the information at Ms. Mally's disposal from a woman she just met.
This leads into a list of reasons...scenarios....a brainstorming session..... I don't really know what to class this as... that lead Christians to marry non-Christians.
We can make a list of possible reasons:

1. It could be that one of them lied. You know, a guy will say anything for a girl, and vice versa.

2. Perhaps one of them was sincerely deceived and considered himself to be a believer, but didn't understand the gospel -- that Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, formed at the moment in time when one specifically and genuinely asks Christ for forgiveness and mercy.

3. Maybe they both went to the same church or were from the same denomination and therefore just assumed that the other was a Christian.

4. They might have believed that after marriage they would be able to lead their spouse to the Lord.

5. Possibly, they felt pressured into getting married by circumstances or other people.

6. Maybe one of them got saved after they were married. Well, that's a good problem! Someone came to know the Lord.

We can continue to list other possible scenarios, but actually there is just one main reason for unbalanced marriages - it's called dating." (pg. 35-36)

For my sanity, I'm going to re-write each point above in a more coherent fashion before refuting the issue in each.

Point One:  Christians marry non-Christians because the non-Christian lied about their salvation status.
Rebuttal: It is true that some people lie to potential romantic partner.  While someone could lie about their salvation status, Christianity isn't a cryptic religion; a Christian is supposed to act like a follower of Christ.  As two people get to know each other, someone who lies about their salvation status will most likely show other signs of not being that into their religion.  More importantly, a guy or girl could lie as easily in a courtship as they could during dating.

Point Two: Christians marry non-Christians because the "non-Christian" self-identifies as a Christian under different guidelines than the "Christian".
Rebuttal: This isn't a problem caused - or even exacerbated - by dating.  This is what happens when the "Christian" doesn't bother to explain their personal or church requirements for membership in Christianity to someone else.  If you want to marry a Christian self-identifies under evangelical beliefs, be clear to your romantic partners about that.

Point Three: Christians marry non-Christians because being a card-carrying member of an evangelical church isn't proof of actual Christianity.
Rebuttal: *rolls eyes* For the love of God, ask your partner if they are a Christian under whatever definition you use is.  This is not that complicated - and needs to be done in a courtship, betrothal or arraigned marriage as well as in dating.

Point Four: Christians marry non-Christians because they hope they can change a major life characteristic of their spouse after marriage.
Rebuttal: People change over time, but expecting major changes in someone after marriage is unfair to the "changee" spouse.  After all, Sarah Mally et al. would be up in arms if atheists were marrying Christians as a step in getting the Christians to deconvert.   Like the three previous points, this isn't a problem with dating; it's a problem of marrying under false pretenses.

Point Five: Christians marry non-Christians because the Christian feels pressured to get married because of circumstances or other people.
Rebuttal: Funny, after reading the first four points, I think Christians marry "non-Christians" or non-Christians because of a release of pressure.  Spending your life in a pressure cooker where everyone is trying to determine who is "saved" sounds horrible.  Imagine meeting someone who believes your statement of being a Christian at face-value.  No need to compare theological definitions or need to prove that you asked Christ for forgiveness and mercy. Now, THAT would be a delicious release of pressure.
On a more practical note, if you expect to have the fortitude, stamina and conviction to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, you cannot seriously expect me to believe that a good saved Christian will crumple under something as minor as societal pressure for marriage or an unplanned pregnancy.
This, yet again, has nothing to do with dating.

Point Six: Christians are married to non-Christians because the Christian converted after marriage.
Rebuttal: How is dating even remotely related to this?  It's not.

This post is already long so I'm going to break this into two posts.  The next post really drives home the dangers of writing a book on dating when you've never dated or spent any time around peers who dated.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Two - Part 1

This chapter pertains to the evils of dating. Because of that, I assumed that the allegory would show the dangers of dating.

Silly me.

Synopsis of Allegory:

  • The narrator informs us that the Princess spent a bunch of time at home meeting various dignitaries and servants.  She learned a lot of unspecified things from them and did her job of making life pleasant.  
  • She thinks about what the Alligator told her and wonders if she should socialize more with the People.  
  • The Princess asks the King if she can go to the Spring Fair.  
    • The King explains that since virtue is really important, the Princess should be a light for the People by not doing anything that compromises her vision of purity.  (The first quote below happens here.) 
    • The King and Princess have a fruitless discussion where each is pursing a different goal. 
    • This leads into a disturbing example of how easily emotional purity can be lost.  (A section of this section is the second quote.)  
    • The scene ends with the King telling her to protect her heart until it is the right, undisclosed time somewhere in the future.

This first quote demonstrates the problems that occur in many CP parent-teen relationships.
"But what about the spring fair?" she persisted. "All the other maidens will be there, and they have asked me to join them."
" All the others? Surely, thou dost not seek their approval?"
"No, Father," she said slowly. "but if I never experience the real world, I fear that I will never fit in.'"
"Fit in?" he said in surprise."Who said anything about fitting in? Of course, thou wilt not fit in. Does thou wish to be like the other maidens and youth?"
" Oh no! They are silly and chase after vain things," she answered. " But father, what thinkest thou of the alligator's words? Do you not think that I should socialize?"
" It depends on the purpose," he answered.
" The alligator says I will never meet a prince if I do not learn to mingle more freely as do others," the princess sighed. "he says that the other maidens socialize oft with the young men in the village."
" But you say you do not wish to be like the other maidens. And besides, such is not befitting a princess. My daughter, thy role is not to fit into the world -- but to change it.(...)" (pg. 31)
  • Problem One: The King uses questionable communication techniques to railroad the Princess to the answer he wants.
    • The King uses his questions to his daughter to express horror that the Princess would even think about wanting to be outside of the CP Emo-Pure boundary.
      • This subtly reminds her of what is expected of her while pre-emptively shutting down any discussion of her wants or needs in terms of socialization.
    • At the same time, his questions also play on a normal teenage fear of "being abnormal" by telling the Princess that she's really, really abnormal - you know, in a good way - but so very abnormal.
      • This is a twisted way of reinforcing the Princess' sense of isolation for the purpose of making her too afraid to go to the Fair.
  • Problem Two: The Princess wanders through a bunch of side tangents rather than asking the question that is bothering her the most.  
    • The Princess' problem is completely normal in teenagers and often improves as teenagers become young adults.  Communication is a learned skill. .
    • Imagine if the Princess started with "Dad, I'm worried that if I don't meet more people I will never get married.  I want to be with other appropriate girls as friends to learn the social skills I will need when it is time for me to court."  That would be concise, honest and reasonably open her father about her feelings, needs and wants.  
    • Why didn't she start with that?  It's one part normal teenager and 99 parts growing up with parents who place image and ideals above emotions and growth.
  • Problem Three: The King refuses to put his foot down.
    • I have a deep dislike of parents requiring their toddlers, kids or teens to be lead to the "right" idea - in this case, stay home from the Fair - and expecting their offspring to be alright with the parent's pre-made decision.  
    • It's really nice when parents and their underage children are on the same page - but it's not a requirement.  I believe parents have an obligation to communicate why they are enforcing a rule in an age-appropriate manner.  Offspring have an obligation to listen to their parents. Parents need to enforce the rule and accept that their toddlers, kids or teens may be angry, mad, or sad and help the kid deal with that emotion.
    • Imagine if the King had started by saying, "I hear that you want to make new friends, but the Spring Fair is not a good/safe place to do so because _______.  How about you start going to the Princesses' Ball where you will meet other members of royal families?"  
  • I've reviewed three CP books for young women.  All three have rampant examples of disturbing, pathological styles of communication in families.  That's a stunning indictment of what is required to keep people in this worldview.
Next we have a creepy, twisted, sick metaphor about emotional purity that brings all the skeevy "A girl who has had sex is like a used inanimate object" metaphors racing back.
"Look at this. What do you see?" her father questioned.
" A lovely rose," she said.
" What color?"
" White."
" Pure white," her father emphasized. " What else do you notice?"
" Well, it is closed. It is just a bud."
" What is the inside like?" He inquired. " Open it for me."
"I can't open it for you!"
" Why not?" he asked.
" Because it has to open by itself," she stated.
" But I want to see the inside," repeated the king.
"then you will have to wait for it to open when it is ready. If I force it open, you will never see its beauty."
"But are you not overly cautious?" teased the king. " We'll only open a few petals."
"The rose is very delicate," she answered. " The petals will tear, and it will never be the same."
" And so it is with many fair maidens," the king explain. " Their beauty is never fully seen, for they wait not until the proper time. They are handled and played with by too many a fellow. Their heart is opened prematurely. The fragrance and beauty that was intended for the perfect time is lost or damaged forever." (pg. 33)
  • I have been soaked by bovine amniotic fluid while wearing a dress, fallen face-down into manure and rolled down a dusty ravine landing a patch of poison ivy. 
    • None of those experiences were as disgusting as the previous "rose metaphor".  Not even close.
  • There is no part of the human body or mind that is a single-use organ.  None.  And you know what?  Neither is a rose.
    • I swear that CP writers have never seen an actual rose bush.  Look at the picture below - there is more than one damn flower on that bush! The Princess could have ripped the rose to shreds and the bush would still have had plenty of other flowers on it. 
      •  People don't have a single heart that they hand off to their spouse and no one else - we have lots of hearts that we give to many other people in our lives.
    • The next thing the CP writers need to do is look at an actual rose bud.  Interesting fact: You can rip a whole lot of the outer petals off and have a lovely flower. 

      • Pick off the outer group - the remaining petals will open farther.
      • Hell - that's the easiest way to make a group of fading roses look fresh again; pick off the petals that are discolored and voila!  Fresh bouquet!
        • Humans are the same.  A dating relationship that failed doesn't mark you indelibly forever; rather, over time the painful parts are shed and the resulting person is stronger.
    • Declaring that the rose - which isn't opened - is "pure white" is stupid. What color do you think these roses appeared as buds?  Completely freaking white!
There are several buds on the right side....
      • The important characteristic of a marriage is long-term compatibility. Hiding your heart before marriage cannot assure mutual love, friendship, mature communication skills and patience after marriage.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either clueless and/or trying to sell you something.  Like this book, for instance.
  • I can't decide which is more disturbing:
    • Option One: Ms. Mally doesn't see a problem the blatantly sexual portion about being "handled and played with" in a conversation between a man and his daughter.  (So gross....)
    • Option Two: Ms. Mally was too sheltered at 25 or 26 not to realize the massive innuendo of that sentence - and no one around her felt compelled to explain it to her.
  • How the hell does this fit in with the whole "Purity is offered to anyone!" of the last chapter?  The point of this allegory is "Don't give your heart away too early or you will be completely worthless."
Well, I need a shower.  Next up, Sarah Mally's views on the evils of dating based on her deep personal knowledge base.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter One - Part Two

 In the first part of this chapter, we learned that the Princess is young and very sheltered by her father, the King.  Her biggest problem right now is the Alligator who brought up the fact that she's doesn't have the skill set to help her people and that she'll have to make choices some day.

Next, Ms. Mally launches into an overview of "radiant purity".  As near as I can tell, it encompasses all the annoyances and headaches of maintaining physical purity with a whole new level of crazy when it comes to avoiding emotional entanglements.  Perhaps that's the secret point - if you are so closely guarded that you've never shared an indiscreet smile with a boy, you don't have to worry about losing your virginity.

Let's look at some choice quotes:

The difference was not ultimately a result of how they met, how they got to know each other, or whether they called their relationship "dating," "courtship," "betrothal," or anything else.(pg 22)