Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Battle Of Peer Dependence: Chapter 4 - Part Two

What a wild few weeks we have had!

We had snow on May 12th.  On May 26th, it was 87 degrees at noon.

Three weeks ago, I had no available services for my son due to COVID-19 shutdowns.  No arguments from me; safety first! I had (and will always have) a love-hate relationship with the Early On theory of "therapist as teacher for parent as coach" - but three years of that gave me plenty of practice being my son's main therapist so I felt reasonably competent for a non-professional.

Around 10 days ago, I got a call that the clinic where he gets outpatient PT and speech was reopening for evaluations only with lots of safety precautions - but the Spawn was due for an evaluation anyway  - and maybe we could get trained eyes on him twice or three times more before fall if I played my cards right. 

His evaluations were three days later; by that point, Michigan was planning to reopen medical services for non-essential procedures like outpatient pediatric rehab on May 29th.  God willing and the creek don't rise - Spawn should be getting weekly services starting this Friday!

Almost two years ago, Spawn was so nervous at his first outpatient PT appointment that he cried the entire time. 

A year ago, he spoke so little that the speech therapist used a parent-reported score on the test of Spawn's communication and speech skills because I think he said 3 words in the space of an hour.  If he said more words, it was simply a repeat of "bye-bye" as he tried to crawl out of the room or climb back into the stroller.  (He is persistent - which is both an incredible strength and weakness at the same time.). 

This time, Spawn was nervous at the beginning of PT - but mostly because every human outside of the house was wearing a cloth thingy on their face - and that's a bad sign, right?  Mamma's wearing one too?  Oh...that can't be good.  So he was a bit clingy and teary at first.   That ended when the physical therapist who examined him pulled out a ramp and launched a toy car across the room.  Pretty quickly, Spawn was describing the different cars as "monster trucks" or "little excavator" or "blue car" while practicing transitioning between objects.

The best moment came, though, when the same speech therapist who examined him a year ago came into the room to examine him again.   After chattering with him as he pointed out the people and cars and weather outside the window, she excused herself.   Spawn's speech had grown so much in a year that she needed to get a different test; he'd advanced beyond the one she was expecting.    He still qualifies for speech services - but he's in the ballpark for a kid his age now - and that feels amazing.

Years ago, a therapist I admire said something in a group session that stuck with me.   He said that he doesn't always like the options he has available in his life - but he always focuses on the fact that he makes choices.   I think that stuck with me because I feel more empowered in my life when I accept that I make choices - and because of that - I have agency in my life.   Developing rapid onset severe preeclampsia with HELLP affected the options I've had available in my life since 28 hours before my son was born - but I chose and choose the available option that best reconciles my beliefs with the needs of all the members in my family including me.

I bring this up while in a pensive mood because I often wonder if Marina Sears - author of "The Battle of Peer Dependence" - has ever recognized that she herself makes choices that lead to consequences.   Take this quote:
Six weeks after the sale of our house, we moved into my parents' home in Montana. At the end of a wonderful year with them, the children and I moved to a new home in Arlington, Texas. Living in Texas was a "wilderness" time for the children and me. My parents lived hundreds of miles away and even though they visited as often as they could, I felt that I was all alone.  (pg. 42)
After Jeff Sears died in a freak car accident,  Marina Sears was the head of her household.   Since her oldest child was 7 years old at that point, she was the only adult in the home.   Mrs. Sears was in complete control of where her family lived especially after the house she owned with Jeff was sold 14 months after he died.

From reading the previous quote, however, a reader would be excused for thinking that Marina Sears was a passive onlooker as her family completed two large moves in a year. 

Maybe she had an unusually precocious 8-9 year old who managed to move his entire family across state lines twice in two years.   Or her infant was really a prodigy of logistics prior to age two.

Or maybe part of the appeal of CP/QF theology is the abdication of personal responsibility for believers.   After all, fervent believers abandon any responsibility for deciding if or when their family is ready for another baby.   They simply have vaginal intercourse and declare that the timing of their family is "up to God".

Once you've given up responsibility for family planning, I guess it's not so hard to ignore the fact that a young widow with four children ended up feeling alone in Texas because the young widow chose to move to a location that was several days drive away from her parents.

There's nothing wrong with her choice to move at all - but her lack of responsibility for the natural consequences of her choice is troubling.

This next story occurred several months after Jeff died.  Marina was nearly due to give birth to her youngest son and her parents had moved from Montana to New Mexico (or Arizona or Texas; wherever they lived) to care for her and her family during labor and after the baby was born.   The reason I share this story is Marina's enthusiasm for God and lack of common sense must be exhausting for her extended family:
One morning after my father had taken Chris and David to school, I heard him in the hall bathroom, seemingly agitated about something. I was unaware that on the way to school that morning, he had asked the boys, " Is there anything I can do for you guys today?"

"Grandpa, every few days we need to pump up our bicycle tires with air. Could you look at them?" was their reply.

When he arrived back home he proceeded to take the tires apart to check on the conditions of the tubes. As I approached the bathroom door, he met me with a dirty, dripping bicycle tire.

"Where have these boys been riding their bikes?" he asked.

Since we lived in the country, I didn't quite understand the problem. So I explained that they had probably been riding on the gravel road, grass, and maybe the field.

" What's the matter?" I asked.

Still holding the dripping tire, he said, " David's front tire has 17 holes and his back one has 18. Where have these boys been riding? These tires shouldn't even hold air!" he exclaimed.

All of a sudden it hit me. " That's it! That's it!" I started jumping up and down. Being great with child, I must have been quite a sight!

He dropped the tire and said, "It's okay."

He probably thought I was going into labor, so I explained, "Daddy, don't you see? I don't know how to change a bicycle tire and neither do the boys. So God in His kindness kept the boys bicycle tires aired enough for them to keep riding. Isn't He wonderful?" (pg. 42-43)
Let's discuss the competency levels of the three generations of people present in this synopsis. 

Marina's parents are highly competent.  They've rearranged their lives to provide support for their widowed daughter who is about to give birth.  Marina's dad is taking the boys to school and asking them if they need anything done.   Marina's dad can change a bike tire.

Similarly, Marina's sons are quite competent for their ages.   Chris who is around 8 and David who is around 6 are refilling their bike tires every few days,  The two boys are keeping busy riding their bikes and going to school.   They know how to ask for help from their grandfather to solve a perplexing chronic problem

Yes, the men in this story are highly competent - but Marina is characterized as being nearly helpless.  In reality, she must have been completely exhausted.  I've never experienced advanced pregnancy - but even late second trimester pregnancy was tiring.  My stomach felt huge, my back was sore and my center of gravity was in a completely different place than normal.  I joked with my husband that I was afraid if I laid down on my back I'd never be able to get up again because I'd be stuck like a turtle turned upside down.  Marina wasn't just very, very pregnant - she had also been widowed five or six months before.   Grief is absolutely exhausting as well - so to my way of thinking - if she got out of bed that morning, she was doing amazingly well.

No, Marina is portrayed instead as a standard issue CP/QF woman - highly emotional and religiously excitable - who is seemingly incapable in the absence of a man.    She's very vague on where her young sons ride their bikes.  She didn't notice that their tires seemed flat or that the boys seemed to be exerting a lot of force to ride on flat tires.  Her sons didn't think to tell her about the tires - and if they did - Marina has no idea how to change a tire and seems unable to conceptualize that she could get help from anyone else.  The idea that Marina was completely incapable of  changing a bike tire is the most perplexing part of the story in my opinion.  Her boys are young so I'm assuming they are riding a single speed bike that the rider activates the brakes by reversing the direction of peddling.   The process of changing those tires is simple - simple enough that a CP/QF woman should be able to do it without infringing on "male" activities.   After all, Marina states that she doesn't have the knowledge to change the tires - not that she'd do it if she wasn't hugely pregnant and unable to maneuver well enough to change tires on a bike.

My life is often complicated - but not nearly as complicated as it could be if I had to be incompetent in the absence of a male protector. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Joyfully At Home: Chapter 13 - Part Three

 Our family got hit with our semi-annual stomach flu bug.  This one felt ironic more than anything; we've been social distancing long enough that you'd think a stomach sickness would have passed its expiration date.

Honestly, I think I picked it up at work.  We do our best to social distance - but there's not really enough room in the paint pit or at the service desk to stay six feet apart from each other.  Our home-made masks or cheap disposable surgical masks provided by our employer don't do much (if anything) to prevent getting an infection ourselves; they just provide a very slight decrease in the chance of passing COVID-19 on if we get infected.

Outside of that, life is good.  My son is growing and picking up new skills all the time.  That makes me happy.   I've seen him try to take a few little stutter steps on his own - and that was completely unthinkable last year.   He's started saying "Hi!" and "Good morning!" to bikers and walkers on our daily walks - and that's a huge step outside of his comfort zone.  In fact, on our last outing, he said "Good job, people!" to a bunch of older men who were riding bikes and who quickly rearranged their bikes to let my son pass in his walker.

In Jasmine Baucham's "Joyfully At Home" we're two chapters into a long rant on how Jasmine will never, ever need to work outside the home because she's going to be a SAHD until she married - and then she's going to raise her large brood on her husband's single income.   Her absolute refusal to imagine for 30 seconds that there are a lot of potential reasons that a woman may need (let alone want) to work outside the home makes me wonder if she's read "The Secret" or "The Prayer of Jabez" or any of those other awful "Power of Positive Thought" junk books.   I have this nagging feeling that she believes if she even thinks about being a single adult, a young widow with children or a wife who needs to work part-time, Jasmine is afraid she'll bring that outcome on herself.

I, on the other hand, was the kid who read all of the emergency planning guides in my Girl Scout Handbooks.  I genuinely hoped that I'd never need to escape flooding, get out of a house fire or shelter in place during a blizzard - but I figured that having thought about what to do ahead of time was far better than having to adlib during an emergency.

By the third question, though, I have to give her imaginary conversation buddy a kudos.  I'd have written Jasmine off as far too ill-prepared for adult life  (which is similar to "immature") to continue beating a dead horse
Question 3: What if you don't attend a church that takes James 1:26-27 seriously? What if you need to work, and you don't have a job or college degree? What if your husband gets laid off or injured and needs you to help pick up the slack?

Answer: A college degree is no substitute for the assurance we have in Christ.

Again, the degree is a piece of paper that provides us with a false sense of security. You'd be surprised how many times I've heard someone say, "You know, in this economy, it's really foolish not to get a college degree that will promote job security -- I have three degrees, and I just got laid off! What makes you think you'll be able to find a job when you need one?"

I have three degrees... And I just got laid off.

They don't even realize that their sentences were filled the faulty assurance they are offering you. If college degrees were buffer against job loss, then our three-degreed friend would not have gotten laid off.

This is not to say that getting a college degree is a sign of faithlessness; rather that getting it out of a sense of fear is responding, not to the Word's leading in that area, but to a scare tactic. (pg. 154)
I hadn't realized that Christ provided cash payments to believers. 

If so, Christ owes me like 20 years of back payments. I'm assuming years 1-18 were cashed out to my parents since I was a minor.

That's not what Jasmine was saying? 

But that's what the question was asking - how exactly will a SAHD turned SAHW turned SAHM do for income if that's what her future family needs? 

Jasmine's response was a fancier version of "Christ will provide!" - and that's a motto that sounds better when you are the person with extra money supporting a needy family you know than the needy family who doesn't know where the money they need for rent or food is coming from.

Jasmine's rhetorical riff on "totally real people she knows with three degrees who got laid off" misses the point of Three-Degree's worry.   Three-Degree isn't saying that a college degree is a solid gold perfect hedge against job loss.  No, Three-Degree is pointing out that people with college degrees get laid off in spite of being in a group who faces much lower rates of unemployment.   Since college degree holders face periodic job losses and economic hard times, the outlook for a SAHD who has a homeschool high school diploma, no work experience outside of her family business and no post-secondary degree or advanced training is bleak. 

The point is especially bleak since SAHD's often play at jobs that they are unqualified for outside of their family or have very high bars to entry on a wider scale.  Let's look at a few options:

 Research Assistant: Jasmine Baucham describes herself as a research assistant to her father - which is the same job description that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin used to describe their work for their brothers when their brothers were making educational films.   The issue is that all of those young women are at least 4 years and a Bachelor's degree in Science away from having the skills to work as a technical research assistant or at least six years away from having a Master's in Library Science to work as a librarian.  The only other similar(ish) job I can think of is working as a paralegal which would require at least a few college classes and an internship. 

Author: This one is a very popular career track!  Sarah Maxwell has published 11 children's books and is working on a 12th.  Sarah Mally has published two books and co-published a third book with her siblings.   Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin have published two books.  And obviously, Jasmine Baucham has written one book.   The issue, though, is that all of the books with two exceptions were published by the author's family ministry.   In other words, 16 of 18 of the books were self-published. 

The remaining two books - So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin and Joyfully At Home by Jasmine Baucham - were published by Vision Forum.   That's certainly one step farther away from self-publishing - but we know nothing of the process by which the books were created.  Did the authors pitch their books to Vision Forum before writing them?  Did the authors (or their representatives) go through rounds of negotiation on compensation?   What control (if any) did Vision Forum have over editing?  Or was this simply a deal between Doug Phillips and two of his supporters?

Even if a SAHD landed a contract with a mainstream publishing house, she'd need to greatly increase her rate of production.   Sarah Maxwell has produced her 11 short children's books over close to 20 years - and she's the most prolific writer by a long shot.  Sarah Mally and the Botkin Sisters, on the other hand, have produced around one book a decade; that's not going to be enough to live on.

Artist/Illustrator: If you have a book, it needs illustrations, right?  This seems to be the area used for younger sisters of SAHDs who have already been declared authors.  Mary Maxwell is the illustrator for Sarah Maxwell's books while Grace Mally is the illustrator for Sarah Mally's books.   I am not confident of my ability to judge the artistic merit of either SAHD's work.  I do, however, know that the job market for artists in general is always very, very tight and both young women would be going up against men and women with degrees, portfolios and previous commissioned works by non-family members.

Nanny/Childcare Assistant: Technically, I'm not sure they qualify as nannies or childcare assistants since they rarely care for kids who are not immediate family members or children of siblings.   Learning how to manage children of your employers is a different experience than caring for family members - and not always harder!   The hard bit, honestly, is going to be earning anything close to a living wage on these jobs.   Searching in-home childcare jobs in my area of Michigan gives an average wage per hour of $10.00.  That's $1.25 an hour less than I made when I started at my hardware store job - and my employer is paying me legally.  If the SAHDs would be working as independent contractors (legally or otherwise), that's a take home pay of less than $5.00 per hour.

Tutors/Educational Paraprofessionals: At least in my state, SAHDs would struggle to get independent tutoring jobs outside of their church communities.  The reason is simple: Michigan produces a lot of college-educated teachers.   They'd be going up against  retired teachers, teachers who are staying at home with their kids right now, and education students.  In other words, the market is pretty close to saturated with highly qualified candidates already. 

Well, what about center-based tutoring or working as a paraprofessional?  For center-based tutoring, SAHDs would be going up against the same quality candidates for individual tutoring - plus they would need to compete against current teachers.  Because of that, most centers require a completed college degree as a minimum entry point for reading tutoring or at least evidence of advanced college level math courses for math tutors.  In Michigan, paraprofessionals need at least 60 credit hours of college classes - so no dice for most SAHDs. 

Building a career is a lot of work.  My worry is that a SAHD who needs to enter the job market at 35 or 45 or 55 will be doing all of the druggery that the rest of us did in our teens and twenties - but have the financial responsibilities of a wife, mother or widow.  That's pretty bleak - and that's what many of us worry about when we ask these questions.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

CP/QF Crazy: Why don't smaller families invite us over?

I was digging around in my "Draft" folder when I found this post that I started but never finished. When I first started learning about CP/QF large families, there were four aligned bloggers who wrote weekly question and answer columns for large families.  The four moms were The Headmistress at "The Common Room", KimC at "In A Shoe", Kimberly at "Raising Olives", and Connie at "Smockity Frocks".   The questions and answers ran anywhere to straightforward logistics questions on how to raise kids through absolute crazy stuff.    I remember reading this answer from KimC and realizing that women who are 2nd or 3rd generation large-family homeschoolers may honestly not understand why small families blanch or sweat at the thought of inviting a very large or huge family over to their house.
Is it normal to have a very small social network with a large family? Seems like we never get invites to anything now that we are a family of 7. I don’t mind at all being the hostess. Just wondering if this is normal, and how to maintain our friendships with other families.

Yes, it’s normal. We have the privilege now of knowing many large families, and many smaller families that love large families. I don’t think this is common though. When I was growing up in a large family, invitations were few and far between. We often had families to our home but invitations were rarely returned. This was fine with my parents, because it’s much easier to host a family of 4 for dinner than to move 10 or 15 people out the door to a friend’s house for dinner. In fact, when those rare invitations arrived, it wasn’t uncommon for Dad to respond with a suggestion that they just come to our house instead.

And to be quite honest, I much prefer to host for the very same reason. I’m a homebody at heart. If it were up to me, we would do as my dad did, but we don’t. The rest of my household does not share my sentiments, so we happily load up into the van when invitations arrive – and I’m always glad we did. :)

In your case, I have two suggestions:

Be the hostess. If your friends don’t invite you over, invite them instead. Often. More often than I do.

Cultivate friendships with other large families. Let’s face it: a big family can easily triple the headcount for a small family, but barely double it for a larger family. If your friends have big families, yours is less likely to overwhelm them.
I'm sorry. I lost most of the answer because I was panic sweating at the thought of hosting a family of 15 or more at my house.

 *begins deep breathing while reminding myself I don't know anyone with 13 children IRL*

Let's tackle the reasons I can think of:

1) Inviting KimC's family over for a dinner will blow my food budget. 
Right now, my family consists of two adults and one preschooler.  When I cook dinners, we consume around 4 servings - two for my husband, one for me, plus a serving that my son will be given a tiny amount, probably not eat that serving, but my husband or I will eat the rest of for breakfast or lunch the next day.   I make a lot of casseroles and sheet pan meals that are around 12 servings total.   When we eat every meal at home - which is very rare even during a pandemic - we need 2 casseroles a week with a day that my husband and I eat soup or salad from the pantry.

Invite KimC's family over and we need at least 18 servings for a single meal. That's 4.5 days of dinner for my family (which would include 3 single lunch servings).  Cost-wise, dinners are the major spender on my food budget so that single meal consumes around 25% of my weekly food budget.   That's assuming that everyone is satisfied with a single serving; that's pretty unlikely since people tend to eat more at social gatherings than when by themselves.  If people average 1.5 servings each,  we're going to need 27 servings which all of the food my family consumers for dinner in a week - and that's 50% of my food budget gone in one evening.

There have been times in the last few years where we literally could not afford to invite KimC's family over no matter how much we liked them; we just plain didn't have the money.

2) Inviting KimC's family over for dinner doubles my cooking time for the week.
I need an hour to prep and cook a casserole that will feed my family for half a week.   Most of the time I make the two casseroles on two different days.    That's two hours of food preparation time per week.  Figure 15 minutes of shopping, 15 minutes of travel time and 15 minutes of cleaning up dishes used in the meal and for eating the casserole.   That's roughly 3 hours of food preparation time for dinner weekly. 

If I invite KimC's family over, I'd save a bit of time in making two identical casseroles at one so let's say that takes 1.25 hours.  I'd still need 15 minutes to get the ingredients.  I wouldn't gain any travel time - but doing all of the dishes created from that one dinner would take 30 minutes.   That one dinner would take 2 hours to prep - but I'd still need to do roughly 3 hours of food prep to feed my family for the week.

3) Serving 18 people dinner at once would stretch my kitchen supplies to the breaking point.
I think I could do it - but there's no reserve left over.  I would need to use both big casserole pans to make 27 servings.  We own enough dishes and silverware for everyone to eat at once - but some people would be using plates while others used bowls and a person could have either a fork or a spoon and knife - but not both.   I do not have enough glasses for everyone - so I'd need to purchase some disposable cups for drinks.  Actually, I wouldn't invite that large of a crowd over without being able to purchase disposable cutlery and plates for everyone simply because using all of my dishes and silverware at once means we're going to be doing dishes for a few hours -and I don't want to.

4) There's never going to be a point where I have age-appropriate toys for all the age-groups in KimC's family.  
Right now, I have toys available for kids between 0-5 years and teens.   My son is three - but we've still got some baby toys floating around and some of his toys will interest older preschoolers or kindergarteners.  Similarly, eventually kids are old enough to play the selection of board games we have available - but most of ours are geared more towards teens and adults like Scrabble or Apples to Apples.  I don't have any of the games I remember playing in elementary or junior high like Clue, Sorry!, or Trouble.  We also played Twister a lot; I'm going to assume that one is a no-go in CP/QF families because of the incidental physical contact.  I don't have any sports toys for soccer, football, kickball or basketball which we played a lot as kids.  We don't have a swing set for that age group although we do have a tractor tire sandbox. 

I suspect this is the case for most small families.  Most US families have one, two or three closely spaced children.  This lets families use the same sets of toys, equipment and clothing more easily and lets them donate or sell the clothing they don't need any more.  By comparison, large families have multiple children in each age category so they've got the toys needed to entertain visiting kids of any age.

5) Fitting 15 people in my home will not be comfortable for anyone!
If we had a nice day in the late spring, summer or early fall, I have enough space in my very large yards that we could host a family of 15 outside easily enough.  I probably even have enough quilts for all of the kids to be able to sit on blankets in the yard for dinner.   This is the first time in my life, though, where I had that large of an entertainment space available.  My parents' house could not fit 15 people plus the five of us in the yard.  The apartment I rented as a single adult certainly didn't have space for 15 people outside - and we didn't have a community center for rent, either. 

Now, if the weather turns cold, very windy, snowy or rainy. we're screwed.  I know that CP/QF homes work by having every available space ready to be used of kids of all possible ages; that is not how my house works!

I theoretically have five downstairs rooms available for use - but four of those 'rooms' are an L-shaped pseudo-open plan office-kitchen-dining-room-living room.  The office is a poorly built addition that lacks enough insulation or any connection to the HVAC system so it's cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  The kitchen and dining room used to have a wall between them, but someone knocked the wall years ago.  At the same time, they removed the only gravity return vent for the HVAC system to return cold air from the second story to the furnace; to use the upstairs, we had to run a new gravity vent up through a pre-existing strangely placed closet in the living room.  Fitting 18 people into the main room would be unpleasant.  We have a bathroom on the first floor and we do have a single bedroom next to the bathroom that is serving as a craft-laundry-dressing room for my husband and I.   Having that area ready for use for board games of all ages would give everyone just enough room to fit and be reasonably comfortable - but I don't want to go through the work of cleaning out that whole room on top of doubling my cooking time.

KimC's dad's method of inviting small families over to the large family's house makes a ton of sense.  Adding three people to a family of 15 is much more manageable financially and logistically. 

So - that's why the invites tend to be one directional; small families can be literally overwhelmed at all of the extra work and money needed to host a huge family.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Battle Of Peer Dependence: Chapter Four- Part One

Parenting a three-year old during COVID-19 is a slog of "no, we can't do that."   The playland at McDonald's is closed; we can't play there.  One set of grandparents might have been exposed to COVID-19; we can't go see them for a few weeks.  Yes, we can walk at the park, but the swing set is closed.    My husband and I are both employed and getting tons of hours - so we're doing much better than many - but trying to explain why things are closed to a little boy is tricky.

Explaining that is tricky - but at least I don't lose my entire mind and blame a completely unrelated topic for my son's mild distress.   In "The Battle of Peer Dependence", Marina Sears takes her youngest son's transient disappointment about being young and decides that the entire problem is caused by her older sons having friends:
" Can I go?" Jeff asked as Chris and David prepared to leave the house to meet their friends for a game of volleyball.

" No, you're too young," was their reply.

As the door closed behind the boys, Jeff turned around and with tears streaming down his face, he said, " Mom, I won't ever be old enough to go."

At that moment I knew the emphasis our family placed on friends was out of balance, and it was attempting to destroy vital relationships between siblings. Upon closer examination of the activities the boys were involved in, it became evident that all the young people were within two to three years of being the same age. Parents and younger siblings did not accompany older brothers and sisters to activities. A child having an independent social life is a cultural phenomenon that has become an accepted practice in Christian homes, resulting in the decay and impotency of the modern Christian family. Many young people find their life shipwrecked because they have placed too much emphasis on friends instead of family.  (pgs. 41-42)
For context, Jeff is the son born several months after his father Jeff was killed in a car accident.  At the time of the fatal accident Chris was 7 years old, David was 5 years old, and Camille was one year old.   Marina leaves out the ages of any of the boys in this anecdote - but basic math implies that the age gap between the older two boys and Jeff places a large developmental gap between the three  of them.   If Jeff was 5, Chris would be 12 and David 10.  If Jeff was was 7, the other boys would be 14 and 12.    There would be a chunk of time where Jeff was genuinely too physically small and uncoordinated to be able to play volleyball safely with his older brothers' friends.

The weird thing for me is that Jeff is really clear on the fact that he's upset that he's younger than his older brothers - and Marina's response misses Jeff's entire lament.  Jeff is understandably upset that he's too young to go with his brothers - but that will not be the case forever!   By the time Jeff is 12, his older brothers will be 19 and 17; adding a 12 year old to a pick-up game of volleyball among older teens is much more reasonable than adding a kindergarten kid to a junior high volleyball game.  Once Jeff is an adult, Chris and David will also be adults - and the developmental gaps will be gone.

Instead, Mrs. Sears decides that the fact that the older boys have friends is the real issue - and that's crazy!  Yes. most kids hang out with people within 2-3 years of age; that's a feature, not a bug.  Children go through so many relatively rapid developmental phases before age 15 that hanging out with kids 4-5 years younger is not challenging or stimulating for the older kid - and can be frustrating and overwhelming for the younger kid. 

This gets more bonkers if we run through the situation assuming Jeff is a first-grader.

Let's say that Chris (14) and David (12) decided to bring Jeff  (7) along to the volleyball game.  How is this supposed to work?  Junior high teens can serve underhand (and possibly overhand) on a full-sized court and net.  Most will be able to bump for defense and spike at the net.  Some lucky souls will be able to set - and some will set accurately for a spike.  Jeff....might be able to bump with little control. Maybe.  He's not going to be able to serve over the net, spike or set.   How much fun is Jeff going to have as he learns that he's not good at volleyball  because he's too young to chalk his lack of skills up to age?

On the other hand, are the older kids supposed to play down to Jeff's level?  How is that fair to the older kids who are now playing volleyball on a short net with a shortened field trying to not use all of their skills because Mrs. Sears doesn't want to deal with her youngest child feeling left out?

I've noticed on CP/QF mommy-blogs the authors pull out that families should bring parents and younger siblings to older siblings' outings.  I assume this is because the women unconsciously assume that their younger children will benefit from being around more advanced kids - no matter how obnoxious or inconvenient it is for the hosts to have 3-7 younger kids and adults show up at an activity.   I also think the "full family attendance" families buy the line that since their younger kids hang around a wide age of people their younger kids are more mature than the "other" younger kids.  This has not held true in my limited experience.   The part that amuses me is that those same mommy-bloggers don't seem to hold their younger kids' activities to the same rules.   There's a level of cool social transgression to bring a pile of elementary school aged and preschool aged kids to a junior high arts class. After all, the subtext is that the junior high kids' experience  is unchanged by having their siblings around - and the younger kids are being exposed to something advanced.  Oddly enough, dragging a pile of high schoolers and older elementary school kids to a preschool story time feels less counter-cultural than completely oblivious to social norms.   I suppose that's because it's hard to explain how a 16 year old benefits from reading "Quiet and LOUD" in a group read-along after the group sang songs while playing with scarfs and recited a rhyme together. 

Do people make poor choices in peer groups?  Of course - but people make horrible choices in family groups as well - just ask the Dnggars or any of the other CP/QF families that have abuse occurring within a family.

Ms. Sears is trying to raise her family after a terrible tragedy.  My heart goes out to her - but her methods of controlling her kids do more harm than good.