Friday, July 17, 2020

The Battle Of Peer Dependence: Chapter 4 - Part Five

It's been a while since I wrote about Marina Sears' "The Battle Of Peer Dependence" so I had to look back at my notes about the main issues I had with this chapter.  In this section, Marina Sears manages to combine a pet peeve of mine about bad homeschooling with her ongoing obsession with isolating her children from peers.

Let me place this section in the timeline of the Sears family.  Jeff died when his children were 7 years, 5 years, one year and not born yet.   Marina and the kids lived in the same house in the southwest USA for 14 months until that house sold.  The family moved to Montana to live with Marina's parents.  The Sears lived with Marina's parents for a year during which Marina started homeschooling her kids who were roughly aged 9 years, 7 years, 3 years and a toddler.  At the end of the year, Marina moved her family back to Texas when the kids were 10, 8, 4 and two years old.  In that first year, Marina relied heavily on God to determine the correct educational and moral goals for her kids.  (I'm still a bit lost on the details of that arrangement; I'm assuming it's a cover for a woman making decisions on her own in the absence of a male authority).

Marina needs to move her family at the end of the first year back in Texas:
This worked very well until the house I was renting in Arlington was sold, forcing us into another move, and another new home and church. Not having had the luxury of others around me who were also home educating, the new church we moved to seem to have a very large group of home educators. I thought that the extended family I was desperately missing was found, and it was wonderful. In just a short time I didn't feel as if I were alone in my struggle. My thoughts were, "Finally, other families with the same goals for their children as Jeff and I had for ours." I thought a little piece of Heaven had descended upon my life. Little did I know it was the beginning of a 7 and 1/2 year battle for the life of my son.  (pg. 46)

I've trimmed the quotes so far to cut out the melodramatic twist endings where "everything is going well for our family" turns into "really bad shit was just around the corner!!!!!"   I like a good twist as well as the next person - but once a chapter at most rather than twice per page.

I digress.

One of the reasons traditional schooling has been so popular across the world is the benefits of specialization.   When I taught, I had four subjects that I taught yearly.  Because of that repetition, I was able to reuse lessons that worked quickly and spend my rare moments of planning time to fine-tune or completely redo lessons that didn't work as well as I wanted.    Each year, my curriculum became more solid and more effective for my students because I was able to focus on a small subset of the curricula presented to any one student.

Homeschooling parents are at a disadvantage by comparison because they have to create curricula for four disparate subjects (math, science, language arts, and social studies) along with any elective subjects (foreign languages, art, music, physical education, health etc., ) and religious training as they see fit for one kid.    When I was a public school teacher, my course load of four subjects was rare and considered grueling; most secondary teachers have 1-2.   A homeschooling parent has at least five cores plus most have at least one or two electives.   That's six courses for one kid - and Marina had an 11 year old, a 9 year old and a five year old in school with a three year old under foot!  I can't even imagine how much time planning curriculum would take if she did it all herself.

How do good homeschooling parents deal?  The same way that traditional school teachers do - by focusing on teaching the areas they are good at while using curricula created by parents or teachers who are skilled in other subjects.   I regret that I was embarrassed to ask other teachers for their lesson plans when I started teaching.  I assumed that those other teachers had created their lessons from scratch and would view me as lazy or unskilled if I asked for the plans.   As I matured as a teacher - and started creating lesson plans that were unique and working for my students - I realized that experienced teachers love giving lesson plans to other teachers.   For the experienced teacher, it's a good way to have someone else test the lesson and tweak it.   Personally, I remembered how exhausting and overwhelmed the first years of teaching were and anything I could do to make it easier for new teachers was well worth it.

For most homeschooling parents, having other homeschooling parents to bounce ideas off of and trade lesson plans with would be a huge benefit.  The fact that Marina Sears' children would be around other kids, though, is too much for Mrs. Sears to tolerate for long:
As we fellowship with other home educators, it was wonderful to see the children make friends so easily. I thought that for my children to have best friends would mean that their lives would be complete. I wrongly assumed that our lives were heading down the same path because we were associating with Christian home educators who use the same terminology as I did. I didn't understand that people can have the same goals, but have different ideas on how to achieve the goal. My mistake was in hearing the words, but not understanding others definition. The fault was my own because my focus was completely wrong. (pgs. 46-47)
*slow claps*
Imagine how much more awesome gossiping would be if we all could wrap our normal disagreements in such noble sentiments!

Mrs. Sears never mentions what the actual precipitating issue was - but we can write off certain tricky issues.   The other families couldn't have been involved in 'sexual immorality' or drugs of any kind; Mrs. Sears would have been all over that as a horror story.  Similarly, a theological rift would have brought on a detailed explanation on how the other side had gone over to the devil. 

No, we're looking at something really, really minor. 

Maybe the girls wear skirts that are marginally shorter than Marina liked.  The boys play a war-style game that the Sears kids were not supposed to like, perhaps. 

Or, maybe, the kids had the audacity to enjoy being around their friends as much as they liked being around their family!

That could rapidly turn into a negative cycle in a possessive parent.  The kids go to the Smith's house and enjoy the simple pleasure of being around new people.  The parent gets jealous of the fact that the kid enjoy the other family and lock down the family harder.  With enforced isolation, the kids react even more excitedly when they are allowed to go around other families - and the cycle begins again.

Thanks to COVID-19, I think I finally understand what life was like for kids in extremely sheltered families; getting out around other people feels amazing even though there is an overhanging fear of something bad happening because of being around them.   My experience was caused by a dangerous respiratory virus.  For kids in CP/QF families, the experience is caused by the emotional needs of their family.

That's a shitty way to raise kids.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Maxwell Sanity: When Jesse Used His Marriage to Leave the MotherShip!

The Maxwells have eight kids - Nathan, Christopher, Sarah, Joseph, Anna, John, Jesse and Mary. 

As of April this year, all three girls were unmarried and living at home with their parents and their youngest brother Jesse.   The other four brothers were married and living nearby.  Nathan and Christopher lived in homes within direct sight of the Main Maxwell home.  Joseph and John owned homes located within a few lots of each other 0.7 miles away from the rest of the family.  Jesse owned a home across the street from John and Joseph - but since he was unmarried - he continued to live at home and rented the house out.

There had been some internet rumors of Jesse being engaged.   The Maxwells used to announce engagements on their website - but after Christopher and Joseph each had an engagement called off - the Maxwells started maintaining radio silence prior to weddings. (They grudgingly acknowledged John's engagement online after Chelsy's family announced the engagement.)  The only concern the internet had was that Jesse's fiancee was quite young.  She turned twenty a few weeks before her wedding.

Actually, there was one other issue.  Her name was Anna Craig - which means that the family would need to figure out a way to differentiate one more Anna on their blog from daughter Anna and Christopher's wife Anna.

I digress.

Then in March, Maxwell watchers got a new surprise.  Jesse Maxwell sold his house - and there was radio silence about that on the blog - so presumably he wasn't swapping houses for one closer to his parents.

Personally, I was hoping that he was going to relocate to Ohio so his wife would be closer to her family while he'd be farther from his family.   Now, I live about a mile from my husband's parents, but I married at 30 rather than twenty - and I am very consistent on setting boundaries.   The Maxwells seem to be rather more enmeshed than is good for a young wife to deal with so I was hoping for a relocation to a different state.  In case you think I'm being overly dramatic, take a look at the photos (released after the wedding) of Jesse packing up his stuff followed by a whole family prayer service with blessings.   I was totally convinced at this point that Jesse was going to be a Buckeye!

What we got is even better - Jesse and Anna Maxwell seem to be doing their own thing while killing a few sacred Maxwell cows for good measure. 

Remember the tearful blessings?  Jesse moved to Kansas City, KS - which is a 30-40 minute drive in good weather.  The newlyweds can literally drive to see the Maxwells daily; I had a longer commute to my teaching job after I married my husband.

Silly me - I'm grounding this in my experiences.  Jesse moved 400 times farther away than any other Maxwell has before!  Of course, Christopher's Anna moved from Washington to Kansas while John's Chelsy moved from Iowa - so the sisters-in-law might be struggling to keep a straight face while the original Maxwells suffer from separation anxiety.

Instead of safely ensconcing his new wife in Maxwell-Land, Jesse Maxwell is now living in an apartment!    For most young newlyweds in the US, apartment living is normal.   For the Maxwells, this is straight-up heresy.   The Maxwells have sold a book called "Buying a House Debt-Free: Equipping Your Son" based on the fact that Maxwell Men earn enough money prior to marriage to buy a house and are able to raise huge families with less stress because they don't have a mortgage payment and don't pay rent.   Living in an apartment for a year is essentially a giant "Nope" to a huge cornerstone of Maxwellian thought.

Lest we think Jesse will return to Leavenworth, he's stated that they are living in the apartment as a way to explore different neighborhoods of Kansas City prior to buying a house.   Again, in most families this would be a non-issue - but not in the Maxwells.   The entire rest of the family lives in walking distance of each other!  To visit Jesse, cars will have to be used!  Planning will be required!

But surely the Maxwells will reconnect at church each week, right?  The Maxwells don't home church.  Nope, not the Maxwells.  Instead, all of the adult family members are members of a church that meets at a local retirement community where Steve preaches, various Maxwells provide musical accompaniment, and there are 3-5 members of the retirement community compared to 18+ people who are Maxwells.

Totally not a home church.

Oh, wait.  Jesse and Anna Maxwell are joining a church in Kansas City.

Good luck, young Maxwells.   Enjoy your freedom - and work on setting those boundaries.  Your marriage will be stronger for it.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Yet Another Quick Update

 Sorry for the extended absence, dear readers.

The last three weeks or so have been chaotic and exhausting here in Michigan. 

Four weeks ago or so, I used a new hand soap at work.   When I put it on my hands, my hands itched intensely.   I immediately washed it off and used another soap, then completely forgot about the incident.

A few days later, my hands erupted into the worst case of dyshidrotic eczema I ever had. 

I needed immediate medical attention and couldn't find a babysitter, so I loaded up my son and took him to a nearby urgent care clinic.   On our way there, we were hit by a gullywasher rainstorm.   My son freaked out in the backseat of the car.   Thankfully, we were near the clinic and I got him calmed down.   I got a very strong topical steroid to use on my hands. 

That night, we had a strong line of storms move through.  This caused a heavy wood door upstairs to slam shut while my son was asleep.   The Spawn went into a full-panic attack - and we lost power all at once.    We got Spawn calmed down, sent my husband down to sleep in the recliner (he's a CPAP user and without power his snoring would be epic unless he slept in a mostly upright position), and settled down with Spawn in bed with me.

This started a three-week period of Spawn being terrified of being in his room alone and slowly, slowly, slowly weaning him off of having my husband or I in the room while he fell asleep. 

The steroid cream worked - but a lot of damage had already been done.  I developed extensive blistering on my left hand that was so painful that I needed to have it drained by a doctor.   (There's a whole other story with that fiasco - but I'll tell you about that some other time.)  The doctor strongly recommended adding prednisone.   I had one night of good sleep after my hand was drained - I hadn't realized how many times a night I was waking up because my hand hurt - and then the prednisone killed sleep for me.   That was a mixed blessing; I really like and need sleep - but sleep training a preschooler with anxiety is easier when you are mostly awake all night already. 

Fun fact: prednisone makes me angry and irritable.  Mixing prednisone with working in retail was a master class in moderating speech and choosing to let other people's flaws wash over me.  It worked - coworkers had noticed I was quieter than normal - but I didn't damage any relationships by telling anyone exactly what I was thinking about their work ethic, pitch of their voice or make-up choices.

I had a week of recovering from the eczema - and all hell broke loose on the farm my husband used to be a partner in.  (That's another whole story, too.)  This caused several severe rifts within my husband's family of origin and everyone was kind of figuring out the new lay of the land.  By unspoken agreement, everyone was simply going to tiptoe around and hang out in small groups to let everyone calm down and maybe heal a bit before trying a large family gathering. 

That worked for around 10 days.  Then my mother-in-law's father died unexpectedly on Friday. 

Opa was a good, kind man and doing fairly well - but he was also 89 and refused to stop doing farm work.  He collapsed and died while hooking his brush hog up to his tractor.    I miss Opa - but he lost his wife last year and was going to need to move into assisted care before winter which he did not want to do.  He said frequently that he'd totally be ok dying farming (usually in response to anyone who told him that he needed to stop doing farm work) and that he did not want a lingering death.   I am sad for myself, our family and that my son is too young to remember his great-grandfather - but Opa has a good death and he's back with Oma so I am not sad for him.

The only awkward bit is that we're all having to play Happy Family (TM) a few months before anyone would really be ready.   Ironically, COVID is making this easier; all of the normal rituals are being simplified and pared down for safety.   We buried Opa today with only local family members present.  It was a simple, honest and loving ceremony; Opa would have liked it.

My son is sleeping in his own bed again; he's a brave little guy and has worked hard at sleeping in his bed again.   My hands are back to normal.   We'll be having a limited wake and funeral for Opa this weekend at his church. 

I promise I'll be writing again soon; I've just got some more urgent concerns this second. 

Be safe; stay healthy.