Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Battle Of Peer Dependency: Chapter Four - Part Eight

Good morning, readers! 

 I've had an eventful day - and it has barely started.   

I've been working a lot more than usual for the few weeks due to a coworker having an unexpected death in the family.   I took a few of her shifts on top of my own so instead of working 25-30 hours, I worked 44 hours.   

I was really tired last night, so I set my morning alarm for the wrong time.   I had 30 minutes to get myself and my 3-year old fed, dressed and on the road to drop Spawn off at school at the right time.    Thankfully, our morning routine went well and I thought I'd be just on time or maybe a few minutes late dropping him off which is no big deal since the kiddos play on the playground at the start of the day.

I get out to our minivan and the driver's side slider won't open.   I can open the driver's side door- but not the slider.   I try locking and unlocking all the doors.  No change.   I try manually opening the door and nothing happens.  I try starting the car - and I can't open the door.   Spawn is starting to freak out a bit - he's not fond of change or stressed mamas - when I realize that repeatedly trying to open a stuck door in hopes it will open on the 6th, 9th or 20th time is literally Twain's definition of insanity.

I regroup.   I get Spawn settled in the living room with some books, some toys and a television show.    I start searching the internet for solutions.   I find a few pages about the actuator in the door failing - but that doesn't sound right.   I can hear the motor that automatically opens the door engaging and the door moves a bit- it's just that the door seems stuck in the locked position.

I try a few tricks to see if I can reset the lock and the key fob by pulling on the interior door release while using the fob to lock and unlock the doors.  No dice.    I can't really see if the position that I'm moving the interior door release is the unlock position so I walk around to the passenger side slider to climb across the captain chairs to verify that pushing towards the front is unlocked.    

The passenger side slider will not open either - and it's doing the exact same thing as the driver side slider.    

That was an unexpected problem - but I realized in one of those flashes of insight that the problem was probably not with the doors - but with something else like the onboard computer.    The chances of both doors having identical mechanical problems at the exact same time is pretty much zero - so I needed to reboot the computer.   

Well, I looked up the steps online - disconnect the battery for 10 minutes, reconnect battery, and turn car to "On" without starting and the computer should reboot - and started the process.   Actually, finding a wrench to remove the battery leads took the longest time, ironically.      

During the wait time with the battery disconnected, I contacted Spawn's school to let them know he wouldn't be coming in today due to car trouble.   Spawn was happily watching "Grizzy and the Lemmings" while piping up "Mama, fix car!  Mama, try!  Mama, try again to fix car!" whenever I left the house and "Mama on 'pewter' (computer)" when I was in the house.

I reattached the leads and turned on the car.  

I hadn't realized how little hope I had that rebooting the computer would work when I tried the slider - and it opened!   I whooped happily - and got a late take-out breakfast for Spawn and me.

Parenting has been a wild ride.  I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants while not being a hundred percent sure I know where I want to end up - let alone how to get there!   It reminds me of the first few years I taught.   The one advantage of teaching in traditional schools, though, is that teachers have a few years of classes about teaching behind them, a student teaching experience and other teachers to trade tips and tools with.    One of the tips I remembered was trying to avoid assignments that could be extremely stressful for some students.   In Biology, an example of this is not requiring students to make a family pedigree of traits based on their actual families.   A college professor I was working under assigned that over Thanksgiving because the students would be at home with their families.   I pointed out that that assignment would really suck for adopted kids, refugees without family at home, and large families (mine would have required a few pieces of posterboard just for my first cousins on both sides of the family).   When I assigned a "make your own pedigree chart", I let the students do any creature, traits and inheritance pattern they wanted.   Occasionally, a kid would do their own family - but I also got dragons, aliens, get the idea.

With my background, you can imagine how cringe-worthy I found this next section:
One day during English class, Chris was asked to write about a wonderful time he had experience with his father. As he read the assignment, I watched his face and waited for his response. As he finished reading, he looked up at me and the tears begin to flow. "Why did God have to take Daddy?" was his question.

I called him over to my desk and sat and talked to him about the many possibilities as to why it was time for Daddy to die. We talked about people who had come to know Jesus as Savior, marriages that were strengthened, and the many ways in which God had become real to us as head of the home and the father to the children. All of these things were wonderful, but they didn't help heal the hurt in his heart. (pg. 56)
One advantage of homeschooling that makes sense to me is the ability to specialize curriculum to the needs and strengths of family members.  Your kid likes dinosaurs?  Use that hook!   Your kid's dad died in a tragic car accident when he was seven?   Rewrite the essay prompt to "write about a wonderful time you had with a family member?  Boom!  Homeschooling at its best.

Instead, Mrs. Sears was either not paying much attention to the essay prompts she was assigning - or she was mining her kids for tragedy.   I hope it was the first - but based on some stories from later in the book I suspect she likes to mine other people's tragedies for her own purposes.   Especially when her initial response to her son's heartfelt expression of anguish over his father's death is to make a list of all the great things that happened after Jeff died.

That's sick - and it shows how much Mrs. Sears has been consumed by proving that God takes care of widows and orphans through her life.

I finally asked him, "Do you want to tell God that you miss your daddy, that you wish he wouldn't have died, and that you don't understand what is going to happen in the future?" He nodded his head yes.

I told him, "It is alright to tell God these things. Can you also tell God that you are going to trust Him that your daddy is where he needs to be, and that you are exactly where you need to be?"

As he bowed his head and spoke these things to the Lord, I saw the invisible baggage of hurt and responsibility which he had been carrying, fall to the ground. His pain, left alone, would have turned into rebellion and further devastation in this life. (pg. 56)
This quote distills everything I dislike about CP/QF prayer at once. 

 Prayer is communication with God.  For that to be true, believers need to be able to discuss everything with God - not just how great everything is all the time.  Mrs. Sears takes the obsession with forcing everything in life to be great to palpably absurd lengths when she explains to her sobbing son that his father's tragic death was a good thing since random people have stronger marriages - but that insane response drives home the inherent fakeness of that style of prayer.  

My parents are alive and well, but I do remember my younger brother dying when I was four.   Mrs. Sears' blithe assertion that her son was fine after a single agonizingly botched conversation about his father's death feels unlikely to me.   

Maybe Chris was a rare kid who needed a single moment of compassion from his mom to completely heal. 

I worry, though, that he learned never to bring up anything serious about his emotions with his mother ever again.

*Sorry for the delayed post!  I thought I had published this last Monday - and life continued in a standard, crazy fashion - so I didn't realize I missed publishing posts until today.*

Monday, October 12, 2020

Babbling Botkin: "What if My Husband Dies?" - Part Seven

Hello, readers!

Can I take a moment to expound on the virtues of the public school system?   My son has been back in school for six weeks now and I'm blown away at how far his speech has bloomed being around other small kids and adults outside of our immediate family.   A year ago, my son was speaking mainly in one word phrases with occasional two word phrases.  Now he mainly uses complete sentences.   

With his increased communication skills, I'm enjoying my time with him more and more because we can play more advanced games.   He also says the funniest things.   We were driving to see my parents last week after I picked Spawn up from preschool.   We went a different route than normal and drove by a school bus.   Spawn  sees the bus, whoops from the back of our van and yells, "Samuel got off the bus!  Yay, Samuel! See you tomorrow!"  Samuel is the name of his little buddy in class who also uses a walker - and that was not the school bus that takes Samuel home - but there was no way I was going to burst that bubble.    

For added fun, my son will be having a student teacher who uses a service animal.   The service dog is a large golden setter - and my son is nervous around dogs because he doesn't like it when dogs bark.   The student teacher let us have a few adorable pictures of her and her service animal so we can talk to Spawn about what a good dog she is.    

This sent me into giggles because not only has our local district given me freedom from being Spawn's untrained physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, feelings coach and early childhood educator they also provided a highly trained big yellow dog for Spawn to work on his anxiety around dogs!   This is making my life downright simple.

One of the reasons I send Spawn to school is for him to be ready for adulthood.   Schools teach lots of academic skills and give students a place to practice living their values.   As a former teacher, I think students pick up most of their values from their families of origin.   Parents and other adult relatives model what values are important to a family.   Teachers can reinforce some values certainly - but parents model how much a family cares about truth, justice, patriotism, generosity, hard work, patience, forbearance, trust, honesty and fair play.   

I say this because I take values seriously.   I take families seriously.   Even so,  I find this next quote by Geoffrey Botkin in "What If My Husband Dies" amusing as the mother of a nearly 4 year old:
[00:07:01] So one of the most helpful things you can do to inspire your sons to be good mature men is this: even while your husband is still alive speak continually of your husband's best and most courageous attributes.  Show them what a good strong solid marriage really looks like. I mean, that can be part of an inheritance that is totally invaluable because they will have such a good idea and vision for what...what kind of marriage to contract with a young lady once they're old enough.  They....they've....they've seen this in your home what it means for a wife to be loving and respectful.  What it really looks like for a husband and a father to be loving to his family. This I mean that is a powerful wealthy inheritance.  So inspire your sons to be like their father and honor his memory by the ways that they keep his values alive. This will not only give your sons a vision for responsible manhood but also for what a healthy marriage looks like. 
Geoffrey Botkin has highly stereotypic roles for men and women.   Women are supposed to be nurturing mothers gently rearing a huge brood of children while men provide and protect their women and children.   This stereotyping drips into his spontaneous speech when he declares that we should talk of our husband's most courageous attributes.    

But what if our husband's best traits don't fit that mold?  

My husband is much calmer than I am.  At times, this trait drives me crazy - but his easygoing temperament compliments my driven temperament.    My innate speed is "Let's go!  Solve the problem!  Do a thing! Do another thing!  Accomplish! Strive!"    We idolize that temperament in the United States - but it's a personality trait that fails miserably when confronted with problems with no easy solution.   

Staying sane when Spawn was in the NICU - during all of his first year, really - required me to adapt my husband's more mellow flow.   There was nothing I could do to speed the process of Spawn growing into a term-sized baby.  His lungs were going to heal and fix themselves - and I would need to wait for that to happen.   Sure, my drive-based personality worked well at getting Spawn the care he needed - but most of the day-to-day events involved keeping Spawn stable and growing.

My husband and I suit each other - but the way we suit each other may be very different from how another healthy marriage looks.   Everyone knows marriages that are visibly solid - but would be miserable to be in yourself.   I know couples who love entertaining people at home; I hate doing that and thankfully so does my husband.    I will take a detour to look at a historical marker at any time I see one and have time; that would be a legitimate reason for divorce for some people I know.

My husband and I came from families with healthy marriages - but our marriage is different than either of our parents' marriages.  My in-laws espouse a fairly traditional gender role separation in marriage; my husband, on the other hand, has been integral in caring for our son and keeping house.  My parents bicker gently with each other 24/7 unless someone is having a rough time; my husband and I try to keep things pleasant.    

Final point: how good are kids at knowing how healthy their parents' relationship is as kids?  Pretty poor, I imagine.  Kids are highly cued in to how adults treat them; they really aren't nearly as aware of how adults treat each other.

In the next quote, Geoffrey Botkin makes me wonder what he thinks the word 'character' means:
[00:08:01] So now, the second point - character - uh this is best learned from a dad by watching him work.  If the dad has a good work ethic and good character he's making hard decisions every day.  He's explaining these to the sons. I mean if there is some work which can be done with dad it is like a dress rehearsal for life.  Try to find out what that is.  You know.  That will provide a basis and a foundation for daily mentoring that's really good.  Just average business no matter what it is. 
Remind me how often we practice patriotism at work?  How about chastity?  How about justice?  Humility?

I do wonder how successful a business is if the proprietor is making hard decisions every day.  That sounds like a business that is dying rapidly.   

Perhaps I'm interpreting it wrong. 

Maybe the owner is simply abjectly miserable at the stress level of running a business and needs a healthy dose of fortitude and forbearance to get out of bed and work every day.    

That might not send the message to his sons that Botkin is intending, though.  

Most of us pick up values without shadowing our parents at work daily.  Keeping a family running requires plenty of virtuous behavior by parents without forcing everyone to join a family business.

I just realized, though, that I've missed the bigger point.   This isn't being written to me - a college-educated working mom of one whose spouse is healthy..   This is being written to a mother of four whose husband has COPD in the middle of a pandemic - and winter is coming.  

If she ever reads this blog, now's a great time to see a financial advisor to figure out how to put away as much money from your current cash flow as possible.   

Good luck - and as always - don't ask Botkin for advice.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Battle Of Peer Dependency: Chapter Four - Part Seven

Hello, dear readers!

We've had a run of cold, wet days here in Western Michigan.  The kind of days where everything outside feels slimy because nothing has a chance to dry before the next band of rain makes it through.  I've been trying to keep my tomato and pepper plants going by keeping them covered with a makeshift plastic tent.  The tent worked fine in dry weather, but is alternating between blowing off and sagging under the weight of the water now.  I've ordered some PVC pieces and a few landscape timbers from my local hardware store to see if I can make a low tunnel. Hopefully, that will shed water better and with fewer blowdowns once I've got the plastic sheeting under rope lashings.  

We are somewhere into the never-ending slog that is Marina Sears "The Battle of Peer Dependency".  Chapter Four has been a disjointed, confusing and boring march through the evils of friendship and spectacularly bad discussion of the Bible.    The poor scholarship continues on pages 49-55 - but it is so bad that I'm not going to discuss it point-by-point.   Instead, I'm going to give a simple paraphrase of 1  Samuel 14 and 15:1-23 to demonstrate how badly 1 Samuel 15:23 is being used out of context to force children to be always obedient to their parents.

1 Samuel 14:1-13:  Jonathan and his armor-bearer skirmish with the Philistines and take out a group of twenty soldiers. 

1 Samuel 14:14-23: God causes the Philistines to panic.  Saul sees the panic and does a head-count.  He realizes that Jonathan is missing.  There's a bit involving the Ark of the Covenant.  Saul and his men attack the Philistines (who are doing a good job of decimating themselves).  A bunch of Israelites who had deserted return.   Israel pushes the front back.

1 Samuel 14:24-30: Saul's vow that no one could eat that day has made everyone hungry, weak and angry.   The Hebrews come upon a forest dripping with honey.  Most soldiers fast because of the oath made by Saul - but Jonathan does not.  When reminded of the oath by another soldier, Jonathan tells the soldier that the vow was stupid and the Philistines would have been routed even more if the Israelites had been allowed to eat.

1 Samuel 31-35:  The hangry soldiers begin to eat captured livestock without ritual slaughter or the correct sacrifices.  Someone tells Saul.   Saul tells the troops to knock it off, builds his very first altar, and correctly sacrifices the captured livestock so everyone can eat. 

1 Samuel 36-46: Saul gathers his generals together and asks about pursuing the Philistines through the night.  The generals have no objections, but the priest reminds Saul to ask God.  God refuses to answer Saul so Saul starts throwing divine lots to figure out who sinned.  When rolled for Saul/Jonathan or the generals, the lot says that the sin was with Saul/Jonathan.  The second lot says that Jonathan sinned.  Jonathan admits to eating honey against Saul's oath and is ready to be killed.  Saul agrees.  The generals object and Jonathan is ransomed.  The Philistines escape back to their land.

Ironically, Mrs. Sears missed a great lesson about obeying your parents in this section.  After all, Jonathan ignored his father's vow, verbally disrespected his dad and was nearly killed as a scapegoat because of that!   That actually works....kind of.....well, as much as any of this is going to work when the premise of "Family first - friends are evil" is severely flawed.   

1 Samuel 47-52: A mishmash of verses reminding us of how many enemies nations Saul had surrounding him, the fact he was pretty good at defending Israel from them, a fast genealogy of Saul's kids and how Saul is related to his generals, and a reminder that there were a lot of wars going on.

1 Samuel 15: 1-8:  Samuel tells Saul that God wants Israel to completely destroy the Amalekites by killing all the people and animals. Doing this would avenge when the Amalekites attacked the Hebrews as they left Egypt.  Saul tells the Kenites to flee since they had protected the Hebrews during that attack and begins to destroy the Amalekites.

1 Samuel 15:9:  Actually, they kept the good animals.  They killed the people and weak animals, but they kept the good animals.

1 Samuel 15:10-11: God is very angry with Saul because of his continued bad behavior and lets Samuel know that God regrets making Saul king.   Samuel spends the night praying.

1 Samuel 15:12-16: Samuel goes to confront Saul in the morning and finds out that Saul is busy building a monument to Saul's greatness in another location.   Samuel travels to find Saul.  When Samuel arrives, Saul swears he followed God's instructions perfectly.  Samuel points out that he can hear the captured animals bleating.  Saul attempts to punt by swearing that the animals were captured to be sacrificed to God - and that really pisses Samuel off.

1 Samuel 15:17-23: Samuel makes one last ditch effort to call Saul out on disobeying God.  Saul declares that HE obeyed God; it was just his soldiers who disobeyed God.  Samuel replies that Saul has turned his back on God - and that God has turned his back on Saul.

Alright.  After all of that, Ms. Sears' attempt to make 1 Samuel 15:23 into a general commandment for all people rather than a specific discussion of Saul's wrongdoings feels forced:
Samuel then makes a very profound statement. One that many Christians can quote but may not fully understand. Application seems appropriate for the teenager who is wearing a leather jacket and chains, or has had trouble with law enforcement, but would any parent ever consider the Scripture for themselves or their six or seven year old blonde haired, blue-eyed angel. " For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected thee from being King." ( 1 Samuel 15:23) (pg. 55)
I don't see myself ever using this quote with a troubled teen because the quote sounds patently insane outside the Biblical context.   

I don't see myself ever using this quote with myself or my spouse because we'd end up arguing how sinful stubborness is compared to iniquity and if that is different than comparing stubbornness to idolatry - and which one of us gets to be King if the other one is dethroned.  

I don't see myself using this quote with an elementary school kid because I doubt the kid knows what iniquity and  idolatry means - and I highly doubt a 7 year old has the same level of cognitive development as Samuel or Saul did during this whole scenario.

But most strangely - why on Earth did Ms. Sears describe the 7-year old as a "blonde haired, blue eyed angel" instead of simply a young angel?  Are Nordic kids more angelic than kids of Iberrian, Mediterranean, Hispanic, African, Asian, Pacific Islander or First Nations descent?  

Ugh.  This book is just toxic.  Don't use it to raise kids, alright?  Thanks!