Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Five - Part Three


Spring is finally in full swing here in Michigan.   My son discovered that dandelions form lovely balls of seeds that people can blow on to scatter the seeds.  Now, that's a different thing from him picking or blowing on the dandelions; according to him, that's entirely my job.   Honestly, I don't mind.  I enjoy watching the seeds scatter lightly on the air and settle down into the grass.

On a completely unrelated note, our lawn is generally either bright yellow or fuzzy white with dandelions.   I find that they complement the crabgrass quite well especially in the fall when the crabgrass reddens.

I'm nursing a mild sunburn that's more embarrassing than painful.  Now that the insane spring season has hit my workplace I've been doing shifts in the garden center along with the paint department and service desk.  The embarrassing bit is that I forgot sunscreen on a sunny day and also forgot that working on light colored concrete means that I get hit with reflected UV along with sunlight.  That meant I was burnt on my arms with around 30 minutes of sun exposure.  Thankfully, the hat I was wearing plus my ever-present mask blocked enough rays that my face wasn't burnt.

We are chugging along in Marina Sears' parenting book "The Battle of Peer Dependency".  In the fifth chapter, Mrs. Sears spends a lot of time harping on the evils of divorce, name-dropping the evil of homosexuality, and claiming that most of our problems come from the fact that people spend too much time around humans who are not members of their immediate family.  

How second-generation humans are supposed to reproduce or support a family while spending as little time away from their family of origin is not covered at all.

Quotes like the following one do a nice job of illustrating why trying to read this book as an outsider is baffling and comical at the same time:

Breaking away from the traditional view of family is essential. In this view, each member of the family is independent of each other. Each person has his own agenda, schedule, and life. This life include separate classes at church and school. These classes are age divided, grouping only peers together. Most churches segregate the family even further by having young people sit in an area designated for youth only. This gives the young person the illusion that their group of peers is equal to their family. One of the dangers with church youth groups is that the youth minister must have the hearts of the children in order to accomplish his goals. The youth group itself becomes a family unit with the youth minister and his wife acting as the surrogate parents. (pg. 72)
Yes, my four year old often has a completely separate agenda than I do.  He prioritizes playing with toy cars and avoiding eating food much more strongly than I do - but this does not cause me to write a book about the breakdown of American family life.

I feel like I've covered this so many times - but the reason that schools and churches divide up classes by age is that age is a pretty decent predictor of abilities.   A group of 15 seven year old is far more likely to be at roughly the same conceptual level for learning reading or discussing a theological topic than a group of consisting of 15 people aged 0, 1, 3, 5, 7,  9, 11, 13, 15, 17,  21, 31, 41, 51 and 61 years old.  As people get older, the age categories get larger which is why putting adults aged 30-80+ together in a group causes far fewer headaches for a teacher than having an age class of 0-29 years all together.

I've been to a lot of churches.  I've seen a few that have an area where teens sit together - but I've also seen many, many churches where families sit together.    I don't know where Mrs. Sears gets the idea that sitting with your peers at church makes a peer group the equivalent of family, though.   It's not like the teen immediately receives legal emancipation or is given enough money to exist independently of their family of origin.  

If your teenager prefers their youth minister and his wife - because it's got to be that gender configuration - to your parenting, I'd assume it's mostly because the teen doesn't live with the youth minister and his wife.  I think every young teen and pre-teen has fantasies of living with that adult in their life who is fun, lively and not encumbered by making sure the house isn't trashed, everyone is fed, bills are paid and the youngsters are passing school.  

Of course, if you refuse to let your kids hang out with anyone besides their family of origin while cutting them off from most activities for not being "Christian" enough, the bar for "fun adult" becomes so pitifully low that everyone looks like a better parent than Marina Sears.

The claim of a youth ministry program becoming a family unit is bizarre.  There's no shared housing.  There's no legal or cultural expectation of financial support of the members by the youth minister.  The youth minister can't access medical or educational records for the teens nor can they provide consent for medical procedures or changes in educational programs.  

Just because Marina Sears feels threatened by any caring adult who gets near her kids doesn't mean the adults are actually undermining the family structure.

In this quote, Mrs. Sears makes several extravagant claims without any support:
It would seem natural to conclude since young people are segregated into peer groups in school and in church, the amount of time that they are with their peers far outweighs that of home and family.  Each family member creates his own friends and schedule. As a young person this is how I was raised, and it was the norm. Each of my brothers had his own set of friends; I had mine, and my parents had theirs. Still, it wasn't uncommon to hear someone introduce a friend as: " This is so and so; he is a friend of the family." Having people be friends to the entire family is unheard of in our present day. Young people have been so segregated in our society that few can adequately converse outside of their own peer group. (pg. 72)
 The first claim is that young people spend much more time with peers than with "home and family".   Let's clear up the easiest bit first: as long as the older teens are sleeping at home 7 days a week, spending a hour getting ready in the morning, and two hours or so in the evening with homework and relaxing the amount of time "at home" is going to be larger than the time they are in school or activities. 

The amount of time the older teens are with family is harder to quantify simply because parents are usually working at jobs.  I could see how a teen who was going to school, working and involved in after school activities could spend more time with non-family members than with family.  I do have one caveat, though.   The peer group of this busy team is not one homogenous group.   At a medium to large size city, there might be no overlap between classmates and teenage coworkers at a job.   There'd also be a different group of teens in youth ministry and slightly different groupings in the after school activities.  The unique make-up of these groups that change over time make it much less likely that peers become the "family unit" of the teenager.

Mrs. Sears is roughly the age of my parents.  I think I'm roughly the same age as her older kids.   Since Mrs. Sears claims that no one has friends of the entire family any more, a single counterexample can invalidate her claim.   I can think of four people who we'd have described as friends of the family - and the number keeps going up as I think about it.  Our elderly next door neighbor was a peach and we all liked spending time with her.  We had several families who I'd still count as "family friends" - including my lifelong best friend and her family.  

And just saying - my son loves to talk to older men who ideally are as gruff or tough looking.   He's got a group of local men who are kind of loners who he shows his toys to and chats with.   I'm also friends with a bunch of older women who share quilting and crocheting tips with me.

Most importantly - we're like 3/4 of the way though the book and she's still never supported her obsession with sheltering kids with any Gospel quotes and precious few Bible quotes.  


  1. I send my kid to public school and she's great with kids who aren't the same age as her, and she's pretty chill with most adults as well, even after this year where her interactions during school hours are limited to her class b/c of COVID precautions (and that class is a grade 1/2 split so the kids are, at this point in the year, ages 6-8). During normal times, she'd play with kids from other grades during recess, teachers would get their classes together for activities, the high school would send over students to do leadership stuff with the elementary kids, and after-school activities would include a range of ages. The point being, even going to school where they divvy the kids up by age for learning purposes doesn't necessarily restrict exposure to people of different ages (and backgrounds, but that's probably something Mrs. Sears would want to avoid).

    I feel like the last year and half has very much been an exercise in the concept that your immediate family is not always going to be enough simply due to the fact that no one person or family can be everything to everyone. I love my spouse and my kid, but we need other people in our lives, too. Humans are a cooperative species and when we whittle our lives down to a too-insular community, we don't thrive.

    1. Right now, my kid is better with adults than kids. I assume that's mostly because he's spent far more time around adults than children and also because adults usually give him plenty of time to move while kids are a bit more likely to intrude on his space.

      My husband and I both think we had an easier time than many people because our jobs are both essential so we had to continue working in-person throughout. We always had the risk of contracting COVID hanging over our head - but we also got to see non-family members 5-6 days out of 7.

  2. Wondering if Marina Sears sees Covid as a God-sent thing, either to warn us or restrict our time outside. Either way, her claims are bizarre, and the statement about family friends is esp untrue.

    1. Mrs. Sears was preparing for social distancing LONG before it was cool! ROTFL.

      I suspect she thinks COVID was sent because of divorce. Or LGBTQ+ rights. Or because Trump was voted out of office. Or because one of her sons hasn't texted her in a few days. I often get the chorus of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" running through my head when I read her book.....

  3. I mentioned this on the last post, but again -- she still hasn't explained why it's more important to spend every single second of life with the other people you share DNA with. Why isn't it more important that you're around people who are good for you? I know a lot of people whose family is toxic to be around and their chosen family are far healthier.
    She seems unaware that human development progresses (look at animals in nature ) -- babies are born, grow, develop, separate, leave the parents. This is normal. How has she completely missed this memo about life?