Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Five - Part Five


I'm writing this while listening to my son describe each of the toy cars he's packing into a new "Thomas the Train" carrying case his Oma gave him. 

He's grown and hit so many developmental milestones in the last year that I often feel like I have a completely different child than I had two years ago. 

Between a year and four years of age, Spawn stopped singing.   Six months ago, he started singing again - and I'm amazed how many songs he learned while listening to songs on the radio in the car and listening to me sing around the house. We were playing on the floor yesterday when he asked me to sing "the song about what a bus does" with him.  I really enjoyed singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with him.

He's really into pretend play now and I find playing with him to be delightful.  Right now, he wants to pretend to be adults doing jobs that he sees around in the world which means he wants to be a mailman or a cashier or a farmer.  He's been "helping" in our garden by planting corn seeds in a bed that we were going to leave fallow as a composting area.    Hearing him exclaim "Mama!  I'm a farmer!" makes me smile every time.

Spawn can walk enough with one handed support that he can make it around our small local grocery store without needing to sit in the cart.   In fact, he also wants to be able to carry the small basket I use while we are there - but Spawn's still a bit short for the baskets at the store as evidenced by the fact that the basket drags on the ground when he tries to carry it.    Instead, I can usually convince him to help me carry it.   He's also very helpful at putting the items in the basket after I take the off the shelf.  

Marina Sears, I hope, enjoyed similar simple pleasure moments with her children when they were young.   Reading her book "The Battle of Peer Dependency" leaves readers with the impression that Mrs. Sears spent every moment of her children's childhood wishing that she had a different group of children who were more docile, more tractable and less independent.   Here's a revealing quote from the fifth chapter:

Sitting in a conference, listening to a workshop on finding individual life callings, I found myself wondering if God might also have a calling or purpose for the family. Different families had crossed our paths over the years that seemed to have a family purpose, but I saw that as a rarity rather than the norm. It seemed, as though my spirit had suddenly been taken aware of the fact that Jeff's death did not take God by surprise. Nor was He baffled by the strong personality traits my children possessed. It seemed as though the spirit of God was urging me to understand that he had put us together as a family, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, spiritual gifts, gender, and birth orders. All these factors together would tend to pull the family apart until I realize that the molding and blending of these traits were what would speak to a lost world. (pg. 74-75)
I was a bit taken aback by Mrs. Sears' surprise and dismay that her children had strong personality traits - and I doubt she viewed those traits positively.  I'm surprised at her surprise because Mrs. Sears clearly has a powerful personality herself!  She's spent the book explaining repeatedly her belief that her family needs to be a shining beacon to the world showing off God's Providence to widows and orphans - and she'll be damned if her kids get in the way of that goal.    

I've spent a few weeks trying to think of any family I knew that had a "family purpose" - and have been completely drawing a blank.   I suspect that's because most families are content enough to do whatever motivates them without needing to trumpet their purpose to everyone they meet.

More broadly, Mrs. Sears isn't picking a family purpose by deciding what makes sense based on her family.  She's using the idea of a family purpose to shame, guilt-trip and force her kids to follow her whims for as long as she can.   Why do I think that?  Well, this next quote is a doozy:
It is sad to discover that many other parents think that the only purpose of parenting is to provide instruction, provision, and protection for their children until they reach 18 years of age. These children are then considered to be on their own. Parents, who go a little bit further and believe the children are a part of the family until marriage, still miss the mark.. (pg. 75)
There is no escape for Mrs. Sears' children.   She is setting up a paradigm where she is to be in charge of their lives forever regardless of age, marital status or presence of children.   

Will that work?  Probably not.  There's yet to be a Christian Patriarchy family who has married adult children who has not lost one or more of those children to increased worldliness.  Not because the kids have become anything like the average secular family, but because the parents have gotten so used to having the personal whims of the parents satisfied at all times that a child's choice of doing something differently is treated like a war crime.  (See the Maxwell response to Jesse living in an apartment and the Duggar response to Jill.)

Is it Biblical?  Nope.  While there is definitely support for Hebrew men acting in concert with their paternal family line in the Old Testament, we have relatively little support for the idea that there was one paterfamilias who was making decisions for the entire family line.  On the other hand, the Bible is filled to the brim with people acting outside of the rules of patriarchy.   Men stole the birthrights of their older brothers.  Women disobeyed their husbands and fathers.  Mary appeared to conceive Jesus out of wedlock.  Jesus and his disciples were all pretty much behaving outside of family lines while various concerned and exasperated family members tried to stop them.  

If you remember nothing else, remember that Mrs. Sears would have stopped the Apostles from following Jesus.  That's the kind of great advice you're getting from this author.


  1. Yikes, as soon as I saw "family purpose" my shoulders went all up to my ears.

    So, I come from a family that is unfortunately very inflexible (in a non-religious way).

    My parents are both from STEM backgrounds, and were willing to do a great number of things, including pretty extreme things, so that their kids ended up in STEM careers.

    I did not choose a STEM career, and this was treated as the family shame for a few years (I actually think I have relatives who still don't know what I actually do, despite it having been a full decade)... until my brother came out as trans, which was even more of a problem for my parents.

    So yeah, the lesson being that your kinds are never going to turn out exactly as planned, and the more rigid expectations you set on what their lives are going to look like, the more ways you are setting yourself up for disappointment later.

    1. I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. My husband and I were both in STEM backgrounds - and I can't imagine trying to shoehorn my son into STEM if he's not into it. I enjoy STEM - but if you are not into STEM, it's a hellish field!

      I find it especially sad since you've clearly done well for yourself in a non-STEM field - and most people don't work in STEM anyways.

  2. Wait--does she think that kids who become independent beings at the age of 18 are somehow no longer considered "part of the family" by their careless heathen parents? How is she even defining "family" at this point?

    My impression is that in SearsWorld, there is never any such thing as equality. The concept of hierarchical headship applies not just to husbands and wives but to every possible family relationship--parents above kids, boys above girls, older kids above younger, and this hierarchy stays put even when everyone involved is a legal adult. This is, as I see it, pretty messed up. As you point out, it's not even based on Biblical exemplars.

    1. There are definitely societies where there is a strict, patriarchal hierarchy that operates like that. There's a paterfamilias - or at least a group of older adult men - who make most of the visible public decisions for the family and everyone else is beneath them based on their age, gender and relationship to the heads of the family.

      Those societies exist - but we don't live in one. Sears is trying to redefine "family" to mean "all the people who are required to follow my whims" and that's disturbing.

    2. That's what struck me too. The only families of know who cut off all suppose at 18 like that were extremely disfunctional. Most parents were more like mine, giving us increasing independence throughout our childhood while remaining available for support and guidance well into legal adulthood. Sears has a very odd ideas about family.

  3. One of your best takes on the illogic of this paradigm as well as the contradiction to the Bible. All that "common family purpose" garbage was the most typical patriocentric way of destroying individuality.

  4. What if -- and I'm just spitballing here -- your family's purpose is to be a safe and loving environment for each other's growth and development? Nah... that can't be it.
    My therapist taught me that it's actually a symptom of narcissism if you value others' impressions of you over what you value about yourself. It feels like Ms. Sears needs something other than just her (and her kids') own inherent love and value to make her worthwhile.
    I fear for her sense of value and worth when she isn't a full-time parent. It seems like this is all she's holding onto.

    1. I don't know enough about the difference between narcissism vs. run of the mill self-centeredness to be sure - but Mrs. Sears' seems more self-absorbed than anyone I've met previously.

      In a future post, Mrs. Sears spends some time arguing with God - God, IMHO, spends most of Chapter 6 telling Mrs. Sears to just stop with the excessive sheltering while she ignores Him - and pretty much tries to defend her self by claiming that she's sacrificed everything for her kids. That set off a huge red flag for me because she's made a unilateral decision that since she sacrificed everything for her kids - her kids are required to remain dependent on her. Forever.