by Lana Hope cross posted from her blog Wide Open Ground
Recently one of the girls I once babysat called me on phone. She wanted to talk about something that happened in the past between us. I miss her and her family, but mostly, when I look back, I feel pain.
You see, starting when I was 11 or 12, I was put in the place of authority over her. I had to discipline her and her siblings. If I could not control them, the punishment was only worse when their parents got home. The parents would wake them up to spank them. I was a kid who had to punish a kid. It frightened me.
When she got older, as a young teenager, the girl and I began to fight more, maybe because she resented me and rightly so. But either way, rather than let us work it out ourselves, our parents got involved. They forced us into some dumb get-along-model, and it really broke us both.
The girl is now in college and called to apologize to me for not respecting me and obeying me more. She could not even remember what the fight was about (I do), but there she was on the phone, apologizing.
When she called, I tried to compose myself, but I wanted to weep. And over the phone I stuttered between “please, don’t apologize,” to “girl, we were victims of spiritual abuse.”
But she is still living at home. She could not hear me.
I repeated, “We would not even remember this fight if our parents had not thought it was a huge sin for teenagers to fight.”
And I repeated again. “Your sister got spanked repeatedly because of me. She had to apologize on the phone because me. All I can say is I’m so, so sorry now. I was a kid. There was no right point of view for us. Why was I placed in that position?”
Again, she did not hear me.
I wanted to give her my blog, and tell her about homeschoolers anonymous, but there was not much use. She still lives at home.
I wanted to know about the other kids I used to babysit, so I started googling their facebooks. I found the facebook of one of the girls. Her family has the same name theme as the Jeub family. The kids names end with a “uh/ah” sound. I started babysitting for them when her mom was 28, and there was only 7 kids.
Her status messages were preachy. She told her friends how to associate among our “worldy” friends – and she used the word worldly. There was so much judgemental side to it, that I just weeped.
That little girl I used to babysat is now a young adult who is scared of the world.
Last week I went to our university hockey game here in Canada. I talked with friends and made new friends. In the middle of it, I had an existential moment where I needed to leave and compose myself because I realized something. I was with “worldy” friends. I was alone, outside my parents home. I have my own car. I pay my own bills. I have top grades and a promising option to eventually get into a phd program.
I left home nearly a decade ago, but my life is still full of first. And the last year, living in North America far away from my parents, has involved a lot of firsts.
First to go to the mall alone, for example.
First to go to a hockey game, for example.
First year to consistently shop at a grocery store, for example. (Yes, I’m serious. In college I ate a dorm. In Asia I shopped at the market. As a kid, we canned our meat and vegetables, and I rarely went to the store.)
All these firsts, after nearly a decade since I left home.
When I say I worry about the Duggar children, I am accused of being a Duggar hater. But I’m not a hater. I just want them to be free.
I want them to get in their cars and drive far away from home, to go to hockey game with friends their parents don’t even know, to date and have careers.
I want them to be friends with their siblings with being placed in authority of them.
I want them to know that the world is not scary, nor is it worldly, nor are these so-called worldy people less happy than homeschool families.
I want them to know that people who kiss before marriage are just as happy as them.
I want them to know a life other than being pregnant.
They are like the princess in Tangled, who only sees the world from a tower and from media studio, only in their case, they are not hidden. The whole world is watching and saying, “oh, there is nothing wrong with locking your kid in a tower.”
But if you saw what I saw, you would know better.
If you were put in the position of spanking your siblings, you would know.
If you got the phone call I got from the girl I used to babysit, you would know.
If you went to a hockey game and were sitting there shaking, realizing you knew nothing about the rules and that this was the first time to attend a game with friends, you would know.
You would know that of course, I think the Duggars are people too, with great personalities, and that of course I don’t hate them.
But still, I worry for them, and I hate the TV show for making what they do seem natural, as if locking your kids in a tower is natural.
Lana Hope was homeschooled 1st-12th grade in a small town and rural culture. Involved in ATI, her life growing up was gendered, sheltered, and with a lot of shame and rules in disguise of Biblical principles and character qualities. After college Lana moved to SE Asia and began working with the abused, and upon discovering that the large world is not at all like she had been taught, she finally questioned it all, from Calvinism to the homeschool movement to the foundation of her Christian faith. Today Lana is a Christian Universalist, holds a B.A. in English, and is currently working on a M.A. in philosophy. She blogs about the struggles she has faced leaving fundamentalism and homeschooling behind and how travel and missions has wrecked her life for good and bad at her blog www.wideopenground.com .
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