It has now been some years since I left my parents’ house and shifted for myself. I think my parents were somewhat surprised that I was able to make it on my own and that I did not come home asking for help, or maybe it was just me who was surprised. I found inner sources of strength I had not known I had. At the same time, my college friends, both the original evangelical ones and new ones I had met, were a wonderful source of support, and always accepted me regardless of what I did or didn’t believe. I finished college on my own, and was extremely proud at graduation.
During this time I also found someone special, and I married him not long after finishing college. Because I was marrying someone who did not share their beliefs, my parents did not approve, but then I did not expect them to. My siblings were not allowed to be in my wedding, and I walked myself down the aisle with my head held high. My friends and in-laws made my wedding a time of great joy, but my heart still broke years later when one of my little brothers was exulting at being a ring bearer in one of my siblings’ weddings, and all I could think was, I did want you for my ring bearer, little brother, please don’t think I didn’t. But I couldn’t tell him that, I couldn’t explain what had happened. Remembering that moment still brings tears to my eyes, even now.
Early on, there was some question about whether my new husband and I would be allowed to visit my parents and siblings. After all, what kind of example were we setting? This question was resolved, though, when we chose to become pregnant and have a child. The presence of a grandchild has improved my relationship with my parents, though it has also created new problems as they do not always agree with the way I am raising my little one.
Another factor that has improved my relationship with my parents is their belief that my husband is my authority, and that they should therefore seek to change his views rather than mine. At the same time, though, my husband is a man and not their physical child, so there is a level of emotional distance and respect present that there is not with me. Thus my parents simultaneously leave my beliefs alone and at the same time work to respectfully persuade my husband that he should change his beliefs. Of course, this makes me want to laugh, because my husband and I have an egalitarian relationship, and we frequently disagree with each other without seeing it as a problem.
Regardless of the reasons for the softening of my relationship with my parents, I am grateful that I can still be a part of my siblings’ lives. However, my relationship with my parents will never be the same, and the pain of what happened will never go away.
My parents’ mistake, if that is how you want to see it, was teaching me how to think. The simple reality is that teaching women to think will be subversive in any system that demands male authority and female submission. My parents gave me the tools to form my own opinions and choose my own beliefs while at the same time demanding that I hold their opinions and beliefs, and once I left home and learned that the world was a much bigger place than I had been taught, I was crushed in the inconsistency of this.
There is a deeper problem as well. My parents saw me as an empty slate and believed that they could paint on it as they wished and choose what the outcome would be. They saw me as something to be shaped and moulded rather than as an individual with my own thoughts and feelings. For them, I was one more daughter to fit into the perfect mold. In some ways, it was like they were playing dollhouse with me, forming me just how they wanted and setting me up just how they liked – but I’m not a doll!