Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 4: Acknowledgement & Apologies

[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughters by the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]
In this part of our series, the ex-QF moms of NLQ are speaking directly to our own Quivering Daughters ~ though we’ve already said our apologies in person, we want to acknowledge the abuse we inflicted on our children publicly for their sake, though we’re doing it anonymously out of respect for their privacy.

Trigger warning: As painful it has been for us to write these confessions down ~ it may be even tougher for the Quivering Daughters who were on the receiving end of our neglect and abuse to read.

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My children were everything to me. I remember the feelings I had when I gave birth to my first child, emotions that surprised me with their ferocity. I’d spent my entire life focusing on me, more than anyone else, and yet now, after a few hours of the most horrible pain I’d ever experienced in my entire life (so much for the pain-free birthing books I’d read and committed to memory), this bloody squalling thing suddenly became the Most Important Thing On Earth.

I looked in shock at my husband, holding that baby that, up until then, I’d never even seen with my physical eyes, and, my gaze wide with amazement at the power of the raw protective urge coursing through my body, said, “I’d do anything for her. I don’t care if it is a Mack Truck on the highway—I’d willingly let it run over me if it would save her life.”

I was absolutely, totally and emphatically in love.

So when a woman from church gave me an innocent looking white book with an Amish-style family on the front cover, telling me it was the best book on raising children she’d ever read, I was interested. Two pages into it, I was hooked. Here was a man telling me that there was a sure-fire way that I could raise my child and guarantee that she would grow up to love and serve the Lord. As a devout evangelical conservative Christian, there was nothing more important to me than that. As bad as a Mack Truck accident might be, there was no “accident” or situation worse than the thought of my child not growing up to follow Christ—because that would mean an entire eternity of Hell. A Mack Truck can’t begin to compare.

So with my mother-love highly aroused and my fears fully engaged, I read, page by page, all about the way to ensure that your children are properly trained so that they will grow up to love and serve God.

If I could sum up the message that this book spoke to a young mother who deeply loved her baby, it was this:

“Momma, your baby is a sinner. He/she will try to manipulate you. Things like a child not liking a diaper change and squirming to be free are an example of a sinful will attempting to dominate you. You may think this is a little thing, but it’s huge. Why? Because if you let the child dominate you, the child will win. If the child wins, the child will learn that rebellion pays. The child will then grow up to probably reject God and go to Hell, because a rebellious heart will not want to follow God. So, Momma, never ever let your child win. Your child’s exertion of will [which includes anything you deem unacceptable---grumpiness, for example] is an act of war, and parenting is about the parent winning any and all battles of wills.”

I loved my baby. How grateful, absolutely grateful I felt, that someone was there to show me the way. Now, at last, there was hope! My baby would get the joy of growing up in a home where things were done right. She wouldn’t have to go through the things I went through! No, she was going to have a godly home where she would be trained properly, and she would grow up happy and obedient and full of love towards God. It was so exciting.

So exciting that I bought ten of those books and passed them out to my friends so that they could all join in the delight of knowing we could raise our children in a way that would ensure both their happiness now and their eternal future in Heaven.

I didn’t know. If I could go back now and re-do the way I parented that little baby, I would. Out of all the things in my life that I deeply regret, that is the most painful, the most difficult, the most horrific set of memories to revisit. Because the thing is, I love my children no less now than I did then. It’s still a ferocious mother-bear kind of love. It’s still so powerful it is palpable.

But seeing your children as enemies in a war creates a fundamental crack in the parent-child relationship. Even if there is the most powerful love in the universe on the other side of the crack, the divide is still there…including the distortion of communication it causes. I entered into a performance-based parenting model out of love for my child. But that model does not feed love, or nurture love, or engage love.
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Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 3: Perception

[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughters by the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]
by Vyckie

So what is “abuse” and who gets to define it? Steadfast Daughters devotes a considerable amount of time and mental energy to this question. The trouble with making definitions central to the discussion is this: there’s no way to do it without being condescending, petty and dismissive of Quivering Daughters who are reporting their highly personal, and necessarily highly subjective experiences of emotional and spiritual abuse.

There is no objective way of defining and quantifying “abuse” ~ no way. Sorry. Try it if you must ~ but you will lose.

Too many factors affect our perception and judgment. We all perceive the same experiences differently ~ it can’t be helped since no two people are all alike. It is even possible for the same individual to perceive the exact same experience differently depending on mood, health, energy-level, etc. One day the dish water is too hot and scalds our hands ~ next day, same temperature ~ but we’re freezing and this time it feels good. We have different levels of pain tolerance, our focus and ideals change making once appreciated behavior suddenly intolerable, memories fade, memories emerge … there’s really no way to predict ~ and there is no way to control.

Quiverfull moms want their daughters to feel secure ~ unaware, perhaps, that to the daughters, “security” is associated with prisons and confinement. Daddy wants to protect his girls ~ his daughters feel controlled and possessed. QF parents enforce standards of modesty ~ thinking this will affirm their daughters’ worth and instill a sense of value and self-respect ~ instead, their daughters feel like freaks and just want to be normal ~ rather than feeling modest, they feel that they are drawing unwanted attention to themselves because they cannot blend in with a crowd.

Consider too, that the majority of first-generation Quiverfull Believers were saved out of horrific backgrounds ~ their childhood was often SO outrageously dysfunctional that as children they longed for and would have been exceedingly grateful for the sort of lifestye which they’re providing for their own families. Let me explain.
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Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 2: Expectations

[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughters by the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]
by Vyckie

Proverbs 22:6 says: Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Damn ~ I really hate that verse. Let me tell you why.

1) It is from this proverb that we Quiverfull moms got the idea that through diligent training we could ensure our children would become mature Christians firmly grounded in the Lord and His word. Of course, we all know that God has no grandchildren ~ our sons and daughters must come to their own faith in Christ ~ still, there is a promise implied in Proverbs 22:6 which leads QF parents to believe that by our intimate involvement in their day-to-day lives, we can influence our children for righteousness.

So we try.

2) It is from this same verse that our children get the idea that their adult future is our responsibility. I don’t think we ever blatantly taught our daughters that their marriage, their career (or lack thereof), their walk with God, their ultimate happiness ~ all are inseparably dependent upon their upbringing ~ but we did teach them the principle of authority … and with authority comes responsibility. If Quiverfull parents are going to claim the authority to guide and direct our daughters’ education, training, choice of a mate, career path (or lack thereof), and even their daily devotions and quiet time ~ then are we shocked when these same daughters blame the parents when things don’t work out and they are struggling?

In other words ~ we can’t say, “Mom & Dad are to be the primary influence over our children’s education” unless we’re also willing to be fully accountable when those children are in some ways unprepared for higher education, the marketplace or domestic duties due to gaps in their learning. We can’t spend years teaching our daughters to trust and expect their parents’ intimate involvement in their choice for a life mate, and later, when as young women, they are in relationships which are necessarily messy and imperfect, say, “Don’t blame me because you are unhappy!”
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Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 1: Sincerity

[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughters by the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]
by Vyckie

Stacey McDonald, author of “Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters,” has set up a new website devoted to responding to Hillary McFarland’s “Quivering Daughters” book and website.

As one who embraced the idea of trusting the Lord with my family planning and devoted myself to raising up polished “arrows” fit for the Lord’s service ~ “Raising Maidens of Virtue” was a much-referenced book in my large collection of “biblical family” materials. I loved the title. The words “Feminine Loveliness” filled my imagination with visions of my five lovely daughters whom I wanted above all to be wholesome, carefree, healthy-minded, devoted, steadfast, and full of joy ~ secure in my love and in the love of the Lord.

The reason I was so enamored of Stacey’s writings is because, like Stacey, I had experienced a less-than-ideal childhood ~ a broken family, abuse, insecurity ~ and I wanted to spare my own children as much of that sort of pain as possible. I believe that’s the motivation for the majority of parents ~ and especially Christian parents who adopt the Quiverfull ideals ~ homeschooling, courtship, sheltering children, stay-at-home daughters, etc.

On her Steadfast Daughters site, Stacey shares some very painful memories of her own agonizing childhood ~ reading her account, my heart went out to Stacey. All those feelings of intensely desiring to protect my children from all the hurt, the uncertainty, the cruelty and the indifference of “this world” ~ my determination that things would be different for me and my children overwhelmed me and for a moment, I was back in my old Quiverfull reality.

So I will admit to feeling nostalgic and surprisingly sympathetic to the mother’s-heart senitment which I read on the Steadfast Daughters website. I believe Stacey and the other SD contributors when they repeatedly claim to love the Lord and their children ~ I believe as parents, they have the best of intentions ~ they are intelligent, kind-hearted, caring Christians who only desire to give their ALL for the sake of bringing up a quiver full of children for the glory of the Lord.

I think Hillary ~ whose Quivering Daughters outreach is proving to be a considerable challenge, bringing much-needed balance and perspective to the “Virtuous Daughters” ideal ~ would agree that Quiverfull mothers such as Stacey have noble motives. They certainly have not chosen these incredibly grand ideas and the demanding lifestyle for the sake of their own convenience or from lazy, ignorant, or selfish hearts. They’re not doing it because it’s fun ~ or because it is their first preference or only alternative. These moms are sincerely convinced that they are doing the Lord’s absolute best for their families. Hillary understands and recognizes that QF parents do love their children ~ and for that reason, the tone of her book is incredibly gentle and her accounts of abuse are often understated.

It’s a dilemma which all survivors wrestle with when we write about mental, emotional, and spritual abuse ~ certainly we want to expose the harm in order to warn others and provide refuge for those who are seeking support and comfort ~ but at the same time, we do not want to lash out in bitterness and anger against those who, despite our hurt and suffering, we know to be good people at heart.

That’s why most of the NLQ guest writers share their stories using a pseudonym ~ they leave out identifying details ~ they desire to protect the identity of their family. Quivering Daughters walk a fine line between honoring parents and telling the truth about their experience of the QF/P family life.

One theme which pervades the Steadfast Daughters website could be summarized this way:

We, your parents, mean well. We love God and we love our children. We strive to do our very best ~ but we are not perfect ~ sometimes we mess up and we unintentionally hurt our children. Please don’t let our mistakes lead you to bitterness and hatred ~ hold fast to the Lord ~ forgive and forebear.

What makes the Quiverfull teachings especially pernicious is the unlikely, but unmistakable combination of very good intentions and really, really bad ideas.

Since “waking up” from the Quiverfull dream world ~ I’ve spent a lot of time and brain power puzzling over this: Sincerity and good intentions should count for something.

How many times as a fundamentalist Believer did I hear a preacher or teacher say, “It’s possible to be sincerely wrong!!”?

I do not want that to be true.

Of all the teachings which I no longer believe ~ this is the one I’d most like to be a complete and total lie.
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I Am So Much More Than a Maiden of Virtue! Part 3 ~ Biblical Chastisement

by WanderingOne

At this point, I think it’s necessary to write something about how things changed after my sister was born. It’s hard to know what to say here—I do not want to tell my sister’s story for her, nor could I presume to do so. But it would be disingenuous to attempt to write about my life without explaining how and why things changed. My little sister was, in so many ways, my opposite. Where I was shy, quiet, reserved and even timid, she was outgoing, bold, adventurous, and confident. I went to her Sunday School class rather than my own; I followed her lead in so many things, even though I was the older of the two of us. This didn’t always work very well, given that I was supposed to watch her and keep her out of trouble.

My parents saw that and while they were glad that my sister was drawing me out of my shell a little bit, they were also very concerned. My sister, they decided, was stubborn, compulsive, and strong-willed—and she was going to influence me to be the same way. Whereas I mostly demurred to my parents and obeyed cheerfully, my sister always wanted to know “why”? She was determined to do things her own way sometimes, like any normal child. Looking back, I really don’t think my little sister was particularly strong-willed or stubborn. She was a normal girl, with a bright, vibrant personality—who was, from a very young age remarkably self-assured and comfortable speaking her mind. But my sister’s strong will had disastrous results.

My parents decided that what they had done with me would not work with my sister—a new method was needed. And so, they read James Dobson’s book about the strong-willed child, and then discovered Michael and Debi Pearl’s book To Train up a Child. Pearl advocates what he refers to as “Biblical Chastisement,” that is punishing children through the use of a rod, quoting Proverbs 13: 24 as a prooftext: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (KJV) Pearl encourages parents to “chastise” (not punish—as if there is some enormous difference!) using a “rod.” He suggests using 1/4 inch plumber’s supply line, to administer the chastisement. And suggests that parents discipline children for everything from crying as infants (an attempt to manipulate parents) to grabbing for something placed within their reach without first receiving permission to normal childhood disobediences. My parents had always employed spanking to discipline us, but what the Pearls advocated went far beyond that. But going beyond normal discipline and spanking, they decided, was exactly what my sister needed.
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