[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.
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.