Sadness, Not Bittnerness

Sadness, Not Bittnerness June 24, 2011

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong ideas about me or my childhood. My parents held the beliefs of Christian Patriarchy, yes, along with many of the beliefs of the Quiverfull movement, but I didn’t spend all of my free time cooking and cleaning, I had plenty of friends, and I received an excellent education. My parents are truly wonderful people, and in many ways I aspire to be like them. My mother had limitless energy, moving effortlessly and cheerfully from one task to another. My father was always learning something new, and always involving us children in learning it too. My dozen siblings and I built forts, created imaginary worlds, went swimming together in a nearby pond, and altogether got along fairly well. Life was a wonderful adventure, full of happy memories. My parents even sent me away to college, confident in my ability to stand on my own two feet. I don’t want anyone here to think that I am blogging because I am bitter or angry at my parents or my upbringing, or that I had some sort of Dickensian childhood. I’m not and I didn’t.

I blog not because I’m angry at the past, but rather because in retrospect I see problems with the past, problems with my parents’ Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull beliefs that I did not see at the time. I’ve blogged about these problems here and here and here and here.

But more than that, I blog because these beliefs took that idyllic childhood and destroyed it when I came of age. After I had left for college I began to formulate my own views, and at around the same time I met a young man. And with that, the whole thing fell apart. Everything I thought my parents would never be, they were. Everything I thought my parents would never do, they did. I couldn’t believe what had happened, and couldn’t understand how my wonderful home had turned into a living nightmare.

Christian Patriarchy places an extraordinary emphasis on children’s conformity and obedience even in adulthood, and when I refused to conform or obey, my beautiful childhood suddenly disappeared. I realized that I was realistically choosing between freedom to be who I wanted, do what I wanted, and believe what I wanted, and my wonderful, happy, awesome family. I knew that if I chose freedom, there would always be a wall between me and my parents, between me and my younger siblings, and between me and the happy home I had always called my own. But having once tasted freedom, I could not go back. And so I turned around and walked away and tried ever so hard not to look over my shoulder and think about what I was leaving behind.

I understand my parents’ concern for me, and I understand that they loved me. They didn’t want me to make a marriage I would regret and they didn’t want me to lose my salvation through bad doctrine. I get that. But ultimately, kids have to be allowed to grow up and make their own decisions. Yes, even daughters! Christian Patriarchy does not handle that growing up process very well. It dictates that daughters must obey fathers and that wives must obey husbands, and mandates that women’s place is in the home, not outside of it. There is no flexibility, no room for compromise. Christian Patriarchy places correct doctrine and obedience over love and kindness. It seeks to turn children into copies of their parents in belief and deed, and when that does not happen, it holds them to be a failure. I’ve blogged about this problem here and here.

I’m not bitter at my parents, and I’m not ungrateful for all they did for me. Instead, I’m simply sad that it had to be this way, and I wish with all my heart that my parents had not fallen prey to Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull beliefs. If only they had been okay with their children growing up and choosing their own beliefs and their own paths in life. If they had, my idyllic childhood would not have suddenly collapsed leaving me to look around in bewilderment and wonder what had happened. And this, I think, is a major problem with the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull mindset. What I feel, then, is sadness for what might have been, not bitterness for what was. And that is why I blog.

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