My Story – A Heart Like Mine Part 2

My Story – A Heart Like Mine Part 2 December 3, 2014

noraby Nora Woodhouse cross posted from her blog A Heart Like Mine

I was raised as a “modern” Evangelical Christian. But the more I read the more subtle the distinction I find between how I was raised and Fundamentalist beliefs (such as Quiverfull).

I didn’t wear long dresses/or skirts like the women and girls of the Duggar family, however I still had fashion specifications I was required to follow. I was still in many ways made to be lady like and modest, even if it was in pants. I rebelled and pushed this boundary as best I could and with dramatic flair. I even won my battles with mini skirts eventually. Probably due to my parents crumbling relationship; there was something else to distract them from my fashion rebellion. Similar to more fundamentalist beliefs I had little or no ownership over my body. What I did with it including cutting my hair was controlled or hindered by Vaarsuvius and Other Parent. I had to beg for permission to get my ears pierced when Other Parent did not want me piercing any part of my body, even for age appropriate earrings. Some of these things seem small or normal to parent child relationships; but the subtleties and the battles fought daily to be my own person were not small even if they were lumped in with what people considered “normal”.

There was nothing good or normal about how in our Evangelical patriarchal household Other Parent owned us, including our bodies. This was evidenced by their treatment of Vaarsuvius and the fact that they told them once they had made a commitment to on another that Vaarsuvius’s body was now theirs and it was founded in Biblical principals. The structure we lived with supported these ideas and passed them off as normal, it hid the insidious dark underside. Body ownership also meant that I was Other Parent’s object to do with as they willed; they did. I was sexually abused and I am strongly suspicious that Other Child was as well. But even at times this horrific act can be and has been defended by wielding the umbrella of the Bible. If Vaarsuvius was not sexually satisfying and upholding their spousal duty to Other Parent, child sexual abuse could be seen as a natural consequence. In some cases it has. Please reference Christina Enevoldsen and her blog Confessions of a Child Molesters Wife.

Quiverfull is based on the idea of having many children and raising them Godly to be released into the world like a quiver full of arrows to proselytize and convert others to following Christ. Modern Evangelical Christians similarly believe in raising Godly children to be a light in the world, and both sets of ideologies focus on training children to be soldiers of Christ. My family held those beliefs (close to that of Quiverfull) and this was evidenced by their association with the Christian Organization known as the Navigators. This organization focuses on recruitment, training and deployment. They have bases of operation in Colleges to seek out young people who are in the midst of identity upheaval. They preach salvation, identity and purpose. They are are also focused on our Military and have ministries on base. Ideally they recruit and then deploy missionaries across the nation and all over the world. Meet the Missionary Marines Corps. Hoorah.

The only reason that my family was not large had less to do with my parents beliefs and more with circumstances. Other Parent wanted more children and liked the idea of a traditional large family. Vaarsuvius was pushed by Other Parent to follow this more traditional path, but ended up being saved from it due to Other Parents health issues. Somehow they convinced Other Parent that there physical health meant that they could not be a fully supportive parent to a large family and that Vaarsuvius could not do it alone if something happened to them.

The lack of extended numbers of siblings did not stop Vaarsuvius from making me responsible for Other child or throwing me into the role of a caretaker at an early age. Vaarsuvius was a member of a Christian parent preschool group, but I was too old to do any of the programs. So instead of finding someone to watch me they enlisted me to help serve all the children groups their snacks, as well as being additional help as a caretaker for the toddler class or any other class that needed help. I have been taking care of babies and children since I was seven. It didn’t help that I had a natural affinity for connecting with toddlers and infants, this also meant I had to help Vaarsuvius and Other Parent during their Nursery duty at church and when they taught Sunday school to younger children. I didn’t have to be in a family of nineteen and counting to be roped into being a little mother.

This led to the assumption that I would grow up to be a mother. I remember being around the age of ten when Vaarsuvius finally sorted through all of our baby clothes, and had Other Child and I pick out which ones we wanted to keep for our future children. We also picked things that they wanted to pass onto us, and it was neatly packed away in boxes, our stand in hope chests. Eventually we had our own hope chests as well as these boxes stored away for us, beautiful hand crafted family air looms that smelled of cedar and future dreams. Vaarsuvius always assumed that without a doubt I would be married and pregnant someday, and that it is something I would want. I did get married, and the cedar chest is in my home. But it’s a different kind of hope chest now. It stores my favorite personal things, and is my office filing cabinet. And I won’t be passing it down to any children with a wedding trousseau stuffed into it.

I was always fairly quiet, due to nature and the expectation that I be a dutiful child. I cannot remember if I ever saw a copy of To Train Up a Child in our home, but like other christian families we knew that type of philosophy was pervasive. These too were supposedly modern Christians who would probably tell you that they believe themselves to be very different from Fundamentalists. But like my parents they were firm subscribers to Dobson and Focus on the Family. The ideals and philosophies from that ministry are not very different from  fundamentalist ones. The idea that a child should be bent to the will of the parent and to God is not different from that of the Pearls.

Other child and I were to be seen and not heard. We were expected to obey, and do it with a smile. Any hint of an attitude on our part was seen as defiance and resulted in consequences. This was true if you did not behave as expected and embarrassed our parents. I was once punished because Vaarsuvius wanted to introduce me to someone, but I was shy and hid behind them. This was seen as being unruly and embarrassing them and I was duly punished. We were fairly well behaved due to the fear of what would happen to us if we weren’t. This power dynamic did not change much even when we were teens, I was very nearly punished for being ten minutes late for curfew, and almost spanked by Vaarsuvius at sixteen for having an attitude. In fact this power dynamic did not change until recently. As an adult planning my wedding I snipped at Vaarsuvius who was being stubborn and unhelpful and was told “don’t you take the tone with me”.

Vaarsuvius has always called me their compliant child, as Other Child began to show their stripes and distaste for the way we were raised earlier on and in a more vocal fashion. I wasn’t though, I did what I need to do to survive and if that meant playing at being the compliant child so I did not get my butt beat, so be it. But inside I was constantly rebelling, I acutely felt a sense of injustice and was well aware that the way I was raised was often wrong.  Being a good little country girl saved me, it was a face I wore to protect the “Nora” part of me. This blog, and my pen name is named for that part of me. The compliant country girl saved me until I turned eighteen and could walk away.


Nora is a member of the SASBN

More about Nora:

I am a former country girl and abuse survivor. I enjoy blogging because I find it personally therapeutic. It also allows me to share my experiences with others, and bring to light issues of abuse. I am a stay at home writer with a husband and house full of furry critters. I write under a pseudonym for my personal safety as well as to negate any potential legal trouble over sharing my story.

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  • Astrin Ymris

    Re: “…Being a good little country girl saved me, it was a face I wore to protect the “Nora” part of me…”

    I wonder if it occurs to advocates of “total submission” child rearing that one of the consequences can be raising a child that you literally don’t know– and thus being shocked when they leave you at adulthood?

  • Evelyn

    Oh, absolutely! My mother used to tell me she knew me better than I knew myself, but it was like she saw some weird projection instead of who I was/am. They still can’t figure out why I only visit so rarely, and they seem confused when they hear or read about my life, as if it just doesn’t fit into their reality, like I’m a fictional character or something.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I have the same problem. I’m 54 now and my mother is still insisting I fulfill her personal fantasy career, become a lawyer. Not me at all..

  • That is a good point, I am not sure it does occur to them especially if they feel like they are doing it in Godly context! What you are saying makes sense about the parent being shocked later. As Libby Anne has discussed using that type of punishment doesn’t create a kid who is obedient because they understand, but a kid who obeys out of fear. And that same philosophy doesn’t create a kid who develops into themselves, but who the good and obedient child they are supposed to be. So as you suggested it creates that later shock for the parents when the true self of the kid emerges!

  • I know what you mean, it still blows my mind how different my families reality is, and in many ways they are genuinely confused because they are in that dysfunction so deep!

  • Did you ever find this expectation was coupled with her holding you back and keeping you from moving forward at the same time? I always found that expectations were really high but and I was pushed forward by one hand and held back and controlled with the other. Also my parents too had their idea of what a career of value looked like.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I’ve been re-reading Dr. Thomas Gordon’s ‘Discipline That Works’ (alternately titled ‘Teaching Children Self-Discipline’), and it strikes me that a lot of CPM/Quiverfull child raising methods are designed to get around the central weakness Dr, Gordon identifies with punitive discipline– as kids get older, authoritarian parents lose their power to inflict punishments. As Gordon points out, teens can get jobs and earn their own money to get things they want and need, so parents can’t control them by threatening to withhold food, treats, clothing and electronics any longer.

    Unless you’re a modern-day “patriarch”, and refuse to sign a work permit for their adolescents– that’ll keep those meddling kids from having their own resources! And by homeschooling them without a high school diploma and/or GED, you can inhibit them from getting a job AFTER age 18… especially if you never register their birth, so they have no legal existence.

    And if you use Michael Pearl’s approved method for inducing Stockholm Syndrome in your kids, you can keep them trauma bonded to you until your own death– by which time they’ll be middle-aged preschoolers, too frozen by learned helplessness to be able to forge out on their own. But that’s not the patriarch’s problem any longer.

  • The self discipline makes a lot of sense. I think that is why Vaarsuvius had so much control when I was a teenager, I was so well trained and afraid of them and afraid of disappointing them. Your statement about home school has made me rethink their neglect of my education. I always credited it with their not being cut out for it, but who knows maybe it was accidentally on purpose. I will tell you for sure; that portion of neglect has stayed with me, rocked my confidence in the working world, and diminished my marketability. I am still working to patch up the holes. The trauma bonding sounds very familiar too.