October 22, 2014

quivering-daughters[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughtersby the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]

by Daisy

My name is Daisy.

I am a good person…but I was a bad parent. (more…)

October 21, 2014

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

by Daisy

I was only 19 when I arrived at Christianity’s door, bruised and highly impressionable and, because of my family situation, determined to do a better job of sorting out my life than my parents had done. Victims of abuse in their own homes, my parents had learned very early to dissociate from their emotions. Our home was an emotionally sterile one and, although I know now that this is not true, as as child I believed my parents did not love me. I decided that when *I* had kids, if they grew up knowing nothing else, they would know for sure that I loved them more than breathing. (more…)

October 21, 2014

quivering-daughtersIn light of the painful situation in the Jeub family we’re revisiting mothers apologies to Quiverfull daughters:

by Vyckie Garrison

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

October 15, 2014

quivering-daughtersby Vyckie Garrison

While still in the denial stage of dealing with their adult children’s experiences of emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse, Quiverfull parents often get distracted with attempts to define “abuse” or make comparisons and to say, “You don’t realize how hard I had it when I was your age!” (more…)

October 14, 2014

quivering-daughtersby Vyckie Garrison

Along with appeals to “sincerity,” many Quiverfull parents, when their children push back, will be tempted to minimize abusive parenting practices by pointing out that “there are no perfect parents.” It’s true … we ALL screw up!

But when things don’t work out so well for those of us who presumed to lead and to offer up ourselves and our children as examples of a “godly family” for other Christian families to follow, we don’t all the sudden get the luxury of obscurity, we don’t get to blend in with the crowd of imperfect people. “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

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

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!”

This is Steadfast Daughters’ dilemma: books such as “Raising Maidens of Virtue” inculcate an expectation of higher standards, better-than-average daughters who excel in every way. It is not only the QF Moms who have these highly idealistic expectations ~ our daughters catch the vision and they’re trusting in the Lord to work His will in their lives as they submit to His established authorities ~ i.e., Mom & Dad. So when the Quivering Daughters deal with hurt, disappointment, despair (all of which are common experiences in all families ~ not just Quiverfull homes, as Steadfast Daughters repeatedly points out) ~ Stacey and her guest bloggers want to say, “So we’re not perfect ~ there are no perfect parents ~ don’t blame us!”

It is true that girls in every family experience abuse to varying degrees ~ regardless of their religious beliefs, non-beliefs or admitted confusion. The difference is ~ Quiverfull families have a clearly stated objective of raising morally and spiritually superior daughters. Non-quivering families say, “Let’s all do our best and that will be good enough.” Mary Pride calls that “No-Fault Parenting” and says it is shameful. In Quiverfull homes, there is no such thing as “good enough.” The children are expected to be superior ~ and the parents are expected to be superior too.

This sets the stage for big-time disappointment all around.

Children who have been raised with unrealistic expectations will not let their imperfect parents off the hook as readily as kids raised in regular families. “To whom much is given, much will be required.”  We taught this to our daughters … taught ‘emdiligently ~ remember?! ! Let’s not be surprised that these young women have learned their lessons well.

Caveat:

This post should not be construed as saying anything negative about the book Quivering Daughters or about how its author speaks of her parents. Many, many “Quivering Daughters” do blame Quiverfull teachings and treat their parents with compassion and understanding, as Quivering Daughters does, and these women do their best to shield their parents and their parents’ identities when speaking or writing of these matters publically.

However, there are many ex-Quiverfull mothers who do find themselves dealing with older daughters (and sometimes sons) who are extremely angry ~ they lash out at their mothers ~ blaming, refusing to understand and/or forgive. I am finding that this is often a necessary part of the process of leaving the cultic mentality. It is very painful ~ but at the same time, we ex-QF moms recognize that the enmeshment which is part of the Quiverfull experience sometimes necessitates that our children go through this. Because they were never permitted to establish their independence in their teenage years, it’s as if they must do it now, in their mid- and late-twenties. It is the spiritually abusive Quiverfull teachings that we moms blame for this, as well.

We have already discussed Steadfast Daughters on the old NLQ forum ~ comments for this post are open below.

This series is written by Vyckie Garrison with the help of many ex-QF moms on behalf of Quivering Daughters.

Part 1

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M Dolon Hickmon




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October 14, 2014

quivering-daughtersby Vyckie Garrison

In light of recent revelations by Cynthia Jeub regarding her Quiverfull upbringing, I’ve been revisiting a series of articles in which the former-Quiverfull moms of No Longer Quivering collaborated to give a response to Christian fundamentalist parents who cannot believe or accept that their diligent and wholehearted implementation of the “biblical” family worldview and lifestyle could actually be abusive and harmful to their children. (more…)

December 17, 2010

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


by Daisy

My name is Daisy.

I am a good person…but I was a bad parent.

Tragically, by choosing QF/patriarchal fundamentalist methodology as the pattern for my home, believing that it would provide the very best insurance against messing up with parenthood, I messed up. I messed up badly. I hurt my kids and, worse, I silenced them when they tried to tell me about it. Criticizing your parents is, of course, disrespectful and therefore opening a dangerous door that may lead a child ultimately to rebelling against God – and as I believed that put my child in danger of hellfire, of course, I conscientiously nipped dissent in the bud at every opportunity.

As it happens, my eyes were just opening to the dreadful truth that QF had sold me a bill of goods when my oldest child found her voice. I was on the way out of QF teaching,  patriarchal Christianity and my marriage when that beautiful daughter tried to describe her pain to me by starving herself almost to death. Shortly after she began her lengthy treatment for anorexia, another of my children found a way to tell me that her soul was in agony. A razor blade and a veritable hill of pills were her loud-hailer.

If you, like me, raised your children in QF until at least their early teens, you may have  already had to endure the sorrow of watching your children rise up and call you Monster, or at least, Failure. If you haven’t yet, it is my opinion that, you probably will. And, believe it or not, this is a good, good thing. I do hope your child does not need to resort to the dramatic acts my oldest two did in order to gain your attention, in fact, I would plead with you to listen to them well before that becomes necessary. But I want to encourage you with this:

As parents we should not be afraid of the volume or power or ugliness of the moment – or indeed the many moments – when our child finds her young adult voice. What we really should be afraid of is her silence. That compliant 25-year-old looks and sounds like an adult, but she has a 12-year-old soul. Like the tiny feet of Chinese girls crushed and tightly bound in rags by well-intentioned parents to prevent their healthy growth, that child may be the victim of a sort of a ‘soul-binding’. This disastrous mistake may have doomed her to endure both a crippling emotional agony and an ongoing rage that her mother could dare to insist that such a violent and abusive act was perpetrated because of love.

The Terrific Twos

Children are usually very young when they begin to realize that they exist as a separate entity to their parents. Child development theorists call this the Separation-Individuation phase. A child becomes aware that they are not their parent but a separate ‘self’ all of their own. Here begins the life-long process of exploring what that means.

At least, the child *should* be off and adventuring along that path that leads to independence. But QF patriarchal dogma with its emphasis on obedience, submission and the subjection of the will to a higher authority instructs parents to prohibit this phase of their child’s progress to healthy adulthood. When the child says ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want to’ or sometimes even just ‘I don’t like…’ she is told that that is called ‘disobedience’ or ‘rebellion’. Sometimes she is ‘lovingly disciplined’ with ‘the rod of correction’ in order to bring her back to the moral safe ground of absolute obedience to God and her parents.

QF parents are told that if they are consistent in standing firm against the will of their little sinner, training her ‘in the way she should go’, she will ultimately come into line and the family will be spared the inconvenience and humiliation of the so-called Terrible Twos. Good parents – QF parents – will instead enjoy the delights of the ‘Terrific Twos’. They will see daily evidence of the failings of their non-QF peers who struggle to navigate the public humiliation of supermarket tantrums. But QF Mum and Dad will be enjoying their immunity to such dread diseases and can sail past the little kicking, screaming ‘disaster-in-the-making’ with their nice, quiet, compliant toddler in tow. I cringe at the memory of my smugness in such instances.

The ‘Myth’ of Teenage Rebellion

QF doctrine is sold as a cure-all remedy for every childhood ill. In fact, providing parents are the victors in a series of small but important battles, QF domestic life is promised to be one of enduring and delightful felicity. Parents are told that even what ‘the world’ considers inevitable – the dreaded stage of teenage rebellion – can, and indeed must, be circumvented. QF kids are said to go from baby bootcamp to joyous God-serving adulthood without a glitch. It is popular in QF circles to believe that if kids are parented right, they will never rebel at all. This ideal is purported to be the way God has always planned for families.

As happens with other dodgy dogma, gurus seek to add power and credibility to what they already claim is a divinely ordained methodology by building a framework of historical credibility around it. Hence there is a notion in QF that the rebellion of the teen years is a social construct which did not exist until perhaps the late 19th century. Apparently, pre-industrial revolution families endured no such horrors; their children making a smooth and easy transition to productive adulthood. The QF convert is pleased to learn that QF dogma is not a new fangled idea, but rather a returning to the ‘ways of old’, to tried and true methods, proven successful by generations of godly parents.

Frankly, I don’t believe it and I’m in good company: many child development experts don’t believe it either. The truth is growing up is tricky and messy and not for the weak kneed. But then, no journey to a whole new and previous unknown country is easy. Picture the chick breaking out of the egg, or Amundsen striving to reach the South Pole. It’s exhausting, scary, messy, and so dangerous that some of us don’t make it there alive.

In my view, it is a mistake to take the natural, if untidy, process of becoming a functional adult who is in possession of individual ideas, opinions and tastes and confuse it with sin- and hormone-driven rebelliousness. Instead of understanding that establishing an adult identity when in close relationship with parents you love and admire is necessarily one of struggle, when QF kids make noises as they try to wriggle out of the shell of childhood and try to fly off on their own, their indoctrinated parents may imagine them in the fast lane to hellfire. Conscientious QF parents would die rather than desert their hell-bent child in her hour of need – and dutifully trample the seeds of rebellion before they can put down anything like roots. Groanings toward adulthood crushed, the again-submissive young adult takes her place back at the family table, and everyone remarks what a wonderful job those parents have done.

But there is no such praise for the parent who has produced a burgeoning young adult who has found her voice and knows how to use it. This is because success for QF families is measured in the degree to which the young adult offspring adhere to the parent’s body of belief and practice in its entirety. In some QF circles, complete submission and obedience to parents is expected for so long as those parents are alive – no differences of opinion, taste or practice till Mom and Dad are pushing up daisies. None. Or at least none which might disrupt the harmony of the extended family or the illusion that the child has turned out just exactly as her parents planned. This might be OK for those happy individuals who are the product of clandestine cloning experiments, but if you have a teen of the other sort, a normal young adult with opinions and preferences that differ from yours, your cred is fried. You have failed. You lose. No chocolate factory for you, I’m afraid.

The dreadful tragedy here is that the so-called stage of teen rebellion, the time when the young adult takes their largest and perhaps most significant step away from their identity as a child towards one as an independent adult, cannot be totally circumvented. This important developmental stage of individuation can only be delayed. Sooner or later, if that young person is to build an identity of her own and thrive as an adult, she will need to make that break. It’s quite pathetic but sometimes the twenty-something offspring of a QF home will struggle with fear for years before finding the strength to voice their first real ‘no’ to their parents. It’s a milestone they should have passed in their toddlerhood or, at latest, in their teens. Sadly, some of us don’t fully make the transition until we are in middle-age and trying to navigate the same difficult journey within our own dysfunctional patriarchal marriages.

Out with the old…

I suppose it goes without saying that I’m doing life very differently now than I was when I was when my older children broke out of the confines of our family’s authoritarian mold in such a frightening and painful way. We are human so we continue to make mistakes – plenty of mistakes – but there are some significant differences in the way our family life works now. Far be it from me to advise anyone on how to raise their own kids but, as I’ve been asked to write this, I am going to mention three things I consider central to my own life which I hope will help my younger children grow up healthy, and avoid the sorrows their older siblings have had to endure. You will, no doubt, have devised some of your own.

First, I’m taking responsibility for doing my own internal work – I own my own stuff. I have an excellent counsellor. Not a psychologist and definitely not a Christian. She’s a medical doctor who specializes in guiding people as they do their own internal – and largely emotional – work. I don’t know if there is a proper name for what we are doing but I call it ‘awesome’. Together we are dealing with the emotional mess my poor parents bequeathed me: the suppression of emotions, the co-dependence, the fear of failure, the desire to control. We are uncovering how that inheritance was handed them by their parents and ultimately passed right on down to my own precious children.

I understand now that that legacy made my entrance into Christian cult teachings and acceptance of some blatantly counter-intuitive child training models likely if not inevitable. I can even see why I made such a disastrous choice of marriage partner as I did. It’s an exciting journey – and the best part is this: When you deal with your own internal stuff – deal with it, not just suppress it – it goes. And once it’s not there any more, you stop projecting it onto your kids. And, amazingly, that actually solves a bunch of their problems in one fell swoop, no further effort required. This has been a joyous revelation to us all.

Second, I now recognize that my children and I are truly separate individuals and that we always were. I used to see my husband and myself as the trunk of the vine, grafted into the rootstock that is God, and the children as branches curving away from the same source, in a tended and orderly fashion that I could both understand and more or less control. Now I imagine me more like a dandelion and the kids like the seeds in the puffball who will, in their time, burst out and be carried away willy nilly, ultimately to put down their own roots and contribute to the beauty of some distant meadow of their own choosing. Now that we aren’t afraid to think for ourselves, we are learning to trust that each of us is able to make good decisions about all sorts of things. We know we’ll make some mistakes too, but the fear is gone.

Third, because I am growing into a healthy, functional adult myself, and because I don’t share my life with people who want to judge and control me, I no longer desire to control my offspring and call it wholesome parenting. I admit, owning obedient, compliant children and teenagers makes for a convenient and orderly life but when the price is my child’s soul, it is not a game I will choose to play again. Further, I had no idea just how very wonderful my children really were until I met them – raw, without expectation or criticism – just their fabulous selves. *Especially* those dear higgledy-piggledy, angry, courageous, shy, confused, determined, anxious, selfish, generous, frightened, expansive, obnoxious, loving, hateful…. skyrocketing teenaged selves with whom I share a home.

How could I have ever thought that a little army of Daisy clones could be more lovely than a hotch-potch of sparklng, new and completely unique individuals? I shudder to contemplate the fabulous and truly beautiful chaos that I’d be missing right now if I hadn’t come out. My kids are learning that I really do love and accept them just the way they are. The younger ones see me standing on the sidelines cheering as another gorgeous teenager bursts out of her child-shell and flies away free. And despite all they’ve been through, they all are learning to love their wonderful, capable, independent selves and to imagine an exciting and adventurous future in that strange, exciting and as-yet-unseen meadow.

We have already discussed Steadfast Daughters on the NLQ forum here ~ comments for this post are open below.

This series is written by Vyckie Garrison with the help of many ex-QF moms on behalf of Quivering Daughters.

Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World:

Jane Douglas (“Daisy”) was at one time a pastor’s wife, homeschool mum and advocate of QF patriarchal Christianity. She is now none of these things and is instead discovering the joys and challenges of living, loving and learning in a whole new way with her children in their home in Australia. In her spare time Jane works on her university studies and blogs at All the Way Out.

Read all posts by Daisy!

December 14, 2010

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

I was only 19 when I arrived at Christianity’s door, bruised and highly impressionable and, because of my family situation, determined to do a better job of sorting out my life than my parents had done. Victims of abuse in their own homes, my parents had learned very early to dissociate from their emotions. Our home was an emotionally sterile one and, although I know now that this is not true, as as child I believed my parents did not love me. I decided that when *I* had kids, if they grew up knowing nothing else, they would know for sure that I loved them more than breathing.

I became the kind of Christian mother other Christian mothers looked up to in awe. My numerous children were admired wherever they went: smart, lively, godly and absolutely obedient. Women used to call on me and ask advice, yearning to be able to produce the kind of wonderful ‘fruit’ I was enjoying in abundance in my children. I would explain the difference between violent abuse and the loving application of ‘the rod’ which turned children’s little hearts away from sin and toward God. I would explain that I spanked sparingly and always in the context of a warm, loving expansive relationship, as part of a ritual that included healthy confession, repentance, and loving forgiveness. Anyone who knew my kids could see that following these biblical parenting principles was paying off big time.

As committed as I was to following the principles I’d come to believe would help me to raise wonderful and godly children, and as invested as I was in the outcome, I was blind to the true state of my children’s hearts. Forbidding certain, and indeed numerous, beliefs and practices which I now see were absolutely benign didn’t make my children lose their taste for them as I thought it would – it just drove them underground. In order to indulge perfectly normal, harmless preferences and cling to some semblance of separate identity, my children were forced to construct a secret inner life to which I had no access and which, of course, added considerably to their guilt burden.

Despite many, many lessons about the love and forgiveness of a generous heavenly Father, I realize now that my children were not able to reconcile the horrors of personal guilt and the fear of punishment against abstract concepts such as Christian integrity and the grace of God. In an effort to explain the kindness and extent of a grace so great it could save even sinners like us, I inadvertently buried my older children in the shallow grave of shame, self-loathing, and later, deep, deep rage. They came to be appalled at the lurking sin monster that evidently resided in their hearts, and endured an abiding self-disgust that their natural bents seemed often to be precisely what God deemed evil.

My older girls were damaged in particularly sad ways. QF standards of modesty caused them to wonder just what was so disgusting or dangerous about their bodies that they needed to keep them so carefully under wraps. Witnessing my unreasonably energetic efforts to submit to their father, my girls learned that even when a man is stupid, petty and a bully, God wants Christian women and their children to bear it with a smile and a prayer. I taught them that heroic hypocrisy was more important than honest misery. Their determination not to repeat my marital nightmare ultimately caused them to question their sexual orientation. Frustrated in the belief that the whole world was conspiring to strip them of their sense of self and squeeze them into a mold for which they were not fitted, my daughters generated lakefuls of underground anger which eventually exploded into terrifying geysers of self-destructive energy.

But I was oblivious to this at the time. I adored my children, poured my life out for them, and simply could not imagine that my best and most sincere efforts at applying what was, after all, God’s methodology might be harming them in anyway.

But it was.

While I thought I was training my children for godliness; they thought I was denying them the right to exist as independent and valuable entities. I thought I was shielding them from evil; they felt I was controlling their every breath. Although I knew I loved them more than my own life, they believed that they were to be sacrificed to a domineering God they already knew for certain they would not choose to serve.

I am certainly not perfect but I can truthfully say I was a near-perfect example of QF parenting techniques kindly and lovingly applied. I was getting it *right* and my kids were nearly destroyed by it – one of them almost lost her life before my eyes were fully opened. Of course there were other factors, my children’s personalities, their father’s legalism, my mistakes, but the fact remains: if you ask my young adult children what hurt them the most, it was the very elements that are still held up as ideals in QF circles that caused profound and lasting damage – the ‘loving discipline’, the sheltering, the super-high standards, the training in godliness, the microscopic control.

Fingers in my ears

I know that when I was in QF, before my children’s pain became so huge that they couldn’t keep it out of sight, if I had read a post like this, two mechanisms would have come into play. First, I would have re-read the post and searched for evidence that this woman was not like me, that she was laboring under a different methodology, or clearly had sin issues which were the true cause of her apparent catastrophic failure as a parent. I’d have spotted that she didn’t manage to pull off biblical wifely submission and have sighed with relief. She was flawed. Those terrible things wouldn’t happen to me and mine. We were *really* doing things by the Book.

But nagging doubts would trigger the second mechanism: fear. I would secretly begin to dread that despite all my excellent efforts, despite the tireless application of biblical principle, despite the dying to self, despite all my sheltering and all my training, that it may just be a little too early to call my fruit ‘good’. Maybe even a QF guru like me could produce a child who would ultimately ‘depart from the way he should go’.

But the cure for those fears was simple: I’d redouble my efforts, re-read those books and remind myself of little principles I’d inadvertently let slip. I’d increase the scope and extent of my prayer and Bible study regimes. I’d make the whole family miserable with my missionary zeal. And I’d know better than to go reading disturbing websites where disgruntled failures got to vent their spleens.

Here, take this shovel

So let me help you dig. There *were* aspects of my personality that made me a dangerous prospect for QF parenting dogma. I was a relatively new Christian when I first came to QF, pathetically malleable and earnest in my desire to be as pleasing to God as it was possible to be. If you told me how I could achieve that end, I would go for it, outstripping the very authors of the latest ‘life-transforming’ best-seller in my zeal. From this distance, what used to look like whole-hearted if slightly extreme religious enthusiasm now seems pathological.

Further, as I’ve already mentioned, I’d learned from my parents to behave beautifully while suppressing annoying and inconvenient emotions. My parents had both learned this skill from my grandparents who, in turn, each grew up with religious, rod-waving fathers. My Mom and Dad, determined not to repeat the mistakes of their forebears, rejected religion and almost never spanked us kids, but suppressed their demons by denying that an emotional being existed inside any of us. We simply didn’t do emotions at our house. Because of this, ‘putting on the mind of Christ’ and ‘bringing all things under his subjection’ were easy for me…in so far as that meant faking it (and very nicely too) until I made it. For someone like me, fundamentalist Christianity constituted an institutionalised hypocrisy. I fit right in.

Another trait that contributed to the picture was my naturally rebellious nature. Like my father, I’d grown up swimming against the mainstream. Dad had rebelled against his parent’s rigid religious conservatism, I rebelled against his empty secularism. Diving into the conservative Christian pool was, to me, a radical act of self-assertive rebellion. So was moving from relatively orthodox Christianity into super-conservative QF fundamentalism. That natural rebelliousness, combined with what I now see as an inherent self-righteousness, meant I was perfect fodder for a modern-day gnostic cult. I liked having access to special top-shelf knowledge about super God-pleasing practices. And I was going to throw all my energies into being good at them.

Most importantly, I think, was my burning desire to raise great kids – healthy, whole and loving the God they would joyfully choose to follow. The very worst thing I could possibly imagine was that one of my children would not follow me to heaven. I loved my children and my God so much – to think that we wouldn’t be together for eternity was more than I could bear to contemplate. Fortunately, I believed I had found a fool-proof plan that would ensure an excellent outcome. Others had been before me and they had left a trail of books and articles for my instruction. I consumed them with fervor. A zealous love for my kids, and an irrational fear of potential outcomes were further cultivated as I consumed QF dogma making me increasingly susceptible to slavishly accepting and applying QF methods in my home. Scaffolding our lives with the framework of the ‘old ways’, as those QF authors had done – just as they said the Book advocated – would not only give my kids a wonderful childhood but prepare them for a happy, fruitful Christian adulthood. Or so I then believed.

I am not saying that anyone who practices QF methodology is going to have such a disastrous time of it as we did. With all my heart I hope that other children and their mothers do not suffer as we have. But I now believe that QF ideals need to be handled with extreme caution. It is my view now that patriarchal Christianity and QF fundamentalism, just as they are and at their best, can be destructive of children’s souls. I would give anything if I could go back and undo the damage QF patriarchal fundamentalism and I inflicted on my children.

The light at the end of the tunnel

The past three years the kids and I have spent picking through the wreckage and deciding what’s salvageable and what we want to leave where it lies. Almost all of my energies have been devoted to helping my oldest children navigate their way out of what had become crippling, mental prisons, holding their hands as they take baby steps towards some kind of healthy adulthood. It’s been a horrifying journey but it’s been a much more honest one.

Life for my younger children is very different to that their older siblings endured. They enjoy the opportunity of exploring who they are and who they’d like to be. They are free to have their own opinions and emotions, to disagree and to make mistakes without it being a moral issue. They are allowed to be themselves. I treasure their childishness, value the messy process of growing up, and acknowledge their uniqueness. We may still screw up, but we’ll do it honestly, on our own terms, and not buried beneath a mountain of finger-wagging disapproval.

Frankly, we’ve still got a hellava long way to go and a veritable valleyful of poop to shovel away. But we are finding our own way out of the horrors of patriarchal fundamentalist Christianity. And just being on that path is truly a wonderful, wonderful thing.

We have already discussed Steadfast Daughters on the NLQ forum here ~ comments for this post are open below.

This series is written by Vyckie Garrison with the help of many ex-QF moms on behalf of Quivering Daughters.

Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World:

Jane Douglas (“Daisy”) was at one time a pastor’s wife, homeschool mum and advocate of QF patriarchal Christianity. She is now none of these things and is instead discovering the joys and challenges of living, loving and learning in a whole new way with her children in their home in Australia. In her spare time Jane works on her university studies and blogs at All the Way Out.

Read all posts by Daisy!

December 12, 2010

[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.

It creates fear—fear of punishment, fear of not performing properly, fear of not receiving approval. And it also creates shame—shame for not measuring up, shame because you, “should have known better,” shame because you failed (again). It creates a relationship based on hierarchy (one is on top, one is an “underling”), a relationship based on power-over (not shared power), a relationship based on, “because God said so,” and not free will or true choice.

These are not things that create an environment in which to grow happy, healthy, richly nurtured human beings.

If I could put that two year old on my knee—and I can’t, because she’s a long way from two now—I would just hug her. I would rock her to sleep at night. I would sing her songs and tell her stories and I’d not see the flames of Hell rising over her head when she failed to perform properly. I’d giggle at her two-year-old antics and I would applaud the development of her brain when she began to understood that she was not me—an understanding often paired with the frequent use of the word, “No.”

Her, “no,” would not mean rebellion to me, but would mean the beginning sparks of awareness—an awareness of her own personhood, an awareness that I would seek to nurture. If she crossed boundary lines, I would gently and lovingly bring her back in—with firmness, if necessary, because sometimes firmness is, but with a distinct lack of fear that her boundary-pushing was because of some sin or desire-to-dominate that I must somehow quell or be responsible for her eternal damnation.

There would also be an atmosphere of respect for all people involved—not a respect demanded only for the authority figure (who may act disrespectfully to others, which is okay, but must always be respected by all underlings, unless they wish to risk punishment), but a respect that is part of the fabric of family life. A respect that is for everybody, for no other reason than because all humans deserve respect.

There would be none of the franticness of “getting it right.” Instead, there would be the easy rolling rhythm of life, her mommy understanding that some days are fun, some days are hard, and most days are made up of smiles and tears and laughter and groans, all mixed into one big cyclical ball we call life…and no amount of franticness changes that.

In closing, if the years go by and my oldest child stumbles onto what I’ve written here, I would like to finish this essay with a letter to that baby that I birthed those years ago:

Baby,

I am so very very sorry. Everything I did, I did out of love. But that doesn’t excuse any of it, nor does it take it away. And I am sorry. There is nothing more important than this, when I look back at the years, that I wish I could go back and do over.

Maybe it seems like I should have known, because mother’s know everything, right? You may not feel like that, but, if you ever do, when you become a mother, you will probably understand just how much I didn’t know.

I was young. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know. I swear to you, I literally didn’t know.

But now that I do, I’m not quiet. I tell the other mommies, when I see them with that book, that its message may cause more harm than good. I tell them my story. I tell them stories of other mommies who followed that book. Sometimes they get mad at me, when I tell them, because the book is often considered, “God’s Way,” and they think it shouldn’t be challenged. It hurts them to have the book’s ideas openly disagreed with.

I tell them anyway. I wish someone would have been brave enough to tell me. When someone finally did, I was angry. I couldn’t believe someone would speak against God…but, slowly, I finally became able to hear them, and when I did, the lights came on and everything changed.

And, as soon as I became aware of a better way, I took it. You remember that, because you were old enough to be aware. We had some interesting talks as I practiced those new ideas on your youngest sibling, didn’t we? What a change! I shared about what I used to think, and why…and why I am doing things a different way now. It made a big impression on you, the idea that everyone deserves respect. It made a big impression on all of us.

Honey, I love you. There just aren’t words strong enough or deep enough to say how much I love you. I’d still happily jump in front of a Mack Truck for you, without even a thought. And as a young mother, I loved you with everything I knew, in every way I knew was best.

I’m glad that “best” evolved and grew into something even better, but I am so sorry I didn’t discover it earlier. I am so sorry that I parented you in a way that wasn’t the best. This letter, and other words like it, are part of my way of expressing that sorrow. I can’t change our past, though I have done and will continue to do everything I can to change our current and future relationship, to do my part to help it be as positive and loving as it can be, a relationship that benefits both of us, a relationship where we each are able to “just be ourselves.” And maybe I can’t go back and re-do the years of my early parenting, but I can work to help change the past for other babies out there who, just like you, don’t need a mommy who is mistakenly thinking that mothering is a war, or that it is loving to make the baby “lose.”

I love you. I am not at war with you. I am your Mommy, so very very proud to be your Mommy, and I will always love you with the same abandoned ferocity that filled my heart the moment you were born.

I’m grateful to be your,

Mommy

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Dear Girls,

I’m sorry my idealism and fanaticism caused you to lose a great deal of your childhood because you had to take on adult responsibilities in order to help your mother cope with your growing number of siblings. I’m sorry you had to bear burdens I was never called upon to bear at your age and that so much of my parenting was devoted to looking good to people in the QF/patriarchal culture than it was to actually dealing with the situations that arose, and the children you were.

I’m sorry you had to leave home at the ages of 15 and 17 in order to escape the heavy burdens and the tyranny that we were forced to live in by a combination of bad theology and worse practice. I’m sorry that your talents and desires were not honored, but instead we tried to force you into a pre-determined mold that we thought was Christianity, but was really nothing more than a cultural phenomena.

I’m sorry for the seven years I lost with you, and the feeling you had of never measuring up and being good enough and that you were finally abandoned by those who should have stood with you. I’m sorry for the loss of fellowship with the other children, the loss of fellowship between us and the substandard education you received because we were so busy trying to get the laundry done, the food made, the housework done that somehow education always came in last. I’m sorry that we decided girls weren’t worth educating as well as boys since our view of you was that you were to be nothing more than breeding stock and helpmeets for whatever husband you had.

I’m sorry that every child got lost in the crowd and that the only way to make sure everyone got some attention somewhere was to buddy up with another sibling they had affinity for. I don’t regret a single child, but I do regret the stupidity that led me to get into such a no win situation.

I’m sorry children, especially because I love you all dearly. Now please learn from my mistakes.

Mom

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Having left the QF movement behind I have had to face how injurious a lot of these teachings were to my family. Part of coming to terms with it has been, for me, to admit to how what seemed like very good ideas at the time were actually abusive, and that I was abusive to my children while carrying them out. That I can place blame on the teachings I so devoutly followed doesn’t mean I don’t own the abuse that I meted out to my family. My children don’t want to hear that what they experienced from me, their mom, wasn’t really me it was Bad Ideas. Bad Ideas didn’t wield the rod. So here is a bit of a confession about how QF was abusive at my hands to my children.

1. I used to smack my children with the rod when they were defiant. I remember very clearly how I would see their defiance and something spiritually dangerous that was in that moment leading them away from God. To continue down that road, in defiance and rebellion against what was only GOOD (my instructions) was not something I wanted for them. I knew if that defiance was not nipped right then and there they would go from defying me about chores or behavior to defying God about the rules he had given us for our lives.. and when they got to that point they were in serious rebellion and might even die from their own misdeeds.

I loved my children. I strove to do my best. I meant well but what I put into action was a really really bad idea. I had to apologize to my older children for hitting them with the rod. They would have every right to call this behavior on my part abuse, because it hurt them physically and emotionally. It did in fact make them secretly very angry.. and what should have been childish outbursts of emotion quickly laughed off or dealt with by being told to go to their room and calm down instead became a huge psychodrama in which MOMMY had to win and they had to give up.

2. I viewed a lot of their quirks and personality differences as character flaws. The one that talked all the time, he needed to stop being so self absorbed. The one that was overly dramatic, she was in sin because exaggeration was no better than lying. The hysterical one that screamed to get her own way every time her older siblings got something first, she was selfish, selfish, selfish. I really worried about that last one, she was seriously flawed in my eyes in a way that scared me. Actually what they really were was children, regular children who could be loud, obnoxious, demanding.. things that regular children grow out of and find tempered by life. They don’t need to be lectured, bible bashed, character trained and prayed over though that is what I thought they DID need.

I loved my children. I strove to do my best. I meant well but what I put into action was a really really bad idea. It meant that the sensitive one felt she could never ever measure up, that she was always a bad person inside. It is very hard to be perfect as an adult, to not be selfish and to always behave well– how much harder is it for children when we not only expect that of them but tell them that God is unhappy with them when they fail? It meant that the hysterical one became sneaky and secretively angry because she was unable to express how she always felt she missed out. It seemed she could never say anything that met with approval so she found other ways to get what she wanted.

My children could easily say they were emotionally abused because what was normal childish behavior and expression was continually met with condemnation and exhortation to change themselves–the message was always Mommy is unhappy with you because God is unhappy with you. What a horrible way to grow up, how incredibly stressful especially for some personalities! Now I have younger children again and I see their “defiance” as simple childish anger, their sensitivities as perhaps needing some more sleep! It’s not sin, it’s human beings in a young stage of development. With my younger ones I actually laugh at behavior I would have felt needed to be stamped out with the older ones.

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I would like to apologize for trying to fit you into my black and white box. You are made of colors and shapes. I am glad that you want me in your life now. You are gracious and kind. Your little sisters love you so much. I am so glad that you are colors and shapes, because I am only black and white. I can now appreciate and enjoy our differences instead of trying to make you a carbon copy of me.

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For My Daughters:

As your mother, I’m heart-breakingly sorry for your Hesitant Years. All those years when, just because you were little girls, you waited for cues from a male instead of being your strong, beautiful, strident selves. How should I look, daddy? How should I walk and talk, daddy? How should I feel, daddy? Is this okay? Tell me my politics. Tell me my religion. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Tell me what to believe and I’ll believe it.

You learned it from me. You learned to hesitate. You learned that to be female is to forever be casting sidelong glances at the dominant male, wondering whether he approves, letting him define you in every imaginable way—because that’s what your mother did, every hour of every day. Your true qualities, your true selves, lay dormant. Your brothers could say what was on their minds, within limits, but you never could. It was unladylike. You were squelched.

A kinder, gentler Quiverfull/patriarchal father would have been just the same. I hope you know that. It isn’t a manner of bad manners, or wrong approach.  Nice Christian patriarchs and tyrannical ones start with the same spirit-killing principle. Girls should be raised differently from boys. Girls should submit. Girls should be quiet. Girls should be less. Whether this imaginary kind Christian good-guy dad of yours called it “different roles” or “male protection” or whatever he called it, every three-year-old girl in the world who is born with a strong spirit and a strong will knows instinctively what this lesson means. It means she is less than a boy.

I remember the first times your toddler spirits were squelched, when you got the Lecture that every little girl knows in her heart to be complete crap, even if couched in terms of God and the Bible, and your spirits rose against it. I remember your little protests and your huge hurt eyes. I remember helping your father to put those protests down. And I am so sorry, my lovely ones.

We found our own selves together, though, once we got away. Like smugglers, we were secretly harboring music and art and public speaking and athleticism and argumentativeness and theater and bad tempers and extreme distaste for housework. We shed what seemed like a ton of guilt and shame and fear. And now here we are. We are we. We have no claims pending for sainthood. We quit grinding our wheat and our wills down to powder. We doubt and misbehave and freak out just like men do. We fall back on love and a deep respect for people as just people. Just folks.

Besides, you know what your future stepfather does whenever anybody mentions women submitting to men, for religious or any other misguided reasons. He laughs from the bottom of his belly; he laughs from the bottom of his heart. That laugh is the sound of reality and truth. Let’s all have a good laugh together. Let’s vow, as fellow women moving forward in this unsaintly wacky family, that we may mess up huge from time to time. We may fail God and each other and all humankind.  But there is one thing we will not do. We will never hesitate again.

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A ubiquitous theme at Steadfast Daughters is this question of “What do you mean by abuse?” ~ here you have our response. It is our hope that Quiverfull moms will take our accounts of the abuse we inflicted on our daughters to heart, stop and think whether you might unintentionally be hurting your children in similar ways.  Please don’t wait until it all falls apart and you find yourself in divorce court. Don’t wait until your daughters are so damaged and broken that they are self-harming and/or refuse to have any contact with you.  Don’t wait until your faith is so shaken that you cannot bring yourself to pick up a bible or even whisper a prayer for God to help you. And please do not make the mistake of thinking, “It’ll never happen to me.”

We have already discussed Steadfast Daughters on the NLQ forum here ~ comments for this post are open below.

This series is written by Vyckie Garrison with the help of many ex-QF moms on behalf of Quivering Daughters.

Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World:

Read all posts by Vyckie Garrison

December 9, 2010

[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.

Compared to the creepy “step-dads” who raised me, Warren was a total sweetheart.  He didn’t drink or use drugs, he didn’t gamble away our grocery and rent money, he didn’t cheat on me, never flew into jealous rages, never drug me across the floor by my hair or kicked me in the ribs with cowboy boots as I’d seen Mom’s boyfriends do to her.  True, he yelled A LOT ~ and he was exceedingly nit-picky ~ yes, he made us all crazy with his endless lectures ~ and he micro-managed all of our lives right down to our thoughts and intentions.  In fact, in most ways, he acted as though he was God to us ~ every aspect of our lives revolved around him ~ or else!  But, hey ~ at least he wasn’t wanted for murder like Mom’s old boyfriend, Spider!  And to make it all the more complicated, none of us doubted that Warren loved us.

My children did not grow up with the same chaos that I did ~ they were raised in a loving, Christian home.  They did not have my tiny measuring stick by which all that was necessary to pass muster was that a man not try to kill or rape his wife and children.  So they did not feel grateful that Dad was not in prison or dead from a drug overdose ~ they only felt oppressed and tyrannized based on THEIR experience.  Their natural boundaries and self-protective mechanisms had not been obliterated through years and years of extreme abuse ~ which means they remained sensitized to their father’s inappropriate behavior which ~ though mild by comparison to much of what my mother, my sister, and I were subjected to ~ was nevertheless very real and seriously damaging abuse.

Here’s another thing ~ none of the neglect and abuse which I dealt with as a child was tied up with my spiritual well-being.  I was not raised in a Christian home ~ and although I did know that God wanted me to honor my parents ~ I never felt that they represented God to me or that disobedience and defiance of parental authority was equal to rebellion against God.  When those who are supposed to be nurturing and loving hurt you ~ that alone is devastating enough ~ but when you mix in God and concern for your eternal soul ~ it’s really too much for any child to process.  There are no words to describe the pain and confusion.

The bottom line for Quiverfull moms: if your daughter feels and believes that she has been misused, abused, or neglected ~ IT’S A PROBLEM.

When Quivering Daughters express hurt, depression, self-loathing ~ when they hate themselves and harm themselves and want to kill themselves ~ it’s not the time to split hairs over definitions, it’s not the time to say, “What about me? ~ my childhood was so much worse!” ~ it’s not the time to explain how you are doing everything you do for all the right reasons ~ and it’s not the time to play the “nobody’s perfect” or “don’t let yourself become bitter” cards.

When our daughters tell us they’re hurting ~ we need to listen to their complaints; keeping in mind that the primary reason for living the Quiverfull lifestyle is to spare our children the trouble and turmoil of an abusive family life. We hated the chaos of our own abusive homes ~ it made us feel horrible and we vowed not to put our own children through that kind of misery. If they’re telling us they feel horrible too ~ it’s time to stop and reconsider if what we’re doing truly is the means of achieving our goal. The ideals we’re counting on to assure our daughters’ well-being must never become more important than our daughters’ actual well-being.

All this is not to say that Quivering Daughters’ charges of abuse are merely a matter of perspective ~ only to say that THEY ARE THE ONES who get to determine whether they have been abused. In part 4, we, the ex-QF moms of NLQ, will share specific examples of how we hurt and harmed our children because of the abusive QF/P teachings which we believed and practiced on our children.

We have already discussed Steadfast Daughters on the NLQ forum here ~ comments for this post are open below.

This series is written by Vyckie Garrison with the help of many ex-QF moms on behalf of Quivering Daughters.

Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World:

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