It was a bright and sunny day and we were tourists on the streets of Chicago. I hadn’t seen my mom and her husband for three years, since before my deconversion. I was living in Honolulu and they were living in Arkansas. I had business in Chicago so we ended up meeting there.
At first we just enjoyed each other’s company. My mom and I have moments that are just pure mother-and-daughter-getting-along. They are few, far between, and short lived because my mom always has an agenda. Of course she uses Christianity to get her agenda across.
Somehow the topic of how strict and overprotective she and my dad were came up .
I was raised attending annual Bill Gothard seminars once I was of age to do so. My folks loved how he taught complete obedience to parents, and used his teachings to control me and my older sister. In my early twenties I thought about finding a roommate and moving out of my parents’ home. My mom quickly explained the problem with that using Gothard’s illustration of the umbrella of protection.
You see, God put your dad over you as protection, and if you don’t have a dad then it would be your pastor, or if on the mission field then the man in charge of the mission. And when you leave that umbrella of protection you are open to attack from the devil. So if I moved out from under my God-given protection, I would likely be murdered, or even raped. That was the way she always put it, murdered, or even raped, said with extremely serious drama.
My parents also had a knack for getting rid of any guys who might have been interested in me. There were times I wondered about that, but thought I just imagined it, until an old friend I had been in love with for years told me my parents were scary and that’s why he–and others–kept a certain distance from me.
I was taught that sex outside of marriage was one of the worst sins a person could commit. It may not have been said exactly like that, but it was mentioned enough and other “loose” girls were used as examples, so the message was clear. My whole life was built upon pleasing the Lord. My sister and I are very different but she was also a dedicated Christian. Both of us fully believed in waiting until marriage. We didn’t need our parents hovering over us to make sure.
So, there I was on a street corner in Chicago trying to explain this to my mom. I brought up how the scriptures say that without faith we cannot please God, a scripture I heard her quote all my life. I brought up how, once she trained my sister and me in the way of righteousness, it was up to God to keep us and up to her to have faith in him. My stepdad listened the whole time. He’s a United Pentecostal, which is a very strict rule-filled denomination. However, he actually agreed with me.
My mom can get angry, I’ve heard her yell on many occasions, but it was always because the kids were annoying her, and that was when we were little. Other than that my mom knows how to keep her cool. She’s a manipulator and likes to use more dramatic tactics, and tends to be oblivious to others desires not to hear what she has to say. She always finishes her point, which could take hours, and she does so calmly while looking directly into your eyes.
But not this time. My mom threw a temper tantrum, or had a meltdown, or whatever you want to call it. She went wild. Maybe her hair wasn’t flying all over the place but that’s how I see it in my mind. She went off on me, saying that I couldn’t understand what it’s like to have teenagers and try to protect them from the horrible world.
Suddenly, for the first time I can remember, she exposed her fear blatantly on the corner of a busy Chicago street. Her fear trumped her faith in God, something that has always been there, but hidden under a lot of biblical and righteous words. And it was all about sex.
My mom had no problem with my sister and me doing missionary work away from home. Sure, she may have been concerned for our safety, but she did believe God would keep us safe, and besides, it was something she wanted to do. But sex (with guys, my folks knew we were straight), now that was a scary thought! One would have thought that if we did have unwed sex with a dude, we would have burned up on the spot and gone straight to hell, leaving behind a poor distraught grieving mother.
A Classic Case of Projection
As an adult now removed from the situation, I have had time to understand more why my mom was so fixated on her daughters being virgins. I knew back then that she flirted, and seemed too close to certain guys, but I wouldn’t think she’d actually do the abominable act of cheating. She made it clear that my dad hadn’t been physical with her for years, and it isn’t hard to realize she had “cheating” problems herself, if not physically then at least mentally.
My mother was, and is, a firm believer in the idea that men and woman cannot be good or close friends without sexual attraction and temptation. I believe this is because it’s true for her. She’s the type who projects her feelings on others. So if she can’t do it, then no one can. She had sexual struggles, so she figured her daughters would too, and that is what terrified her and drove her to extremes to “protect” us.
For me, even though I was a dedicated virgin until marriage, my mind certainly wasn’t. Sadly, instead of enjoying certain thoughts in the safety of my own mind I always felt condemned and would spend time repenting, frustrated that I kept having to repent and didn’t magically change by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course I had this constant struggle because I was too carnal and not dedicated enough, even though in reality I was about as dedicated as one can get. But there always has to be a reason, and carnality is an oft-chosen sin to blame things on and feel condemned about. It’s the religious scapegoat for what we are naturally supposed to do.
As far as my mother’s answer that I didn’t know what it was like to have teenagers, as if teens automatically run around naked humping everything they see, I did think about it and wonder how I would deal with such issues. I hoped I wouldn’t resort to fear.
My Turn to Be Mom
Well, my daughters have been teens for a while now and I’m still not terrified. Sometimes my daughters are more conservative than I am. I do voice my concerns about sex, like how not using protection can result in a baby, which could result in them not being able to pursue their dreams or at least have to put them off. And I really don’t want to raise more kids; four has been quite enough. But of course if they did get pregnant I would be there for them and help them regardless, and I’ve told them that.
And then there’s my concern over STD’s, another thing I’d like them to avoid. In other words, I would like them to wait till they are mature and educated enough to know that sex is something they want to do, and not have horrible regrets or end up with a jerk.
My oldest is bisexual and I am happy for her. She had a girlfriend a while back and my biggest concern was the girl’s extreme clinginess. I warned my daughter about it and then let it be. After a while they broke up. Teens can be smart if they are allowed to be, and educating them is so much better than protecting them with an imaginary fear bubble that usually causes more harm then good.
While there are always the normal mom worries, like safety and such, I am proud of my daughters and the way they use their brains. Turns out there are teens who look forward to their future and understand that they have to do certain things or avoid certain things in order to get what they want later in life. Some teens need more reminders that the present isn’t forever, but the reminder should be out of love and respect, not terror.
I also want my children, when of age, to enjoy their sexuality without feelings of guilt. I want them to insist on being respected as well as respecting their partner(s). I want sex to be a good experience and good memory for them. I can’t expect everything to be perfect, but I am doing my best to not make it worse because of my own fears and shortcomings.
My mom was sure I would one day be in her shoes, feeling the same fear she did. I’m happy to say the challenge was accepted and my mom was wrong.
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