Relationships, A Series: Part Eleven — Conclusion, Don’t Brush Off the Next Generation
HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. Part Eleven of this series was originally published on June 18, 2013.
Also in this series: Part One: What Is Courtship? | Part Two: We Were Best Friends | Part Three: The Calm Before The Storm | Part Four: To Lose One’s Best Friend | Part Five: To My Darling Clementine | Part Six: The Storm Starts Brewing | Part Seven: The Five-Year Relationship Plan | Part Eight: The Means To An End | Part Nine: We Made It | Part Ten: I Am A Phoenix | Part Eleven: Conclusion, Don’t Brush Off the Next Generation
Part Eleven — Conclusion, Don’t Brush Off the Next Generation
For the past two weeks, and more, I have been working through Phil’s and my story.
I’ve gotten very interesting feedback. A lot of positive feedback and that seriously has meant a lot. I have felt more sure of myself, our story, and of what Phil and I have especially as I worked through the entire story. Unveiling our story, working out the hardest parts, and writing about the things that went wrong has only further solidified my feelings of why I don’t believe in parent-driven, parent-controlled relationships.
(NOTE: I think what I have to say could make some of you parents who read my blog feeling discouraged or angry. Please know that I am not writing to push anyone’s buttons, point the finger to say you did wrong. I am simply writing what I have observed, what my thoughts are on the topic and where my husband and I sit with this. I know I don’t have kids yet, so maybe my perspective will change, but for right now, I am writing as the child who experienced these things.)
First, I want to give a little background to why Phil and I have reached this point.
One of the biggest difficulties in our relationship prior to marriage was the lack of being taken seriously. Yes, we were and still are young, but we were completely serious and were not taking our relationship or our goals lightly. We both felt very strongly that God had given us each other, and we were 100% committed to getting married.
What was heartbreaking for us was feeling like our parents laughed at us, called us too young.
In my case, my dad brushed everything off and made me feel like I literally was crazy when he in fact didn’t know my own mind or heart. I have heard multiple people call some of my generation and the generations under my generation as the generation that is fading away, that can’t make responsible decisions, or make wise choices.
While I agree that I do not have the perspective of many, many years of life, or the “wisdom from experiences” right now in my life, that does not mean that I am incapable of making good, informed decisions that are wise and exactly what I’m supposed to do right now for me.
While I am not someone who has lived for over 50 years, been through many, many things, and has (hopefully) wisdom from experience, I am someone who has already lived 22 years, I have been through a lot, and my perspective right now is important. I think my perspective is especially important right now because I have not been faced with total cynicism yet, I have not lost the dreams and imagination that makes me me and that comes with youth. I have a fresh perspective that I think as an adult I will lose the older I get unless I keep using imagination, continuing to stretch my mind in creating new ideas.
I have a problem with parents who brush off their children’s dreams, ideas, and experiences.
It creates this idea that children are stupid and can’t think for themselves. The more parents brush off their children, the more that idea gets reinforced.
Am I suggesting that it’s the parents’ fault that young adults can’t seem to make good decisions, be responsible, or even dream? Yes, maybe I am. See, I have a unique perspective. I just went through the child’s side of a relationship, I have been on the other side of parenting. And I expect to be taken seriously because I know that my perspective is not any less important than the parents.
Frankly, I think getting a child’s perspective and not just the parents is important in getting the full picture.
There are at least two sides to every story, so why not go right to the people (and yes, children are people) who are being directly influenced by parenting ideas like parent-driven relationships? Can you see what I’m getting at yet? If a parenting style is shutting down your child (at any age), teaching them that their opinions are unimportant, insignificant, and that mom and dad’s opinions are the only thing that counts, that’s dangerous and has a lot of potential to damage the child’s capability to grow up with a healthy self-worth and a confidence in their own opinions.
Growing up, I learned/taught myself how to read at a very young age. By the time I was ten, I was reading college level books, and understanding them. I worked on stretching my mind, my understanding of my surroundings without really realizing that I was doing that. As I got closer to graduating high school, becoming of age (turning 18) and the potential of being in relationship, I fully and wholeheartedly bought into my dad ruling and controlling who, when, and where I got married.
I bought into this because that was all I knew.
I had no reason to think anything other than that could or even would work. I had no problem letting my dad be my decision-maker, letting him be my heart, mind, and my opinions.
I didn’t realize that letting my parents control an entire relationship from start to finish left no room at all for my own opinions, feelings, or decisions.
It is the equivalent of treating me like a child, a toddler incapable of really making a complicated decision. But even toddlers have opinions and likes and dislikes.
Phil and I will not treat our children and their love interests how we were treated. We believe in letting our children have their own opinions and taking them seriously. We want to be able to raise our children to be fully function adults able to make their own decisions, confident in their own opinions, and able to trust us to help them if they need help.
I know what it feels like to not be taken seriously or to not be heard.
I want to make sure that I document those feelings so I can look back when I have children my age now and remember what it felt like to be their age. I don’t want to forget the perspective I have now. One day, I will most likely have a child who will tell me that I don’t understand and I want to be able to look back and remember.
You will find “Parent-Driven Relationships” most often among Quiverfull and Patriarchy cultures. Especially the homeschooling culture that is tied into these two.
I need to make a specific distinction here.
The usual circumstances for this set-up is when a daughter gets into a relationship, “dad” is especially controlling and protective. Daughters are special property to dads in these cultures, and thus it is usually the father of the daughter who is driving the relationship. It all stems back to the idea that “dad” is “God” in the home.
“Dad” is the ultimate authority, he is the final say on everything, including his adult daughter’s choice of hairstyles (not kidding).
Add in daughters who are unusually, unhealthily complacent and content to stay at home until they are 30+, willing and happily ready to give “dad” total control of their lives and you get a living nightmare of control, abuse, manipulation, and brainwashing. When “dad” drives the relationship, controls everything from which boy/man gets accepted into the precious family fold, to how much time the girl and guy get to talk, spend together, including assigning one or more of the girl’s multiple siblings to play “chaperon” — individual personalities and individual hearts get lost.
This idea for relationships is not only not Biblical, it is not an accurate interpretation of the Biblical ideas it’s supposed to be based on. The Old Testament structure of parent-driven relationships is based on daughters literally being property that is sold and traded for goods, money, and social standings.
Not only are we not in that era anymore, women are not property.
We are whole beings with hearts, minds, and souls, very capable of making wise decisions and holding good, strong opinions.
Now, here is what I think a parents’ role in their children’s relationships should look like. I think it should look like parents respecting their children’s opinions, decisions, hearts, and being there to help, share advice when asked, and to be a trusted person.
I think it’s great that some parents have a relationship with their children that automatically puts them in this situation. But that’s not all parents, all children, all situations. I believe that as a child becomes a young adult, and they start reaching the age of marriageability, and they look for a relationship, only they will know who is the right person for them. A healthy adult will know who is right for them. Phil and I felt frustrated more times than I’d care to recount with older parents, friends, not taking us seriously, not believing how strongly we felt about getting married.
We alienated ourselves from a lot of those people because we couldn’t be ourselves around them.
We felt put down.
I applaud the parents who have healthy, strong relationships with their growing children, and it makes me very happy when I see healthy relationships as the result.
That is good.
End of series.
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Yes the author may have be young, but at 22 she is an adult and definitely old enough to make the decision to get married or to make the decision that she does not feel ready for marriage. My friend’s 19 year old son just married his 19 year old fiance, and while I was not ready for marriage at that age their decision seemed right for them.
I am a 55 year old college instructor, and I have discovered that the key to teaching is to respect my students. They have taught me as much as I have taught them.
You are exactly right. Kids have hearts and minds and are God creations. The Holy Spirit works in and through children and young adults. They need to learn to follow God and live life based on their convictions. I am a Christian homeschool Mom.
Special note, I grew up in a non christian home. I became a Christian at 14. I got engaged at 19 to a Christian young man. His parents were divorced. His Dad was Christian, his mom is pagan, my parents say they are Christian – but don’t act like it and never go to church. All three sides were completely against us getting married. I was 21 and my husband 23, We did it anyway. Fast forward 15 years – they were all completely for us homeschooling:-)
Things change over the years. My parents and his parents were not really the controlling type – they just thought us crazy for wanting to get married. This year we have been married for 20 years. Longer then any of them made it in their 1st marriages:-)
Thanks for sharing your story, It is one people need to hear. Keep writing about other stuff. I love your style.
I had a situation similar to yours, although not nearly as bad. Even though my parents were for the relationship between myself and my now husband, they still treated me like an infant as long as I lived at home. The infantilizing damaged my relationship with them. It’s very difficult to accept that someone loves you when they see you as incapable of making decisions that most middle schoolers would be making for themselves. How can you have a healthy relationship with someone who thinks of you that way?
So many things I could say here, in full agreement with all you’ve said.
My parents used to tell me that their role in my future relationships was to raise me to recognize good qualities in a mate. When I got old enough to actually be bringing guys home, they knew they could trust me to pick good ones….not because they pre-approved all my choices, but because they had taught me what to look for. Their job of teaching was over, while my job of making choices had just begun.
In all honesty, what’s going to happen to a young person who isn’t allowed to make their own decisions? What will they do when the parents are no longer around? What will happen if they someday have a marital crisis that they have to face on their own, without Dad’s direction? When are they supposed to have magically learned coping skills? Is that something that the Holy Spirit just GIVES you all at once the moment your parents die? NO! It’s something you have to develop before you really, really need it.
This series has moved me so much! I literally lived much the same thing as you and Phil. My childhood sweetheart was Phil, too, and my Dad liked him the most because he lived 550 miles away in GA! I always had difficulties with my Dad and Mom not liking my boyfriends. I am 62 years old now, never had a successful marriage (long story) and my 90 year old Dad (who I am now responsible for caring for in his home) still does not approve if someone wants to date me. I truly believe it wouldn’t matter WHO it was. You series has made me cry a few times, but I am so glad you wrote it. I have often been told I should write a book. I do believe the controlling aspects of my growing up by the Dad gave me LESS ability to make good choices for myself. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your blog and that I want to encourage you to raise your children differently. I, too, believe it is important to raise emotionally healthy daughters for the future! It is also important not to let children make unhealthy choices, but if you have disenfranchised your child, they will never take your advice when they need it most! Thanks again. I look forward to hearing more of your story.