At the age of forty eight, I find myself in an interesting place concerning the discussion of the Evangelical Christian homeschooling movement. While I'm roughly the same age of the first generation parents in the movement's spotlight, I identify most strongly with the Second Generation Adults (SGAs) – the adults who grew up in the quiverfull homeschooling world. Through my childbearing years, I found my social niche with moms who were a decade older than me, and their babies that I once carried around on my hip are now adults. Because I never managed to carry a pregnancy very far before miscarrying, most moms in the movement who were my age held me at arms length, and I was treated as a pariah. Though my experiences classify me as an SGA, because I was neither homeschooled nor had the experience of parenting, I often stand on the outside looking into both groups. My perspective has advantages and disadvantages, but I've been determined to make the best out of both.
In the wake of Cynthia Jeub's first blog posts about the negative aspects of her upbringing and her departure from home, several mothers have asked me about how I put Cynthia's writing into perspective. I'm grateful for my experience working with Hillary McFarland who allowed me to serve as “the midwife” for the birthing of her book Quivering Daughters. Though I can't truly empathize with the deep pain of a parent, particularly a mother, who experiences conflict with her daughter, I've watched my peers grieve terribly. At different stages during the book's development and after it was published, I was shocked at the difficulty with which any mothers had when reading it. They didn't even need to have homeschooled to feel threatened and to identify with some of the scenarios posed in the book.
It's a parent's greatest nightmare to realize and think about the things that you do wrong as you parent, and even harder when you see the fruit of it when your children repeat your mistakes or take on what you feel is a bad habit or character flaw. I'm deeply grateful to the very few moms would discuss their responses to the book with me at all as I vicariously studied what, for me as a non-parent, was a new phenomenon and facet of life.
I wish that I had been able to more fully comprehend this wisdom from my friends at an earlier point in my life, perhaps drawing on it to help me heal the relationship with my own mother. As a peer to the parent in age and as an SGA from a different system, I hope that this post can offer some insight to both parent and adult child – particularly to mothers and daughters of the patriarchy movement. In a devil's advocate approach, I'm going to try to serve as something of an advocate for both parent and SGA. I don't know if it's possible to straddle this fence between perspectives, but I shall make the effort just the same. I will very likely trigger everyone, just because of the nature of the discussion – but I don't know that there is a way to soften the message. Please bear that in mind as you venture on with me, and I beg your mercy.
Part I: Thoughts for Both Parent and Child to Consider
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- Coming to terms with all of these matters is not a once and done event. Negotiating a relationship between a parent and young (or older) adult is a process – a journey that will take many years.
- It will take time for both parent and SGA to process the viewpoint of the other party. Don't rush the process and be patient with one another.
- This is neither a win-lose situation nor a zero sum game. Fighting for your perspective to be heard and understood may seem like a competition for who is entirely or mostly right and who is wrong. Don't give into this kind of black and white thinking which oversimplifies a very complicated process involving complicated people. Each party will have to meet the other in a new place of understanding which requires stretching and growth (and faith).
- Both parent and SGA feel fear during this process of change and growth. Remember that perfect love casts out fear. It's okay to feel fear and admit it to yourself, especially if you are a parent embarking on this journey for the first time and to a new degree than you did with another adult child.
- Trauma is an emotional experience and is not a rational one. An event may be traumatic to one party and not even remembered by another. The differing perspective of your loved one will not seem to make sense and will likely not be logical if it was experienced as a trauma. Remember that trauma can be healed. Trauma also interferes with critical thinking and is not healed by learning but by reconnecting with felt sense and emotion.
- Communication style may be a factor, and you may not “speak the same language” as your loved one. You may have a mismatch of personality type at work if one party is a dominant thinker and the other party is a dominant feeler. Seek to understand how your loved one processes conflict and makes decisions.
- Grief takes place on both sides. Be sure to honor it and feel it rather than resist it. Understand that grieving is also a process of coping with loss. Parent and SGA both move away from what was into what will be, and this translates into loss of what was. Remember that you will move through grief in stages, and you will bounce around a bit in the process until you move through the loss. (And some losses are never fully grieved but visit us again and again, especially as people go through new transitions in life such as marriage, birth of a child, or death of a parent.)
- Anger (a healthy and essential part of healing)
- Remember that emotional healing is not linear.
- Physical linear healing takes place by progressing from start to finish
- Emotional healing is never linear but is likened to peeling an onion.
Upcoming Posts on Finding Healing:
Part II: To the Cynthia Jeubs (the Second Generation Adult)
Part III: To the Parents of Second Generation Adults