Duggars, Ex, narcissists

“He’s just a little boy… let’s not condemn him to a life of fundie drudgery yet!”

Yesterday, I was hanging out in the Duggar Family News Facebook group when someone shared a cute picture of two of the Duggar grandchildren. I believe it was a picture of Josh’s second daughter, Meredith, and Jessa’s eldest child, Spurgeon. I think both kids are very cute, but Spurgeon appears to be especially adorable, despite his unfortunate name, which alternately reminds me of sturgeon or spooge. A lot of the people in the Duggar group called him “Spud” for short.

Anyway, I posted that I think Spurgeon is super cute and will be a “heartbreaker” when he gets older. Innocent enough comment, right? It’s the kind of thing people often say about attractive children. I didn’t realize what I wrote was controversial, but apparently, it was.

Here’s the conversation that ensued:

I was a bit non-plussed that my original comment, that I think Spurgeon is a “cutie” and will be a heartbreaker, turned into a prediction of the boy’s future. Spurgeon is only four years old; he turns five in November. And yet people in the Duggar group are already condemning him to a lifetime of being his grandfather’s “slave”.

“Here’s you some candy…” (actually, I have seen the candy challenge done by a lot of Mormons, too.)

Frankly, I find that thought very depressing. People in the Duggar group follow the pregnancies of the Duggar children with intense devotion and seem to cheer whenever a new pregnancy is announced. However, it seems that a fair number of them believe that the offspring of the Duggar “kidults” are doomed somehow. What a sad and limiting thought that is. Basically, a large group of people strongly believe that these kids have no minds of their own and no ability to make their own choices.

And yet, here’s Jill Dillard, wife of Derick Dillard and once considered the biggest Kool-Aid drinker of the bunch. She’s sending her son, Israel, to public school. She has a nose piercing, wears pants, and has even been photographed wearing shorts, sleeveless tops, and swimwear. Yes, it’s true that she and Derick are no longer welcome to come to the Duggar compound uninvited, but they are clearly making their own choices.

Jeremy and Jinger Vuolo, likewise, were able to escape Arkansas and live on their own out in California. They’ve been married a few years now, yet Jinger is only on her second pregnancy. She wears pants, has cut her hair, and colors it. It’s obvious that Boob no longer completely runs her life.

And finally, there’s Joy Anna Forsyth, who married her husband Austin a few years ago. Austin makes his own money flipping houses. It looks like they’ve largely removed themselves from the hopelessly dull Counting On series and are putting up their own videos on YouTube, for which they probably get paid directly.

I think these two might be living their own lives now.

But even if I’m wrong about Jill, Jinger, and Joy Anna, and their lifestyles are still completely under Boob’s control, I still think it’s within the realm of possibility that Spurgeon or any of the other Duggar grandchildren will bust out on their own and make their own choices. It’s happened in many families that are mini-cults.

Look at the people who have managed to escape Warren Jeffs, and other FLDS sects. I know I read a lot of books by women who were once sister wives– Irene Spencer’s excellent book, Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife, comes to mind. She was the second wife to Verlan LeBaron. Her sister wife, Susan Ray Schmidt, wife number six to Verlan, also wrote a book called His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy. I’m sure many people thought that Irene and Susan were trapped for life in the Colonia LeBaron FLDS polygamist nightmare, but they weren’t. They escaped and made new lives for themselves. There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of the Duggar grandchildren or children can’t also escape. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I would bet there will someday be a scandalous tell all about life as a Duggar. I bet there’s already a book in the works as I type this.

If there’s one thing I have learned from Bill’s experience with his hyper-controlling, narcissistic ex wife, it’s that people who are caught in these kinds of controlling groups DO sometimes wake up and take control over their own lives, even if the source of control is a close relative. My husband’s daughter did not speak to him for many years, mostly because her mother told her not to and she’d been fed a lot of lies. A lot of people thought it was hopeless that Bill would ever speak to his daughter again, let alone know his grandchildren.

I always somehow knew younger daughter would eventually come around. I figured she would do it before her older sister would, simply because she had a stronger personality. But I knew it would happen someday that she and Bill would speak again. I’m grateful that my initial predictions weren’t completely what came to pass. I figured she’d get in touch to spite her mother, because I was under the mistaken impression that she was just like her mom. I thought that she would try to use Bill, like her brother did. It turns out that, as far as we can tell, she’s much more like Bill, which is a wonderful blessing.

I still have hope that older daughter will also come around someday… but if there’s one thing Bill and I have BOTH learned, it’s that being “disowned” is not the end of the world. Yes, it’s extremely hurtful to be cast out, but the pain is definitely survivable. Some people truly would rather go through the pain of being disowned than surrender their free will to someone else. Many people are determined to make their own decisions in life, and choose to break out of extremely controlling family systems and do what they want. There is absolutely NO reason to believe that one of the Duggar grandchildren won’t do that.

Boob can’t control them all forever, and who’s to say that someone even more narcissistic or toxic won’t come along push him out of power? There are simply too many of them. Even Fred Phelps, creator of the damnable Westboro Baptist Church, was eventually ousted from his own family created church fiefdom. It takes a lot of energy and strength to control people, and the older and weaker a controlling person gets, they more likely it is that they’ll eventually be pushed aside by someone younger and stronger. Everyone– even Jim Bob Duggar– has a match. Moreover, most of us have never met the Duggars and only know about them what we’ve seen on TV and read in the media.

I truly hope that any of the Duggar children or grandchildren who want to live life on their own terms will eventually be able to do so. I refuse to sell any of them short. I disapprove of making predictions about how a child will turn out, particularly when the child is as young as Spurgeon Seewald is. He’s only FOUR. A whole lot can happen in fourteen years, when Spurgeon will be considered an adult. Let’s give him a chance to grow up a bit before we make predictions about his future.

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musings

Losing friends over “dumb memes”…

Although I might lose friends for writing this post, I’m not one of the people who lost friends yesterday over patriotic or unpatriotic Facebook postings. For once, I stayed well out of controversial territory yesterday. Although my initial impressions of Leipzig were kind of lukewarm, the city quickly grew on me. I cried twice yesterday, both times because I was overwhelmed by music and sights that moved my senses.

The first time I cried was largely due to simply being overwhelmed by the beauty of Bach being played expertly by live buskers outside of the church where he served as the Thomaskantor for 27 years. One thing I absolutely love about living in Europe is the number of talented musicians who share their passions with people on the street. Quite often, their music moves me to tears. Bill and I joke that we become “verklempt” over things of beauty. I’ve seen him melt into tears over art exhibits or, more commonly, beautiful cathedrals. Give us a cathedral where someone is playing music or a choir is singing well, and we’ll both end up crying for different reasons.

The second time I cried was for somewhat sadder reasons. We were enjoying the Leipziger Weinfest, which fortunately happens to be going on all this weekend. A duo was playing music. I happened to notice a beautiful young family. Mom was pregnant and clearly would be delivering a baby very soon. Dad was taking care of their toddler aged son, who was obviously enchanted by the music. I watched them dancing together, father and son, as mom stood by, looking on adoringly. I realized that I’m 47 years old and I won’t ever have what that family has. I thought I had mostly come to terms with that, and have even realized it might be for the best. It still makes me sad sometimes to realize that a significant life experience that most people take for granted won’t be part of my history. In fact, when I die, the mold will be broken. Some people are grateful for that.

Add in the fact that we were drinking wine and Bill’s younger daughter will be having her daughter any day now… and, in fact, I would not be surprised if she’s already given birth. Bill Skyped with her on July 3rd. She was scheduled to be induced on the 9th, but she was already having contractions. If she had her baby yesterday, and it’s possible that she did, the baby will share birthdays with her Aunt Brigid, Bill’s older daughter who still doesn’t speak to him. Maybe the baby will hang on until the 7th and be Bill’s best birthday present, as he turns 55.

Then I read about Joy Anna Forsyth’s pregnancy loss in the 20th week. Her baby girl had no heartbeat, and she was forced to deliver little Annabell Elise stillborn. While I don’t necessarily admire the Duggar family’s focus on birthing as many babies as humanly possible and trying to deny reproductive rights to women who aren’t like them, I do have empathy for Joy. I’m sure this loss was absolutely devastating for her, as it would be for most parents. So… I guess that might be why I was so emotional last night.

Once we’d decided to retire for the evening, we came back to our hotel room. I went on Facebook, and soon found two heated arguments among my friends. One friend is very conservative. Lately, she’s been more political than ever, posting memes that promote conservative ideals and getting into arguments with her more liberal contacts. Now… it’s certainly her right to post whatever she wants on Facebook. I generally don’t comment on her political posts because I mostly understand her viewpoints. There was a time when I even shared her views somewhat. I also realize that I don’t like it when I post something on Facebook and someone starts a nasty argument about it on my page. I don’t mind discussions, but I don’t enjoy arguments, especially when they devolve into personal attacks, sarcasm, and insults.

My conservative friend is, for the most part, very respectful in her discussions. Although I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of her views– at least not since I went more liberal– I do very much respect her ability to be civilized when she disagrees with others. I can easily see why she seems to think liberals are “ganging up” on people with conservative views, since she’s recently been involved in some rather contentious arguments with people who are “aggressively liberal” and insistent about pushing their views on her page. My friend has a lot of conservative friends who have her back, so the comments can get wild. Unfortunately, one of her former friends, who is also one of my friends, got nasty and personal as he commented on the meme she shared, pictured below…

My friend posted this, and a former mutual friend of ours took her to task for not respecting Colin Kaepernick’s reasons, and rights, to peaceful protest. While I don’t disagree with the more liberal view of this, I do think his comments to her were unnecessarily offensive.

For the record, while there was a time when I didn’t see what all the hoopla was over racism in the United States, my views have changed a lot. I think it’s because I left the country and stopped spending so much time around like minded people. I started opening my eyes to what happens to people of color on a regular basis. I’m not sure if things have gotten much worse recently, or I’m just a lot more aware. But while I will never know what it means to be black in America, I do think I have a lot more empathy for non-whites than I once had. Maybe it’s because I pay a lot more attention to the news than I used to. Or maybe it’s because I studied social work and spent time working with people in minority groups. I don’t want to say I’m “woke”, because I don’t really like that term. It’s more like I can’t unring the bell. I don’t see things as black and white as much as I used to. That being said… I don’t think liberals do the cause any favors when they become self-righteous, insulting, or shaming toward people who don’t share their views. It takes time for people to change and, by and large, they have to want to do it for it to be a genuine change. Trying to force someone to be tolerant is not very tolerant behavior.

Well, I left that thread without responding to it… and promptly fell into another rabbit hole. A liberal friend– someone much more liberal than I am– posted this meme.

True… but…

My liberal friend has a friend I don’t know who took exception to this meme. She posted this comment.

Thankfully things have changed….its important to remember where we came from, equally important to realize what HAS changed and stop hammering the past to death. It is not 1787 anymore.

I really didn’t find this comment offensive at all. However, other people did, and they quickly let her know. Eight comments, at least half of which were accusatory and shaming, were lobbed at this lady. At least one comment made an assumption about what this poster thinks and what kind of person she is, even though she’s evidently a complete stranger to them. Most of the other comments were outraged and rather sanctimonious in nature. I couldn’t help but imagine the poster folding her arms and walking away from the conversation. I doubt the confrontation did much good, if the intention was to “educate” and/or change hearts and minds. I wasn’t even involved in the conversation and I found it offensive, even if I don’t disagree with the posters who agreed with the meme.

I’m reminded of a discussion I was part of about 20 years ago, when I used to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. One of the regular attendees was a young woman who was learning how to do massages. She brought with her some type of clay that she used to practice her massage techniques. During the meeting, she introduced the concept of being “gentle” with applying pressure toward any approach to change. She showed us how pressing the clay forcefully with her fingers met with immediate resistance. But when she pressed into the clay gently, the clay gradually yielded and she was able to make indentations that changed its form significantly. It’s the same with muscles. Brutally pressing into muscles results in pain, resistance, and sometimes even damage. Gentle pressure yields better results, as the muscles gradually yield to the therapeutic pressure and the massage therapist can effect health promoting change.

I think the same could be said for some discussions we have with other people, particularly on social media. No one likes to be lectured to, aggressively attacked, shamed, or insulted. That is not what makes people open their minds or change their opinions. Respectful communication, empathy, listening, and being willing and able to consider other people’s views without closing one’s mind is how real conversations can happen… and sometimes maybe even real, positive change can be effected.

I think memes can be good conversation starters. Sometimes, they are thought provoking. However, memes don’t sum up real life. I think it’s a shame when a meme leads to people losing friendships. If the goal is to educate, open minds, or change perspectives, it’s best to try to be respectful and empathetic. And if you want to be respected yourself, then you should yourself act respectable.

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Duggars

Things you shouldn’t do while barefoot…

I love going barefoot. I always have. Although I will sometimes wear socks when my feet get cold, I inevitably shed them because I don’t like the feel of anything on my feet. However, there are certain things I don’t do while barefoot.

This morning, in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray group, someone shared a photo of Joy Anna Forsyth. She looks beautiful in a very flattering floral print dress. Her face is made up; she’s slimmed down; and she wears a beatific smile. But then, when you cast your eyes downward, you see she has bare feet. This would not be a big deal, except she’s also standing next to a horse.

I grew up riding horses. It’s been a long time since I was last in the saddle, although I took lessons for years and went to many horse shows. One lesson I did take from those years around horses is that you really should wear good shoes when you’re working with them. It’s not just because horses take enormous dumps, either. Horses are bigger than most people are, and their behavior can be unpredictable. The horse Joy is standing to looks pretty calm in the picture, but what if he or she spooked for some reason? Joy would have to jump out of the way, which is not so easy to do when you have tender feet.

If Joy walks around barefoot a lot, she may very well have hard, tough calluses on her feet. But I doubt even the toughest callus can stand up to a horse’s hoof, particularly if the horse is shod. She really could get hurt, which would not be a good thing. I remember when I was a teenager, coming home from a horse show. We had to stop on the side of the road and unload one of the horses for some reason. A small pony jumped off the trailer and landed on my big toe. It hurt like hell. Luckily, my toe was just smashed and bruised, not broken. I did lose the toenail, though. Thank God I was wearing shoes.

As I write this, I remember quite clearly on an old episode of 19 Kids and Counting another time when Joy went barefoot. It was right after Josie was born, and the whole family was temporarily living at a historic house in Little Rock. Joy and her brothers were in the yard and the lawn needed to be mowed. Joy did it barefoot in her skirt, claiming that she enjoys cutting the grass. I suppose if you keep your feet away from the mower, you might be safe enough. But it really isn’t a good idea. On the other hand, at least Joy isn’t a drinker. Plenty of people would drink beer and cut the grass, perhaps barefoot. It doesn’t seem like the smartest idea.

In Touch Weekly has an article about this Duggar phenomenon. Joy isn’t the only one who does this, although she appears to be the worst offender. There is a picture of her at age 12, starting up the lawnmower with shoeless feet, along with lots of other pictures of the Duggar women (I see none of the guys doing this) with no shoes on. I’m of a mixed mind about it myself, since I don’t like wearing shoes and have been known to step outside without them. But I do wear them if I’m in public or in a place where going barefoot would be dangerous. I would say hanging out with equines and cutting the grass definitely qualify.

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