Friday, March 26, 2010

Part 14- Punctuality vs Tardiness

This is Ruth-lite because, as I was glancing through the character qualities and trying to figure out what to write about this time, I realized that this topic would contain some humor.

Our family was religiously devoted to punctuality. Chalk it up to my father's obsessive-compulsive behavior or to it being one of our operational definitions but we were rarely tardy for anything. Unless, of course, it was a social function after a long road trip. Road trips were brutal and I imagine ours were no different than any other large family's.

We always started with good intentions. In my family, "wake up" time was usually 6:30am, so it wasn't hard to get up at four for road trips. Dad preferred to drive in the wee hours of morning so that the littlest kids would be asleep. We'd always pack in the week before the trip. Mom and I would be up to our necks in laundry because my father didn't believe in leaving dirty clothes untended for more than two days. We'd even get a cooler filled with snacks and drinks prepared so that we'd get our stops down to bathroom breaks. However, all of this preparation and good intention failed to deposit us at our destination by itenerary time.

Here are ten things that would inevitably go awry:
1. As I or mom buckled the smallest in their carseat, they would projectile vomit. It never failed. I don't know if it was because mom always nursed them as she gathered last minute things and then forgot to burp them properly or if it was the angle of the car seat...or maybe the baby had a glimpse of the hell that was to follow...but barf they always did. Back into the house we'd go to change the baby.
2. Despite the repeated and often angry warnings of my father to take a pit stop before we left, it was he who always needed to use the toilet one last time or ten minutes in to the trip.
3. "Did I leave the toaster oven on?" or "Did we set the timer?"
4. If we misbehaved in the car or argued, dad would pull to the side of the road and turn off the vehicle. He'd just sit there and glare in the rearview mirror. He'd tell mother to "handle it". This meant her turning around and warning the offender (if they hadn't shut up immediately when the car stopped). If they stopped, she'd mark a little mark on a dry erase board. For every mark we got on the trip, that was a swat we'd get when we arrived at the destination. If the offender ignored mother, and dad had to actually get out of the seat or say something, you were a dead man.
5. We were crammed into a van that dad had bought at an auction. Before we took ownership, it had been a floral delivery van. It had a stange smell on warm days. This smell made a few of us car sick. Not to mention, it had no rolling windows in the back. Someone would puke. We kept a bucket of this kitty litter type stuff that they use at amusement parks in the vehicle so that we could just sprinkle and sweep away the vomit.
6. When we did stop, two of the boys had a strange habit of taking off their shoes. Now, I think I know why. Their shoes were always hand-me-down and ill-fitting. I think they were just miserable in them and would take them off because walking in them was torture. In any case, we'd get a mile or two down the road and someone's shoe would be missing. We'd have to turn around and go back.
7. My dad never bought a new car. They were usually old and battered by the time we got them. As such, they would break down frequently and we'd get stuck.
8. If we travelled in our motorhome, towing the trailer, we'd end up driving so slow that semi trucks passed us and gestured feverishly at my father for going so slow.
9. My dad never checked maps or asked directions.
10. As us older kids got older, we realized that the trips were almost always an attempt to get us to take interest in a person in the family we were going to visit (as a courting prospect) and, I know I, stopped making these trips easy. I would purposefully distract my father or find a reason to make us stop.

And so, we were always tardy on road trips.

-Sorry this is a fluff piece but I'm going hiking this weekend. Have a great weekend.


  1. Awww what memories!! :D Have fun hiking today.

  2. Because when you tumble out of a pungent van covered in kitty litter and dodging projectile vomit, *that's* when you want to go looking for prospective partners.

    Ruth, even though you say this is fluff, I'm impressed you kept a sense of humour about it. Happy hiking!

  3. 9. My dad never checked maps or asked directions.

    How do you get anywhere you aren't familiar with without doing either of these things?

    Did you do a lot of just driving in circles more or less at random?

    Totally off-topic, but I remember how I never really learned how to get around my home town until I started driving. With new drivers growing up in an era of on-board GPS, I wonder if they might never develop the ability to read a map, dead-reckon, or develop that spatial sense of 'where things are'. It'll be interesting to see.

  4. This made me think of the Duggars, who are perpetually late. Makes more sense now.

  5. Thanks, Ruth, for the comedic relief. We needed it after the sturm und drang of your earlier posts. I'm sure you did, too.

    I think car trips are the archetypal "bring out the worst in a family's dynamics" event. Every family has stories about car trips that always seem to symbolize how the family functions.

    We had three kids in the back seat of a Chevy Malibu. My dad drove and my completely non-spatially-oriented mother was supposed to read the map, which she was really incapable of doing (just couldn't relate the map symbols to how she saw her surrounding, I guess) so we were frequently lost.

    My dad, too, was a "get there early" kinda guy so being lost and potentially late was a big spin up for him and anything we kids did was likely to set him off. He refused to pull over and make us even later so the flailing hand would come flying into the backseat to whop the offender and anyone else who got in his way.

    This action was always followed by some comment like "shape up because we going to (wherever) and we're GOING TO HAVE FUN". You could always hear the unsaid "dammit!" hanging out there at the end, but of course, that was never vocalized.

    The worst car fights seemed to be on the way to church where we were always on show as Rev So and So's children. No matter how nasty we had been to each other on the way, we always got out of the car with smiling faces.

  6. Ruth, this is a great entry. No need to apologize for it being a "fluff piece." You don't have to apologize for your entries. It's your blog. LOL at how you purposely tried to delay the trips as you got older. I guess you knew early on a fellow ATAI/QF son wasn't for you. Your dad's unwillingness to use a map or stop for directions is very telling. It shows an unwillingness to admit need, to admit lack of perfect self-sufficiency (which none of us have).

  7. I loved that story, Ruth. I don't consider it fluff. It's part of your childhood and belongs here just as much as the harsher truths.

    Have a great weekend!


  8. I think this entry is proof why it's a shame BG never had kids of his own. I think some of his whacko beliefs would have flown out the window if he had had to deal with some of this stuff himself.

  9. Is the violin playing in matched clothing a Gothard recommendation, because that ATI family I knew did just that. From 2 years old and up, they all played violin together in matched outfits. O.o And drove around in a humungous van (with windows though), and went on lengthy road trips to Gothard-fests...

  10. As a teenager/single adult, I always hated Bible conferences (or colleges) with the heavy stigma of "you could meet your spouse here!" I can't imagine that sort of thinking being propagated by my own parents. I wish we had known each other as teenagers - I think we would have gotten into wonderful trouble together as far as delaying the inevitable awkwardness of meeting potential mates :)

  11. I hated family road trips.

    Have fun hiking!

  12. At least your dad stopped when you had to go. Once, my mom threatened divorce as I sat with tears rolling down my face. I was 15.

    That is a requirement in our car--if anyone has to go, we stop, no questions, no pressure. I told my hubby that before we got married--it was non-negotiable!

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  13. Sounds familiar to me, Ruth! and La Reveuse. I actually ended up peeing on myself and the seat because my father couldn't figure out that a 5 year old girl does not have the same bladder capacity/control as a grown man.

  14. I'm amazed you kept your humor at all with that hellish father of yours. I don't see it as fluff really.

    You're an incredible person, keep going, girl! Have fun hiking.


  15. TOTALLY NOT fluff at ALL. Entirely HILARIOUS, however, and aspects of your excursions are not unlike everyone else's. Who among us has not refused the offer of the lavatory before leaving, then realized we should have gone when given the opportunity? Who has not had the moment of OH CRAP I LEFT MY (KEYS/BATHINGSUIT/OTHER ITEM OF IMPORTANCE) BACK AT THE HOTEL!!!!

    And the map/directions issue your father had? It plays itself out in most male psyches. Usually not QUITE to that extreme, but... (And my apologies to the male readers of this blog, but you KNOW how you get ;-)

    Anyway, have a fantastic weekend. Hope your hiking weather is as good as the weather we're having here in Houston!!!

  16. I have a question about courtship... if you like someone are you supposed to tell your parents about it? If someone of the opposite sex likes you do you know it? It seems like you're not allowed to talk about it or something. So strange because if you aren't supposed to give a possible spouse any special attention, how are you supposed to get to know them to find out if you're compatible or whatever? Is it basically arranged marriage or how does it work?

  17. Ah, traveling with the family hell. My favorite was the drive across the tip of Illinois, which at the time had NO gas stations near an exit between Louisville and East St. Louis. My father knew this and he'd drive into the zone with half a tank of gas. And we'd ALWAYS run out of gas. Then he'd walk through some Amish farmer's fields, asking for gas. Of course, he didn't speak German (which might have prevented his crazy steering wheel miming act) and he never took my mom who DID speak German.

    What a mess. 3 kids, a cat and a dog all for the sake of seeing Grandmother twice a year.
    To this day station wagons with faux paneling on the side freaks me out.

    I'm so glad those days are over. My mom always insisted we drive like hell but stop an hour before the hotel pool closed. My dad had this habit of saying "change into your suits now" so he could get an extra 15 minutes of driving time in. That stopped when my sister turned 15 and the truck driver honked his horn at her clothes changing act.

    La Reveuse, AMEN. My soul requirement in a mate is someone who stops when I want to go to the bathroom.

  18. Jennifer,Lol you made me laugh! I think the matching/violin thing is a Gothardism. We know several Gothard families and have seen this often with the occasional exception of a flute involved. :)

  19. "And that's the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind."
    .......Dave Barry

    My experiences as a child were no way as traumatic as yours (although sometimes very troubling!!), but now, well into my 50's I still a have huge anxiety attack - lasting several days - prior to a road trip. It's very unsettling.

  20. Just curious about meeting the "prospects," was it so you could meet them or so that your parents could meet them and then make you follow suit?

  21. Hmm...courting. I'm not sure of Ruth's experiences, but I was in a fundamentalist church who practiced courting. That's how I met and married my abusive husband.

    The idea our church promoted was this (and this was a campus church, so no parents around, just the minister and a few married couples with kids who worked at the university):

    If a guy felt the Lord leading him regarding a girl in the church, he would pray about it, and ask his close friends to do this as well. He would get to know her in a group basis (outings, church functions) but not be with her alone. He would ask the minister to pray about this (all the while, the girl knew nothing). When he felt led, he would ask the girl quietly to pray about marrying him. At this point they would spend time alone but in public places (restaurants, parks) where they would get to know one another. The girl would pray about it and give her answer.

    In my case, I only "got to know" this guy for 6 weeks before we were engaged. He strung me a line about knowing that "I was the one" a month after meeting me. He told me all the things I wanted to hear about myself. I came from an abusive home so this were like magic to my ears after having lived with a mother who wrote me out of her will at 16 years of age in favour of my brother. He was incredibly humble, and charming.


    Within 6 months of marrying him, and then 5 months pregnant, I knew I had made an awful mistake. He was a patronizing, sex-crazed, control freak. I wanted to go home, but home was no better, so I stuck it out for 20 years and 4 children. When I finally read the definition of psychological/emotional abuse online (at, of all places, a Christian website), I knew it fitted exactly what I had lived through. Within a week, I left and ended up at a women's shelter with my kids.

    I know several of these marriages that ended up the exact same way, and quite a few others that worked out well. It seemed to depend on the maturity of those involved in the first place.

  22. Yes, I would like to know more about how the courtship situation works too. It seems like it would be very awkward for the young people who are being brought on a special trip because their parents are essentially trying to breed their families together. I wonder if these kids ever really like eachother or if they just get toghether because they are expected to.

  23. Jennifer, I'm so sorry to hear what you've been through.

    When I read that you had been married 20 years I realized that the whole courtship movement HAS been around a long time. So many years for so much damage. Sad. But glad you're out.

  24. Fluff? I found it amusing and interesting. How you kept such a sense a humor, even in hindsight, is amazing to me!

  25. I agree with the others it was not a Fluff post. It was very interesting and like others have said a little funny. Enjoy hiking!!

  26. We had a coffee can in the back seat to pee in. My dad was not one for stops. My husband knows when I say we have to stop, we stop.

    I married into a family of people that you'd have to tell to be there 1 hour earlier than everyone else. My husband knows I am paranoid about being late and he was easily trained.

    My step sister was late for my stepdads burial and funeral because she can't get anywhere on time. (They were 3 hours apart and she left the wake). After having had dinners get cold on holidays, I told my mom that if she's not there on time, we'll eat. There are always leftovers.

  27. I love the idea that you describe a very difficult trip, and then say you "stopped making it easy." You call that easy? :)

  28. Sad and hilarious--like a trip with the Duggars. My Dad's rule was "sit there and ride"--no radio, no noise. Just ride.

  29. Family car trip stories are great!

    My parents were big fans of leaving really early, at like 4 a.m., when we were little, too. It made sense for us, as Dad's parents lived about 7 hours away, so if we left at that time we'd get there for lunch and then have the whole afternoon to play with our cousins.

    Dad was also not a huge fan of stops, and my sister and I learned that lesson well. I was kind of horrified when it took me over 10 hours, and 6 stops, to drive 600 miles, by myself, this past summer. Dad would have never stood for that amount of time or stops!

    Not to say we didn't also have those inevitable unplanned stops growing up - the times Dad got speeding tickets, the time the car ran out of gas, the time the heater died on a freezing Christmas trip, the time we hit a deer, etc.

  30. @Jennifer

    Thank you posting and explaining the inner workings of courtship! I have long wanted to know.

    My daughter was/is crushing on a guy at college, a Christian home school grad. So is she. Turns out she thought he was hot before she knew anything about him, though. You know how attraction is.

    Well, it scares me to think about! Things he has posted on fb and elsewhere lead me to believe that he has drunk deep of the Kool-Aid, if you know what I mean.

    The guy was very kind and encouraging to her. They were becoming friends. Until the one time he gave her a ride home from a school event. They talked and talked and seemed to have so much in common. My daughter thought it was the beginning of a possibly closer relationship.

    Then mysteriously, he stopped answering her texts. The rejection stung. She invited him to see her sketchbook, and he replied that he would only be able to do that in a group setting.

    She has taken this to mean he is not interested, and boy do I hope this is true! Now I'm a little freaked out, because this may mean he sees her as a potential mate?

    Yikes! Hopefully his pastor will nix the idea of a college girl seeking a career in the military, no matter how attractive, intelligent, competent, artistic and culturally "correct" ( also home schooled) she may appear.

    So weird. Once I wanted nothing more than for more daughter to marry a Christian home schooled man, and now nothing scares me more. Except maybe alcoholic thug with a porn addiction. :\

  31. I have to agree with the others, I can't beleive that your father did not EVER ask for directions, was there a reason why he did not?

  32. I don't get all these references to Kool-aid. Can someone please explain?


    Best marketing tool ever.

  34. Thanks Lolly. I went to post an explanation, and I had technical difficulties.

  35. Jonestown, Guyana in the 1970s. Cult leader Jim Jones gets hundreds of people to leave the US and move to a compound in Guyana, SA to create the perfect society.

    Relatives of some cult members contacted their state representative who went down to Guyana to check it out. He saw that the little "utopia" was actually an abusive environment where many were held against their will. Soon the world would know.

    Jim Jones, knowing the jig was up, ordered his followers to drink cyanide laced Kool-Aid. Some had to be persuaded at gunpoint, but many willingly gave it to their children and then drank it themselves. There were no survivors other than those who escaped into the jungle- just a handful of people.

    The people who refused to drink the Kool-Aid.

  36. Thanks guys!

  37. Ruth,
    Just found your blog site via The Crossings. I have enjoyed reading your blog and am also stunned by the lifestyle that you grew up in. I just want to give you a hug and I would offer you a job as my nanny in a heartbeat. We have three little ones and my husband works at a Christian camp called Pine Cove and in the summers the wives of the directors get a nanny because the husbands are so busy. I always love having a nanny not for the work that could be done, but because I end up gaining a best friend. I am so proud of you! Way to go girl. Sorry for rambling.
    PS I didn't start college until 21 so don't think of yourself as behind.

  38. Stephanie, what is "THe Crossings?" Yes, I googled it, but 100s of things came up.

  39. Rebekah,
    The Crossings is a a forum group of mainly people who were once in ATI. I think some of the people that post are still in ATI and are a little more conservative than I am, but overall I check it occasionally to see what the topics that are being discussed by former ATIers. Some of the rants are really funny. I was formerly in ATI from 12 years to 18. My story was nothing like Ruth's. But my parents definitely had their weird years and yes I lived right into it. I would say if anything that we were so legalistic. It has been such a blessing to understand and live in the Lord's grace and I am glad to say that my parents have come a long way.
    not that you asked for that whole synopsis...
    Anyways... go to and the questions that need to be answered are Knoxville (where Gothards conference took place) and Navy and white (the colors that students wore) I believe that your questions are reviewed and then they send you an email to activate you status.

  40. Well, if it's JUST for ATIAers/former ones I don't wanna cheat. However, I was a nanny for a Gothard fam. once..that puts me one degree away, lol.

    And yes, they tried to get me to buy into it, but I DIDN'T.

    My parents were always vehemently opposed to BG, b/c he had no one HE was accountable to.

  41. "My parents were always vehemently opposed to BG, b/c he had no one HE was accountable to."

    Wise parents. A very good point to make about BG, and very scary to realize it when you do.

  42. Stephanie, there's a question about the title of the primary book... would you happen to know what it is ? Thank you

  43. Hey Ruth, I just noticed something: there was a Part 12 and a Part 14 - where's 13? Or did I miss something?

  44. Sophie,
    I think they are looking for " wisdom booklets," the primary teaching tool.

  45. x-ati guy is another web spot for former ati homeschoolers to rant if anyone needs to vent

  46. But his print is so small, I can barely read it...

  47. Rebekah said...
    "I think this entry is proof why it's a shame BG never had kids of his own. I think some of his whacko beliefs would have flown out the window if he had had to deal with some of this stuff himself."


    Ruth ... totally NOT a fluff piece. An excellent insight into the dynamic of family travel within most ATI/QF families. I hope you had fun on the hiking trip!

    Note that it wasn't DAD getting the brood of kids dressed, packed, and into the car. It was mom and Ruth. So it was mom and Ruth who got projectile vomited on and "made the family late." It was mom and Ruth who forgot something and "made the family late." But you can be damn sure that dad's aversion to directions was never blamed for "making the family late."

    These immature, under-developed men always find a way to make problems someone else's fault. I lived this for several years. It's demoralizing to the nth degree.

  48. Ruth this wasn't a fluff piece at all. Very insightful. It seems to me your father has a fear of weakness and failure. To ask for directions would mean he was weak in his eyes. I love how he was in charge, made all the rules but it was you and your mother doing all the work!

    Road trips brought out the worst in my family too. I was prone to carsickness so these road trips were like my own personal hell. The van with non working windows and an odd smell would have killed me. Ok, and what is it with men and not asking directions? The minimal stopping? The leaving before dawn? Why? I have no idea. It's like road trips bring out something prideful & primal in them. Ridiculous I say!

    In our family it was our mother who was the abuser. She could turn on a dime. So a road trip was like being trapped in a cage with a bear (a cage on wheels going 55mph).

    I hope you had a great time hicking!!

  49. Ok, and what is it with men and not asking directions?

    As a guy, I always thought it was because asking for directions would be an admission you couldn't navigate with a map. If you did stop for directions, it would be invariably accompanied with a tirade about the poor quality of the map or the inadequacy of the local signage.

    In the case of someone who refuses even to consult a map, however, I'm as much in the dark as you are!

  50. Ruth,
    Thought you might like this website (I don't THINK it's the one I posted before).

  51. Just for future reference, if the text on a website is too small just hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard while you scroll your mousewheel up. That should make the text larger. Just scroll the mousewheel in the other direction while holding Ctrl to make the text small again.

  52. I know this wasn't your intent, but your description totally sounded like a situation one might find in a David Sedaris memoir, only without cussing and smoking. :p

    I wonder how your father would feel about that comparison.


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