Friday, April 2, 2010

Part 14 - Birthdays

Sensitivity vs. Callousness
Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15) - Bill Gothard's Character Traits

Before I talk about my own experience, I want to talk about birthdays, in this movement, as a whole.

Birthdays in a Gothard family can vary wide and deep. The level of celebration depends on several things. First, how deep into Gothardism the family is and when they came in. Second, how many children the family currently has. Third, the level of legalism they adhear to. For some families, birthdays were spent in a very normal way, with friends and family, with gifts and cake. Our family was different - we were a Charter Family.

When us older kids were very small, our birthdays were nice occasions. Usually, someone from the community would come over and my mom would fix a nice lunch. We'd have a birthday cake and receive presents. Somewhere around 1987, my father read a lecture by Mr. Gothard and had an epiphany. Birthdays, he decided, weren't spiritually appropriate, as they had been celebrated and were being celebrated by "others". Like a lot of things, he felt we had to separate ourselves from the worldliness of society to be doing the right thing.

According to my father and other father's in our ATI community, it was decided that birthdays should be an acknowledgement of your gift of life and a rededication to your service and purpose for the Lord. No cakes were necessary. Just a pat on the shoulder or hug, followed by a lunch or dinner with mom and dad where they talked to you about your beliefs anda your future. I won't lie. It was something I did look forward to because time alone with my parents was a luxury rarely available. However, when I would see other families having big birthdays in the park, I was jealous. My mom, as I've said before, didn't like it much either. She felt that that kind of celebration may be appropriate for a much older child but she argued that little children should at least have cake and a gift. My parents battled on this. It was my mom's mission to make sure we each had this small trinket and a cake.

Dad finally realized that, not being home much of the time, he was going to have to let this one go. He gave my mother permission to "handle" our birthdays- but he gave her "limits". We could have a cake, but it had to be a cup cake. We could have a gift, but it had to be something useful in our life or useful in our future. Recently my brother and I compared our birthday lists for fun. Over the years when I was home, I received - a hope chest, a lace table cloth, a tea pot, my grandmother's quilt, an apron, a family bible, a picture frame, and -one "toy"- a small doll crib for my rag doll. My brother's girts were- a small tool set, a Mag-Lite flashlight, an adult Bible, money to put in his savings, a saw, and later a repair book for cars. Those are the things we remember.

My mom would bring in our cupcakes or cakes at lunch. We'd break from play or homeschool to gather around the table and sing. We sang the regular birthday song until someone taught us the Christian birthday songs that started the rounds in our community. Only the birthday child got the cake and this got ugly at times. We were all supposed to be gracious and happy for the birthday boy or girl but most of the time we just wanted to steal their cupcake! Sweets weren't allowed in our house and it was a prize.


  1. I am the anonymous person who posted in your other threat about not celebrating Birthdays. Thank you SOO much for the explaination in this new post. I can't beleive, that happened when to came to a Birthday. To me that is just wrong. I feel that every kid should be able to celebrate their birthday at lease once. When I was a kid, because b-day is in August I got a friends party in June and then a family party in August. Both times I got gifts although the on in August I got from my parents.

    I have been wanting to say this for a while, you are a VERY Gifted writing I have really enjoyed reading your blog and I am soo sorry that you had to be raised the way you were.

  2. wow, so your mom baked just one cupcake?

  3. What IS it with BG and your dad wanting children to have no joy. If they were so into unselfishness, you would think they would want everyone to have some cake/cupcakes. I only got one "friend" party growing up, and & I didn't even really get it to be the way I wanted, but at least every year there was cake and presents with the family. And no, it wasn't always practical presents.

  4. " For some families, birthdays were spent in a very normal way, with friends and family, with gifts and cake."

    That's how the Gothard family I nannied for was. Like you said these things must have a lot to do with how deep into it a family gets.

  5. How utterly sad that BG wants to take all the fun out of childhood. Birthdays, even simple ones, are about making the person feel special. Life is a gift, and is to be celebrated. Here's hoping you have many more birthdays, Ruth, and as many cupcakes, or hell a whole cake, as your heart desires


  6. Jehovah Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays since Christ didn't.(Think I got that right).

    Man, that one cupcake wouldn't have worked for us! LOL. My 2 older brothers and I would have been jumping all other that like animals.

    Hope you had a great birthday, Ruth.

    Take care.


  7. I have seen you here and there on FJ and Under 1000, but I have never made my way over here until last night. I have to say that (if in fact you are for real... :) ) that you are extremely courageous. I read your entire blog last night and am shocked that parents would willingly sell their souls to a child-rearing philosophy that involves so much emotional abuse. It is utterly inconceivable. You keep telling your story, girl. Maybe someday it will be in book form and will further help to out this incomphrehensible craziness.

    In the meantime, you have a friend in TX that's rooting for you!! You deserve a wonderful life, and I hope you keep pursuing it!

  8. If I lived anywhere near you (and happened to know it ;-)you would have one huge birthday bash! There would be home made layer cake, with a cupcake on top to honor your mom, and fruit salad and chips and dip and little sandwiches. All the other posters would come bearing gifts! Movies! DVDs! Who knows what else? Then we would either watch the funniest movie or put on the best music and dance. =)

    You deserve all that and more (as do the rest of us!). Live loved, SS

  9. I see my post made it through after all because earlier I rec'd bX-d81t8u error, whatever that means. lol.

    I'd bring chocolate everything, although I must confess Ruth and I might have to fight over it. I LOVE


  10. What strikes me over and over is how much BG seems to detest children and how much your father bought into that line of thought. It's as if your father uses BG philosophies to validate and justify his cruel thoughts and behavior. What a sick and joyless man. I should say men, sick and joyless men.

    "Jehovah Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays since Christ didn't."

    Really? How do they know Jesus didn't cut a rug on his birthday and enjoy a bit of cake and wine with friends?

  11. Gothard }:( must have been one joyless, abused child to set down such 'laws' for his followers.
    Didn't Jesus love children and cherish them? Too bad some legalist frauds diminish His love.

    Hope your B-day was a happy one.

  12. Jehovah's witnesses don't celebrate birthdays because the only two mentions of birthdays in the bible were in a negative context. Like Salome dancing for Herod's birthday and then asking for the head of John the Baptist. And since it's not mentioned that Jesus did celebrate birthdays, as opposed to celebrating other things, like weddings, it's assumed that he didn't celebrate birthdays.

    Some of this sort of reminded me of what they've shown of how the Duggars do birthdays. They might do something fun for the the younger kids, but it isn't always specific to the child, and the older kids just get dinner out. Gifts seem to be one or two things.

    It's sad that your father was so anti-birthdays. It's the one day a year completely devoted to you.

  13. I seem to recall one of the Duggar boys getting a bike and helmet for his birthday, which obviously thrilled him. the context of a whole, joyless life, it sounds like birthdays were another way for Ruth's to control and suck the life out of people.

    That said, I'm not really inclined to freak out about not doing birthdays The American Way. I'm married to someone who had to guess his birthdate in order to establish documentation as an adult in his country. When he sees American style birthdays, he sees rampant, ridiculous materialism and gluttony. My own family went through phases, so I had a few big parties, and a few small birthdays. I wasn't upset by the smaller ones because I knew my parents loved me, valued me, and had chosen my small present out of that love. The low-key birthdays are the ones I remember most, for all the *little* ways that I was made to feel special.

    Now with my own kids, my husband and I have reached a compromise between the American norm and no birthdays at all. Every year turns out a little different, depending on where we live, what our finances are, if my parents are able to come up. Each child gets to pick his favorite breakfast and favorite supper, and on a weekend near their birthdays (all within a week of each other--handy!) we get together with family and have "party food". Sometimes it's cake, but my kids have requested things like apple or pumpkin pie, too.

    I'm sorry but I just don't see cake and a mound of presents every year to be the key to happiness. IMO it's the lack of love and the use of birthdays for more manipulation that made non-birthdays in Ruth's family so bad, not the fact that they weren't "just like everyone else's."

  14. another way for Ruth's to control and suck the life out of people.

    Ruth's *dad*, I meant. Don't know what happened to that word.

  15. Well the Bible also doesn't mention Jesus using the bathroom, but we make broad assumptions he did. Has anyone read "The Name of the Rose"? The dialogue over whether Jesus ever laughed was interesting.

    Happy Birthday, Ruth. The great thing about adulthood is creating your own memories to try and rectify the past. Go out and find th biggest cupcake or gooeyist (sp?) chocolate cake you can find. You deserve it.


  16. Okay...the thought of Jesus "cutting a rug" on his birthday, or even better, on mine, just brings a huge smile to my face! I have NO doubt that he would do just that!

    I was trying to think of a fittingly horrible present for Bill Gothard's birthday, and the thought of Jesus "cutting a rug" in front of a huge crowd of guests and a humungous cake with candles fits the bill just perfectly.

    I bet that rot his innards right to the core of his being! Lol!!!

  17. Bill Gothard never seemed to mind too much when the headquarters staff threw him a birthday party. If memory serves me correctly there was enough cake to go around.

  18. "I'm sorry but I just don't see cake and a mound of presents every year to be the key to happiness."

    I don't think anyone was saying such. But it's also NOT a sin for a parent to express their love in that way. I think that was our point, and that that is an issue that is something the parents have freedom to choose, & which shouldn't be dictated by some self appointed protestant bishop type person. Hi, Maggie. :-)

  19. "Anonymous said...
    Bill Gothard never seemed to mind too much when the headquarters staff threw him a birthday party. If memory serves me correctly there was enough cake to go around."

    If that's true, and if it's really true he was dictating children should have spartan birthday parties, then he is a hypocrite.

  20. So, Ruth have you ever had ice cream? I'm just asking as you said sweets weren't allowed.

  21. Ruth, thank goodness you extricated yourself out of this cult that your parents got involved in. I know that it is not easy for you right now, especially at your birthday time, but it WILL get easier as time goes by. I remain hopeful that you will have more communication with your mother, who I know is very important to you. Give it time. Right now, your personal safety and your healing is first and foremost. The other things will fall in line as time goes by.

    The more that I read and learn about Gothardism, the Vision Forum/Doug Philips, and the rest of the crazy bunch, the more convinced I am that all of these organizations/systems/models are full-fledged cults who use mainstream Christianity as a "front." I am convinced that there is something very wrong with these people, because they all have one thing in common and that is that they want FULL control and submission from everyone who is even remotely involved with them. It is interesting that your dad finally gave in to your mother about having a birthday cake with which to celebrate the birthdays, but he had to get his final dig in by demanding that it be just one cupcake. Now, who in the world makes just one cupcake??? I have to tell you, Ruth, that that alone would have made me want to strangle the man. If all the other cr*p wasn't enough (the Fundie Supernanny from hell, the prayer closet (torture chamber), the constant work and toil),the being forced to bake just one cupcake would have probably been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for me. I think that I would have gone medieval on him right there and then. I am a person that can take a lot, but when things don't make logical sense to me (as in making enough batter for a full cake or 24 cupcakes and then being forced to just bake one cupcake while there are 20 people in the house), then I might just have to take matters into my own hands. I think something would have risen inside of me to possibly think of ways to get myself out of this situation or to possibly harm the man. I wish I was kidding when I say this, but I am not. There comes a time in every person's life that something within them arises and the message is, "enough is enough."

    I am glad that you came to the point in your life when you realized that enough is enough and that you deserve much better than what you were going to get should you have been entrenched into the life-long prison your father had waiting for you. Ruth, remain strong and keep walking forward into a better future. The road won't always be easy, but it will be worth it. :)

  22. I wonder if Daddy Dearest instituted the one cupcake rule knowing that the siblings would fight about it, and hoping that would be enough to get Mom to abandon the idea of cake. That surprises me. I usually don't think of the QF/ATI types willing to be that wasteful. Unless I'm missing something, and there is a way to make just enough batter for one cupcake.

    That is such a feature of legalism - the ability to come up with the most inane little rules about anything and everything, and them pass it off as being spiritual.

  23. @ Margaret,

    Are you a) married to an African from a very patriocentric tradition and are you b) on record on another forum as practicing "militant fecundity"? I may have you confused with another person from a forum I used to post on, and if so, I apologize for the mix-up.

    But if that is who you are, it explains a lot of why you also snub traditional American birthday parties.

    @ Kris and Jennifer,

    Yes! I think Jesus would be a totally rocking birthday party guest! There's a reason the religious leaders called him a glutton and a "wine-bibber" plus he was a total blast at the wedding of Cana! =) Saved the party with his "best stuff" wine.

    As the Water Boy would say, "That's some quality H2O!"

  24. The many different experiences we each go through... they arent always easy. And yet here we are, stronger, wiser, better ... and sharing

  25. I am surprised at the cake batter comments. Hasn't anyone ever used an Easy Bake Oven? It is more than possible to make the batter for one little cake. They are easy to do from scratch without mixing up an entire box of store bought mix. My daughter and I used to mix up little batches of cake batter all the time.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Ruth. I have learned a lot from your blog.

  26. Shadowspring--
    Yes, and, "militant"? We don't fit well into any box you might be thinking of. ;)

    I'm interested in Ruth's blog because there is spiritual abuse in my background too, and ATI has been on my radar for a few years, though I've never run into any ATI families IRL.

    As someone who practices complimentarianism in marriage and rejects contraception out of personal conviction, I find much of Ruth's experience to be horrifying and sad. Just not this particular issue. It is sad because it was used as a tool for manipulation and abuse, not because eschewing birthday parties is inherently evil. It's not a "snub", and it has nothing to do with patriarchy or not using birth control.

  27. Also, if you care to re-read my first comment, you will see that we do celebrate birthdays, just not "the American way". I was explaining my husband's *perception* of American style birthdays. He and I know that perception is influenced by culture and that culture is not the be all and end all. Thus his willingness to celebrate birthdays in spite of his negative perception of the way they are normally done here.

    We are as happy to celebrate the births of our children as any who go "all out" on birthdays every year. :)

  28. I'm curious if the "Christian birthday song" you mentioned is the same one the Duggars sang on the birthday episodes of "18 Kids and Counting."

  29. LOL Margaret- no worries! I thought those were your words, that's why I put them in quotes.

    Hope your family is happy and well. And you can celebrate birthdays anyway you want, cuz what you are really celebrating is your children, which I believe you do everyday.

  30. lol. I may have used them jokingly (or maybe when I was an arrogant teenager, I've been on that forum a loooong time). I sometimes say I'm a "rightwing religious nutcase" too. :p

    Anyway, thanks. :)

    I posted first mainly to validate Ruth's feeling that her family's way of doing birthday's was hurtful and unloving..iow, I can see that even though we don't do the traditional American birthday thing ourselves.

  31. ONE cupcake. Bwahaha! Daddy Darth was obviously never married to anyone like me, because with that kind of mandate, I would have baked ONE cupcake ... in a BUNDT pan, or a giant flowerpot. It woulda been the biggest damn cupcake on the planet. And every kid in the neighbourhood would have been given a piece.

    Still, kudos to Ruth's Mom for standing up to the Man in this instance. Coming from an abusive marriage to a similar type man, I know just how much courage that bit of defiance must have required of her.

  32. @Wendy, I was just thinking the same thing!

    Big giant cupcake tin!


  33. I have a question? Hows did ya'll celebrate Easter? It is a celebration of Christ..I'm just curious.

    Did ya'll have baskets and hunt eggs?



  34. I think the last time I cooked an Easy Bake oven was involved. I feel sorry for anyone who marries me and expects that doesn't come out of cardboard containers.

  35. I think cupcake-gate is funny. My mom made twelve, but she froze the others and we used them in another recipe (kind of similar to the Duggar ice cream cake). If we had company coming, the cupcakes would get crumbled up and put in a sheet cake pan with chocolate sauce and coconut, with ice cream.


  36. Ruth,

    I've been reading your blog for weeks, and I want to thank you for opening my eyes to so much about your past and the implications for others in the same boat.

    You seem like a wonderful young lady (I'm only 42 and I'm calling you a "young lady"! Gah!), and I say forget the naysayers and leave up your tip jar (for what it's worth).

    And I say as a writing teacher, keep writing sweetie. You have a gift and a voice and a story. What a blessing it is for you and us all. As a Christian I will say that what you grew up with is such a horrible misrepresentation of everything Jesus is that it brings tears to me.

    Have a great Easter and take care of yourself!


  37. Happy Easter, Ruth! Cupcake ice cream intrigues me. (So does that enormous cupcake tin).

    Since sweets weren't allowed in your house, this might be too optimistic, but I hope you got the occasional Easter egg hunt. They're among my favourite childhood memories, including the traditional discovery-of-that-one-egg-from-last-year. If not, definitely something to do as an adult.

  38. I like how "guests" got the remaining 11 cupcakes while the kids at home got diddly squat (other than the birthday girl/boy who got the one cupcake). Sounds like more of the "front" put up for appearances sake. I just can't imagine how involved this whole Gothard thing is; they seem to have a "system" for everything. I think that I would seriously lose my mind trying to live within the confines of such a system. Oh, wait, some people do/ Andrea
    Yates, for example. Something would have to "give" in order for me not to kill myself and/or everyone around me. Living this "system" is supposed to prevent people from going to "hell"??? Let me just say this: this system/model IS hell. I have no doubts about that WHATSOEVER.

  39. Ruth said, "Somewhere around 1987, my father read a lecture by Mr. Gothard and had an epiphany. Birthdays, he decided, weren't spiritually appropriate, as they had been celebrated and were being celebrated by "others". "

    Others? Seriously... others? Did he also banish eating as this, too, was a practice employed by "others"? How about reading, sleeping, using the bathroom? All activities used by "others".

    PS. Does he write for Lost? (You'll get that reference eventually if you don't already.)

  40. EDavis, LOL about Daddy Darth writing for Lost! :)

  41. LOLOL on Lost writing!!!

  42. Anything to suck the individuality out of the kids, eh?

    Happy Zombie Jeebus Day (belated), Ruth!


  43. Ruth (or someone else) - apologies if I missed this, but what's a Charter Family? Is that different from other Gothard families we might know?


  44. One of the first 102 families. They are somewhat legendary in ATI.

  45. i was from a Chart family. Not that I wear the medal or anything. haha.


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