Did you know I was once approached to do reality television? Yes, it's true, happened about a year before I left my old church.
One of the causes I passionately supported back then was that I was over the top extremist against children's beauty pageants. I thought the entire world of Honey Boo Boo was one of the most disgraceful and dangerous for the safety of children there could ever be. I had a website, was frequently contacted for information by news organizations doing news stories on children's pageants and developed a database of information on why it was wrong.
I am still opposed to children's beauty pageants but now I have a more sangfroid view of the industry. It seems to appeal to the same folks that buy lottery tickets and chain smoke, so it's just another tax on poor choices. Who am I to try and take someone's hobby from them, even if the hobby is horrible for their children?
You know who likes to take away all personal choices from people? Religious fundamentalists. Which I am no longer. Just keep your hobbies and choices legal and I have no problem with them. As long as the only person you're hurting is yourself we're all good.
Back when I was still heavily involved with the church I was approached by someone on the staff of the television show "Wife Swap". We were invited to make an audition tape, look at the contract and possible be chosen for the show. We did the tape and then I took a look at the contract. The contract was all sorts of horrifying. Basically you were giving up your rights to your own image, how you were portrayed, what they could film, what they could do with the footage. The more I stared at the contract the more uneasy I became.
Granted, since we were going to be the anti children's pageant people it's not like we were going to be portrayed as bad or evil. Likely we would have gotten the heroic edit. But... the more I thought about it the greater my sense of unease grew. Andy and Laura were 16 and 13 years old at the time. Laura into the Christian part of the whole Straight Edge movement, pretty fierce in her beliefs of purity and abstained from everything bad for you while dressing emo and loved punk rock. Andy was always the quiet child, a true introvert with quite the artistic flair for music and writing. Both of them were heavily involved with the youth movement at our church.
What I finally concluded was that even with the lure of filthy lucre (the payment was 50K if I remember right) that my desire to protect my children was even stronger. I never signed the contract or returned any of the paperwork to the production team, telling them in several phone calls that I could not do this to my children. Being a teenager is hard enough, but being a teenager on reality television would open both of them up to an array of criticism, petty harassment and other things I never wanted either to have to experience.
In the long run I knew I'd made the right choice even if it would have been nice to have the money to add to the kid's college funds. I haven't always made the best parenting decisions through the years but that one was a decision I got right.
This last month I've reconnected with a boy from our old church, who remembers my family and I much more than I remember him. I remember his momma, because she was one of the group that decided that those of us at the church who were divorced needed to be run from the church and removed from any position of authority. They also denigrated and mocked those of us that liked to go to the Toronto conferences. They also took the church's already stringent modesty standards to a new extreme, insisting all ladies wear head coverings. They ended up leaving the church after demanding the pastor force us out, we had a lot of divorced and remarried people at the old church.
They moved on to the local Mennonite community and tried to join. The Mennonites wouldn't have them and several of the ones pushing the hardest about divorce ended up divorcing.
The young man showing up at our new church is the first sign of hide or hair of the Head Covering faction. So here's the rub, the young man has started talking to me about what happened. He's bitter and he's broken. I've talked to him many a long hour now and encouraged him towards figuring out what his own path is in healing, with a caution to avoid certain survivor groups because here we are ten years on and more and many of them are still stuck in that damaged state that wants to blame everyone else and not take the necessary steps to help themselves.
It's okay to be broken, to be in pain, to be confused, hurting and needy. It's not okay to stay there.
Dear nice young man (and everyone else who's parents failed to protect them), Your parents failing to meet your need or protect you isn't your fault. You didn't deserve it. You should have been loved, cherished and protected, but you weren't. I am so sorry for that, but you deserve better than to stay stuck in the trauma. I would never wish for you to stay in a place of hurting. Do what you need to do to heal, seek out those that build you up. We love you.