How not to raise a Josh Duggar

When the first news about Josh Duggar broke earlier this year, I was rapt with curiosity. Questions swirled and surfaced. What makes an older sibling experiment sexually on his younger siblings? What key elements of upbringing were missing from his childhood? What conversations were either had or not had that left him feeling like inappropriately touching his sisters was the most accessible form of experimentation? Was there an emotional void? Psychological imbalance? Genetic predisposition? Is he just bad?

Lest we wag our fingers at people like Josh Duggar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, or former President Bill Clinton (ahem), we must remember that we all screw up. We all manifest our shortcomings by acting out in specific ways. The only difference between us and them is that they are public figures, which does not warrant a free pass for us to lose our minds with criticism.

Instead of raising my eyebrows in condemnation, I turn my attention inward, into my own home, where we have been charged to raise two healthy, productive, respectful men in a world where so much is stacked against them. 

As a parent, I’m hesitant to blame Josh Duggar’s parents. We’re all doing what we think is best for our children, so I have a hard time believing that Jim Bob and Michelle chose their specific path of sexual education knowing in the back of their minds, “Hey, I think this could totally screw up our kids, but let’s forge ahead anyway!”

No, it couldn’t have been like that.

And now it looks like Josh Duggar didn’t reconcile his sexual curiosities in adolescence after all. While he might have made some attempts to walk the straight and narrow and marry his wife with the best of intentions, he’s fallen short again and, again, it has to do with whatever jumbled mess is inside his head about sexuality. He is clearly still grappling with whatever went awry years ago, and honestly, how he and his wife handle their mess is none of my business. Actually, I don’t even care.

The bottom line is this – how can I make sure my own boys do not grow up with such insecurity and misinformation that they philander themselves all over the place?

To start, Chuck and I agree that talking about sex with our boys is not single discussion. It’s a collaboration of conversations that go on indefinitely. We’ve already had candid discussions with Jeremy and we’ll continue having them as necessary. We seek to answer his questions honestly with appropriate language and in keeping with what we view as standard, acceptable behavior in this household.

As far as what “standard, acceptable behaviors” are, we fall somewhere between the Duggars and the Kardashians.

Second, sex cannot be taboo, and that’s a hard concept for me to grasp. We all recoil when we think about saying certain words in front of our kids, but how else will they learn to respect and honor this physical and emotional act of expression? We can’t shut down, we can’t shoo them away, we can’t save that conversation for another time. For the love of all things holy, we cannot leave it to the health teacher. If kids don’t get this information from us, they’ll get it elsewhere.


Case in point: On the way home from something earlier this week, Jeremy and I were alone in the car when he starts a conversation about sex. He doesn’t say the word, but I knew what he was getting at and I wasn’t going to let shame slip in where sex should be.

Jeremy: Have we had “The Talk?”

Me: Yes. Don’t you remember?

J: Well yeah, but [neighborhood kid] says they’re gonna have “The Talk” in health class this year and he’s dreading it.

Me: Yeah, they do that in school. They separate the boys and girls and talk about puberty.

J: Is that what “The Talk” is?

Me: You know what it is. Just say it.

J: I don’t want to say it.

Me: It’s not a bad thing. Don’t be ashamed. Just say it.

J: Ugh.

Me: The minute you start thinking you can’t say the word it becomes this secretly bad thing and it’s not. Just say it.

J: SEX! Okay? “The Talk” is about sex.

I died a little but pressed on.

Me: See? Be confident in your knowledge. And remember this doesn’t mean you are responsible for spreading the news around the neighborhood. That’s up to your friends’ parents. But in our house? Don’t be ashamed.


While I hated every minute of that conversation, I also loved it. I feel like it was right, and no matter how uncomfortable right makes me, I have to do it. Too much is at stake.

This brings me to the third thing we have decided to teach our kids about sex, or rather, about the nature of sex. Privacy is not the same as secrecy. Privacy creates a space of respect and responsibility while secrecy produces feelings of shame and stigma. We talk about sex with parameters because it’s a private subject, not because it produces shame and humiliation.

Honestly, that’s as far as we’ve gotten. I know fully that everything can go to crap at any point, so I’m not claiming that we’ve got this subject mastered. Heck, we’ve only just begun down this is a long, strange, scary road. At any time my boys could be exposed to something at a friend’s house. They could skillfully hack our parental controls. They could rummage through our movie collection and find something that has five seconds of exhilaration. They could do something I haven’t even thought of yet.

All of you with teenagers and college students are saying, “JUST WAIT AND SEE.” I hear you, parents. I hear you, and I welcome your advice and experience and support.

As I await all hell to break loose, my hope and prayer is that our home remains a place of conversation, and even if we don’t have all the answers, I strive to stand in the confidence that we’re doing our best.

Of course, maybe that’s what the Duggars thought they were doing with Josh.

I’m not that homeschooling mom.

Please know that this post is not a commentary on Josh Duggar, Josh Duggar’s history with molestation, TLC’s decisions about its programing, or anything remotely religious, political, or cultural. About those matters, I have no input.

This post is about homeschooling, more specifically the homeschooling haters who’ve linked homeschooling as an isolation-based catalyst for pedophilia, incest, and other acts of criminal behavior inside the home.


Let’s start with the obvious: Homeschooling looks different in every household. Some families are lax, some are rigid. Some are religiously motivated, some aren’t. Some boast educational superiority, some don’t. And there are a thousand variations in between.

To the outsider, homeschooling is a natural curiosity. I can’t count the times I’ve been told, “I could never do that! I’d go nuts!” To which I usually reply, “Some days I feel nuts, other days not so much.”

People wonder what we do all day, how I interact with my boys regarding their school work, if they have to take standardized tests (because how else could I measure their intellect?), and whether or not they are socialized (that one makes me beat my head against a brick wall). Those who know us personally don’t ask these questions because they know my boys, they understand the boys’ educational challenges, they understand our family dynamic and know the normalcy we live out each day.

For the record, my kids play Minecraft, they argue, get dirty, ask hard questions, use their manners, resist vegetables, love the beach, get in trouble, ask for forgiveness, are friends with the neighborhood kids, play sports, love LEGOs, et cetera. Chuck and I watch R-rated movies, love all types of music, have tattoos, prefer the outdoors, read books, enjoy traveling, and we are doing this parenting thing the best way we know how. We have pets, we love football, we take pride in a well-groomed yard.

So yeah, we’re totally normal. Just like you. I also hate the word normal because what does that mean anyway?

Too cool

 

Most of the time, I’m not bothered by nonsense on social media. I used to get rattled by blanket statements and political rants, but I censor my eyes now. It’s not worth the blood pressure medicine.

But when the Duggar story broke, all kinds of crazy exploded about homeschooling on Twitter and I felt my skin get hot. Within a few days, I was hyper-checking social media to see who was offending me. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in that crazy camp.

Dear Twitter

Okay, so I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t making it up that homeschoolers – as a whole – were catching flack. I didn’t respond to a single Tweet because I didn’t want to start something that would never really finish amicably. People have their ideas and their love for labeling is just too strong.

But this space is mine, this blog, this cathartic place where I document bits of our life, like a journal. Some of you read because we’re related or acquainted, some of you because you’re just curious. My interaction with you is mostly minimal, which is totally fine because I don’t write for reaction. I write to unload.

We aren’t the Duggars. We’re not even close. We aren’t the hippie commune people either. Not even close. We’re in the middle, on another plane, in a different area altogether. We homeschool because I like addressing both boys’ specific needs. I like our discussions and the freedom we have to decide whether we want to study weather patterns or the food chain. I like that we can take longer with fractions if we need to. I really like keeping our own calendar.

So much of this feels like common sense, but I can totally see where some people are uneasy with the idea of not going to traditional school. On the surface, it feels rebellious. It feels alternative and restrictive. Homeschooling sounds like the perfect breeding ground for creating incompetent, gullible adults from impressionable, vulnerable children. By homeschooling, we indoctrinate, right? By homeschooling, we control.

Let me say – I wish I had better control in this house. Did I mention my oldest is nearing puberty? Whoa boy.

Unless there are credible statistics to prove the point, I fail to believe that homeschooling is directly correlated to crimes inside the home. Children don’t need to be kept at home for educational purposes to be molested, beaten, starved, or abused. That happens everywhere, in all sorts of family dynamics, in every kind of setting. Everywhere. Homeschooling does not incite crime. Sickness does. 

You know what I’m saying here, right? Psychological imbalance, distorted and irrational thinking, impulsivity and a lack of empathy. That kind of sick. People molest and abuse because they are sick. Some can be helped, but I swear that some can’t. Where Josh Duggar falls on that spectrum, I have no clue. I sorta don’t care.

Even if you want to draw that line from the Duggar’s conservative curriculum to say, “See? Josh was taught that women’s bodies are meant for men and sin can be prayed away” or whatever, that still doesn’t allow for the lumping together of homeschoolers as captive audience for home-based crimes. Even if your home state doesn’t have strict homeschooling laws, that line just can’t be drawn. Crazy happens everywhere. 

All of this being said, I’m completely curious to know what the Duggars will say Wednesday night during their first public interview. SO CURIOUS. No doubt people will pounce on them all over again and say whatever stings the most. I’ll have my eye on the anti-homeschooling Tweets. I might even send out this link, if only to cauterize the hate.

Okay. I’m feeling better now. This post was more cathartic than I thought it would be.