[This post is for the women. As always, commentary, correction, and other thoughts from the men will be gratefully accepted.]
How do we teach our children what we are learning here (and by here, I mean this collection of blogs encompassed by the mano-, ortho-, and reactionary-spheres)?
In our home, we have opted not to have television and to limit our children’s screen time. We’ve also recently removed their i-POD Touches from them; they can now only use them between certain hours and they must stay in one of the common areas of our house to do so. This means that our children are sometimes a bit sheltered, yet I want to make sure they are prepared to deal with the world as it really is, not as I wish it were.
The way that I have handled this is with story-telling. We love telling stories in our house and often take turns making up tales for one another. It’s highly enjoyable, but a wise parent can also use story-telling to be instructive without preaching. I would like to describe a story I made up and told to my girls last year.
In the story, there were a group of sheep in a sheepfold in a barnyard. They were owned by a farmer who was kind to them, who saw to their every need and many of their wants. Their only job was to grow wool and produce lambs for the farmer, so they had a lot of free time to do as they pleased and were happy, contented little ewes.
One day, a wolf sidled up to the sheep pen and started whispering to some of the sheep. He told them their life looked dull. He told them how much more fun it was outside the sheepfold. He told them that he had a wonderful time being free and that it was such a shame that the poor ewes had to obey the farmer and grow wool for him. How terribly unfair that he gets their wool for free! The wolf said he would never make the sheep do anything like that for him if they were ever to come out and play with him.
The sheep were timid at first, but a few started to listen. They looked at the wide world outside the pen, and it looked enticing – all that freedom! And the sheep started to whisper about the farmer, that he was using them unfairly and not letting them have any fun. They decided they would be much happier if they escaped from the farmer altogether and went to play with the wolf.
And then one day, the farmer didn’t latch the barnyard gate securely. The wolf pointed that out to the sheep; he himself did not open the gate but only mentioned it slyly so as not to put the ewes on guard. When the ewes saw that the gate was ajar, they shrank back a little at first. But then one particularly brazen little sheep wiggled her fluffy self through it, and out into the wide world she went. Once she had escaped, the others began to follow the naughty sheep out, a few at a time.
As the story continued, I described how the ewes had fun at first frolicking with the wolf, but then when it was dinner time, there was nothing to eat because they had always relied on the farmer for this, and the wolf suddenly was nowhere to be found. And then it grew dark and they were afraid and had no barn for shelter. And then finally, the wolf returned, only this time he brought more wolves with him…
After awhile, a few of the surviving sheep in my story stumbled back to the barnyard only to find that the farmer has closed and locked the gate to keep the few sheep who had remained in the barnyard safe. They could no longer get back in and they were sorry they had ever listened to that deceiving wolf and left the peaceful safety of the fold and the farmer’s protection.
Now, to adults, the story may sound simplistic, but my girls were fascinated by it. They made up all kinds of different endings for the story, trying to figure out a way for the sheep to get back into the pen. Could they jump the fence? Could they hang around looking fluffy and cute to see if the farmer would notice them? Could they bleat and cry until help came? And I told the girls, “The other sheep should not have followed the naughty, brazen one. They should have stayed in the pen. The moral of the story is don’t follow stupid sheep into destruction.”
I never thought of telling that story here until yesterday, when Cail Corishev made this comment:
For women trying to teach other women, it’s important to remember the herd instinct. I think many people who aren’t experienced with herd animals misunderstand what that means and think it means that women always follow the herd — always go with the majority. But that’s not quite right. The thing about a herd is that the entire herd will follow one animal who is willing to take the lead. If you’re trying to get a herd of sheep to go through a gate they’ve never entered before, sometimes they’ll just mill around in circles, acting as if they can’t even see the gate, until you’re exhausted from chasing them. But as soon as you can get one ewe to break off from the group and go through, the rest will charge after her at top speed.
I’ve seen similar behavior among women. If all the women in a group are doing the same thing, it’s very hard to get any one woman to go against them. But if just one woman will go her own direction — and look confident and happy and attractive to men while doing it — others will soon be drawn to imitate her, even though they’re still in the minority. I don’t think women realize they have this kind of individual power, because the fear of being that first one to break away is so strong; but one woman setting the right example can have a major influence on an entire group in a way that doesn’t really work between men.
I was floored by the fact that Cail had used the exact same imagery that I had used in the little fairy tale I had made up for my daughters, only in his story the sheep who has broken out from the herd by following the shepherd’s instructions is leading the other ewes back to safety rather than leading them into sin. I was so struck by what he was saying because it exactly describes what a number of us ladies have been trying to do with our blogs.
We are trying to listen to our shepherds – and many of us are ultimately trying to listen to the Shepherd – so that we can find our way through the narrow gate. And as we listen and stumble toward that gate, we are trying to lead the rest of the herd that’s milling about and not listening for the shepherd’s voice at all back to the safety of the sheep fold in the barnyard.
To be sure, we do it imperfectly. We get lost in the weeds, we draw wrong conclusions, we might not always choose our words carefully. Sometimes we get lost in talking about the ideal rather than the real, and sometimes we focus rather heavily on all the things we love and are grateful for about our husbands, but as Velvet put it (as only she can) in her outstanding post Every House I Can See From Here Is Glass:
I do not consider my family a personal accomplishment, but I do consider their accomplishments and goodness as individuals a source of righteous pride. I like my life, adore my husband, enjoy a good bikini wax, and can cook like few women can. I can balance the checkbook, hire a contractor, plan a party, dig a garden while giving my husband great head and pray the rosary all at the same time – if that’s what my husband required … I’d do it, with pleasure, and I’d be good at it. That’s not bragging, it’s simply true.
A nasty little feminist sheep led the flock out of the barnyard a long time ago. Ladies, though we will be criticized and attacked for it, let us resolve to continue to listen to the shepherd and be the sheep that obeys, who dares to come out from the group and follow the shepherd through the gate so that the rest of the lost sheep who aren’t listening can see a way to get home, too.
More instructive story-telling can be found here:
Edited to add: I am using the word sheep here allegorically not in the sense of The Sheeple (mindless, unquestioning followers of government propaganda) but rather in this sense:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)