So where do these fallen ideas about gender originate. They come from many places with two important places being our family of origin and society as a whole. Remember on all these topics we are touching on them as we go through our story and then will come back to them in more detail later.
Ben: First off we want you to know that our families had many good qualities. I spent lots of time with my dad playing golf. It's a cool thing to compete and kick butt with your dad. My mom took good care of me and my brothers. On the other hand there were negative themes.
The first for me was that if you do well at sport you can skate in other areas. Golf was my identity for so long. I did well winning conference as a freshman and state as a junior and and senior in high school. I played for Mizzou in college earning All Big-8 honors as a senior and playing on the Big-8 Championship team that ended Oklahoma State's 14 year victory run. The problem was that I believed my value came from my score. If I shot 68 I was a great guy. If I shot 86 I was a piece of crap.
I was also taught that if there is a party, to have fun, there has to be drinking. I started getting drunk when I was 13. When I was 14 I went with my brother on my birthday. He and his friends had me buy a case and I ended up leaning out of the car throwing up. Why I thought this was fun and continued getting drunk is a great question. There was certainly a deep desire to be liked and also a desire to numb my heart and any wounds and insecurities that were rising up to the surface.
The third theme was that it was ok to lie to women. I wasn't taught to honor my wife, to touch her soul, to cherish her. When I was about 13 I was at the mall with my dad. He made a call on the pay phone to a woman. No cell phones back then. When he hung up he turned to me and said, "Don't tell your mom about that call."
I relied on sports for my value, drank to have 'fun', and treated women as something to make me feel good not a daughter of God worthy of respect and honor.
Ann: My dad and mom both worked hard. They had four kids in five years so they had to be on their toes. I did learn to be involved and motivated to succeed from them. Yet as I look at my life I see the area of sexual sin stand out. Three of the four of us had children out of wedlock and two of us had affairs. One of my siblings had an affair to end a marriage, married his affair partner and subsequently had another affair.
I lived a dual life. I was involved in lots of activities at school. My picture was on almost every page in the yearbook. I made good grades, played basketball, was the drum major, had significant roles in plays and on it went. At school I was a model citizen. But on the weekend I was often in the back seat of someone's car I didn't know that well. They usually wouldn't date me but I was good enough to be used sexually. The first time I had sex I didn't like it, but there was something about being wanted, desired that drew me. So like a dog going back to its vomit I kept returning. Living this dual life was a big factor in having my affair after I was married.
My parents also avoided difficult conversation. I used to think it was a good thing that I only saw them fight once. Now I realize they just swept stuff under the carpet. Ben and I started off doing the same thing. We didn't deal with anything.
So our families had many good qualities and many skewed assumptions on what it meant to be men and women. We both became tied up in what we did, and not who we were.
Another factor for us was we were both the youngest. We were more used to receiving than giving. We got our way more than our older siblings.
We've tried to redeem some of this in what we've passed on to our kids. We want them to know the importance of being wholly male and wholly female. Imperfectly for sure I've tried to be a strong father for my daughter and son. I tried to enjoy Payne vs instructing and evaluating him as he played football and rugby in high school. I also tried to be aware of my impact on my daughter though I failed terribly when in her early years of high school I labeled her band as her mom's thing. Even if I couldn't hear her instrument or see her marching it was still important for her to know I was present and that she mattered to me. I learned that after causing her some pain. Ann has made a point to really affirm Stephanie as woman at many turns, communicating to her that value doesn't come from success.
We had rites of passage for both children. For Payne's thirteenth birthday men came over, ate a lot of meat at Rodizio's, then each one gave Payne a gift and words initiating and inviting him into manhood. Ann had time with Stephanie on her 16th birthday. She shared meaningful gifts that tied into what it means to be a woman affirming the beauty that she sees in Stephanie inside and out.
These have been rich times for the four of us.