My mom and I are both working through the effects of being raised by her cult-leading mom/my grandma. She recently wrote this
about her own childhood, and I related it to my deconversion.
One striking aspect of how our mother raised us was how actively she defined and described the world to us. Some of the time she would teach us things, perhaps when we were in the car on the way to school or to the grocery store. I remember a mini-lecture about the banking system when I was only about six, and a few years later one time when I was sick she told a clever story about antibodies. She described the white blood cells as little soldiers who willingly gave their lives as they defended the body against infection. She could also be funny and charming, and I can remember all of kids standing in a circle around her, laughing at some joke or story she had told. She enjoyed being the center of attention with us, just as she had with kids in high school and boys in college. And we enjoyed being the recipients of her performance.
But her verbal descriptions of the world went far beyond the times she told us jokes or taught us facts. She defined life to us. She told us what mattered and what didn’t. She told us what we thought and what we felt. She told us what we wanted – and she told us who we were. She told us everything we needed to know. And she seemed to imply that anything she didn’t tell us was something we didn’t need to know. As I recall my childhood, it’s as though she was providing a narration, almost a voice-over, for my entire life, creating for it the meaning and the purpose that she decreed.