Lisa Pennington on Adult Children, Maturity, and Drivers’ Licenses

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on February 13, 2015 and has been slightly modified for reprinting here.

Lisa Pennington began deleting posts on her blog, The Pennington Post, after her daughter, Alecia Faith, went public with the message that her parents were preventing her from proving her identity. It seems Lisa has realized that her posts—especially those on parenting adult children—seem rather to corroborate Alecia Faith’s story. Fortunately, we have urls and the wayback machine. To quote a friend of mine, “don’t they know the internet is forever?”

I wanted to take a moment to share one more thing I found on Lisa’s blog:

I didn’t write my regular, fascinating Monday update yesterday because I was driving.

In fact, have been driving for the past 2 days and sadly I am the only driver in this bunch.  Our belief in not letting our kids learn to drive until they are mature and enough to carry that responsibility comes back to bite me when I’m on one of these road trips.  I find myself thinking, “I wonder if I could just plop one of the girls in front of the wheel on a long stretch of nothing and tell her to hit the gas.”

This post is from June 24, 2014, a mere eight months ago, three months before Alecia Faith left home, unannounced.

Alecia Faith’s sister Grace commented on my blog the other day, stating that she is the oldest and is 24. Thus if we are generous, when this post went up last summer, Lisa’s oldest child was 23. Alecia Faith was 18 when she moved out and is now 19, so at the time of this post she would have been 18. Alecia Faith is the fourth child in her family, meaning that there were two more siblings between age 18 and 23.

Lisa says they believe in “not letting” their kids learn to drive until they are “mature . . . enough to carry that responsibility.” You may wonder how Lisa can prevent her adult children from getting their drivers licenses until she believes they are ready. Well, when children don’t have birth certificates or social security numbers (and both Grace and her brother Jacob confirmed that this was the case) they can’t exactly get drivers licenses on their own. When (and if) they could do so rested in their parents’ hands.

Lisa states that they believe in not letting their children learn to drive until they are “mature . . . enough to carry that responsibility,” and given that at this point she hadn’t let any of her adult children get their drivers’ licenses we can assume that she didn’t not believe any of them were mature enough. If you do not believe that your adult children, aged approximately 23, 21, 20, and 18, are mature enough to drive, the problem is not with them, it’s with you. Either you completely messed up in raising them, or you are vastly underestimating their maturity (or vastly overestimating the maturity needed to drive).

Being able to drive is incredibly important. In most of the United States, it is almost impossible to gain any sort of independence without being able to drive. Alecia Faith lists Kerrville, Texas, as her hometown. Kerrville appears to be a fairly rural town of 20,000 with no public transportation.

Not being able to drive in a town like this would be crippling.

Of course, two months later, in August 2014, Lisa speaks of her children borrowing her car and writes that her two oldest children are saving to by a car. In her comment on my blog, Grace says that she and her brother Jacob, who is the second child in the family, both have their drivers licenses. She writes that her parents helped walk both of them through the necessary paperwork. It appears, then, that at some point last summer Lisa determined that her two oldest children, aged 23 and either 21 or 22, were finally mature enough to drive.

Let me think for a moment of the things I did when I was 23. Wow. I’d done a lot by that time! I had been driving for six years and I had graduated from college with honors. I had applied for and been accepted into a graduate program at a good university. I had gotten married and had birthed my first child, with all of the medical bills and documentation that involved. My husband was no older than I, yet we had moved across the state and located an apartment and obtained our own rental insurance and health insurance and life insurance and car insurance.

I understand that Grace has self-published several novels and I don’t want to demean her accomplishments. She also states that she has plans to move out of her parents’ home and live a more normal life, and I am happy for her. But I can’t help but feel that preventing an adult child from getting her driver’s license until she is 23 on the grounds that she is not “mature” enough to drive is something worse than terrible parenting. It is actively holding your child back and squashing her potential. I am glad Grace now has her driver’s license, but she should have had the ability to obtain it years ago.

Grace claimed in her comment that her family is trying to help Alecia Faith by looking for documents to prove her existence, but have not been able to find any. But if Lisa and her husband were able to come up with the documentation to prove Grace and Jacob’s identity, there should be documents to prove Faith’s identity as well. Note that while her parents are saying they are willing to help, they are also saying that they do not have any documents. At this point, it appears that Alecia Faith’s grandparents have signed an affidavit for her, and that only one affidavit is needed, so while her parents claim they are willing to sign an affidavit that is irrelevant at this point. What is needed is other documents—and her parents are saying those don’t exist. But somehow, they existed for Grace and for Jacob. Is it just me, or something weird going on here?

Grace also claims that her parents were trying to help Alecia Faith get her license last summer before she left. I find it a bit strange that Lisa would suddenly decide that three of her children were old enough to drive, and that she would be willing to obtain a driver’s license for her 18 year old after making her oldest child wait until she was 23 before deciding she was mature enough, though people do strange things so this may be true. But Grace seems to use this information as proof that it was unreasonable for Alecia Faith to move out. Nope. It doesn’t work like that. First, Alecia Faith had no guarantee that her parents would actually obtain the license, and second, Alecia had reached the age of majority and was within her rights to move out.

I want to be clear that this isn’t an isolated thing.

When a parent home births and homeschools, they have total control over their children’s documents (including control over the very existence of those documents).

I grew up knowing several homeschooling families that didn’t obtain social security numbers for their children. Even birth certificates were something you could forego if you picked the right midwife. Most homeschoolers obtain both birth certificates and social security numbers for their children—mine did, for example—so don’t think I’m saying this is all that common. What I am saying is that home birthing and homeschooling gives parents the ability to deprive their children of these documents in a way that they could not if they didn’t home birth and homeschool—and some parents, like Alecia Faith’s, take advantage of that.

Children who attend public school can obtain copies of their transcripts years later. Homeschool alumni have to get those from their parents. In most cases this isn’t a problem, but when parents are controlling and manipulative, it can be a huge problem. I know someone who lived at home until she was 23 because her parents kept promising to give her her homeschool diploma and transcript, stringing her along for years. I know someone else whose parents told her they would only give her a diploma and transcript of she agreed to go to the Christian college they had picked out. You can read more stories like this here.

In her own comment on my post, a Christian homeschooling blogger stated this:

You understate how controlling Lisa is. It’s shocking really. I know because we used to be friends. 

This blogger chose to remove this comment, so I am not going to name her here. But to me, this rather confirms what I said earlier—that Alecia Faith would not have left home unannounced if she didn’t have reason for doing so. Her older sister Grace wrote in her comment that she is making plans to move out herself, but then, she is 24 and the move has not yet taken place yet. Besides, I could see Alecia Faith’s parents realizing that they need to loosen up a bit on their older children or they risk losing them as they lost Alecia Faith, so things may be different in the home than they were when Alecia Faith fled.

In summary, any parent willing to actively prevent a child from getting her drivers license until she is 23 on the grounds that she is not “mature” enough to drive is extremely controlling and manipulative.

I am very glad Alecia Faith managed to get out. You go, Alecia Faith!

18 comments

  • I am so proud of Alecia for being able to do this. Having come from an extremely controlling family I know the dynamic in place pretty well. Their parents are extreme control freaks, but all of it it comes from a deeply religious place of love and it is hard for kids who grow up with it to figure out how to establish appropriate boundaries when their parents love them so much and they have verses to back everything up and rationalize the oppression. And yeah it feels like oppression and you sort of know it is completely overboard–licenses at 23? You know not even your mom’s friends are agreeing with her on this stuff, but on the other hand, that is just the way your family does things they aren’t *bad* people. And the older kids usually don’t like it, but they have more of a sense of family loyalty and simply can’t fathom why their younger sibling is complaining and rebelling over something they handled just fine, in fact they probably even feel like they had it harder than she did.
    But what she is doing is strong and courageous and since I think everyone knows without question that all of the cooperating the parent’s are promising to do come with massive amounts of qualifiers she probably does look like she is being unreasonable to her family, when really she just understands the true stakes in ways the older children have never fully questioned.

  • Cripple the kid, and then make it “his responsibility” he can’t walk. That’s the name of the Game.

  • Just for the record, I know Grace and she’s a cool cat and someone I respect. Any hate directed at her in this maelstrom is unnecessary and unwarranted.

    • Shawn, um.. wtf. Nobody’s even mentioned Grace yet.

      Also, perhaps you should have a look at this post here:

      https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/why-mocking-the-duggar-children-should-be-off-limits/

      • My comment was not intended to attack or even to be directed at anybody in particular. The article mentioned her and I just figured HA was a safe place where I could give props to my friend.

    • Shawn, I have written a few comments about this case but wouldn’t write anything negative about Grace or her siblings as individuals. I like some of Grace and Patience’s posts and photography. I have noticed that both Grace and Patience have mentioned battling depression, Grace “severe” depression. I relate to that a lot because my depression started when I was in my late teens. I do worry about people who grow up in the type of religious environment I did where they are taught not to seek professional help for mental health issues. Depression can be a serious medical issue, and if left untreated it tends to worsen over the years, not get better. I also relate to being in what seems to be an unhealthily enmeshed family situation where adult children’s lives continue to largely revolve around their parents and siblings. It’s not unhealthy to be close to your family but there are indications in many of Lisa’s posts that this situation goes beyond closeness to an unhealthy lack of boundaries and respect by Lisa and James of their adult children.

      • My comment was not intended to attack or even to be directed at anybody in particular. The article mentioned her and I just figured HA was a safe place where I could give props to my friend. While I may not agree with all her parent’s choices, the internet at large has (as usual with something of this magnitude) not been kind and their lack of understanding and the fallout on every member of the family, saddens me.

    • I think most people here have nothing but compassion for Grace. They know, some from bitter experience, that the oldest children in a family this rigid and demanding bear some of the highest costs both emotionally and in the cases where physical punishment is used to control (especially when very young) physically too. We can all imagine how Grace has suffered and feel for her. She’s obviously trying as hard as she can to do what she believes will make her family happy, but, that’s not a great place to be when you are trying to figure out who you are and what you need to be whole. After you figure out who you are you can give and give from the well of your life and not empty all that you have to give, before you get to that point the well does not refill and can leave you feeling used up and empty.

      • I appreciate the understanding – and (if they’re still reading online) hopefully Grace and her siblings do to.

  • Isn’t it possible that when Lisa mentioned being the only driver in the bunch, her kids in her 20’s weren’t on that particular trip?

  • Pingback: Identification Abuse Bill Inspired by Alecia Pennington Passes Texas House, Goes to Senate | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  • Pingback: Alecia Pennington, “The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist,” Can Now Prove She Does | Homeschoolers Anonymous

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