One of the ways the LaQuiere family was different was their focus on family-integration. They did everything as a family, or no one did it at all. Kids didn’t do “kid activities”, especially not with other kids; they did only whatever their parents were doing. Viewing children as “just kids” in need of their own specialized activities, or menu, or bedtimes, or anything similar was frowned on as a post-modern perversion of family dynamics. The idea of playtime was definitely not in favor. It wasn’t completely outlawed, but it was definitely viewed as an unproductive use of time, and not something children ought to be encouraged to do. Children could learn more from watching adults than by playing, and the primary responsibility of children was to learn to be adults, so why should they waste time on play? In this lifestyle, families were meant to do things together, or not at all, and since the children needed to be integrated into the activities of their parents, that meant mostly work! For this reason, family businesses were considered the ideal. The LaQuieres had a family business in real estate, and they all participated. They built office buildings together, poured concrete together, snowplowed together, and basically did everything else together. This was Mr. LaQuiere’s ideal family dynamic: not only was he able to keep his children where he could supervise them at all times, but he felt that it taught them responsibility, and most vital of all, avoided the twin dangers of individualism and independence. The LaQuiere children didn’t need friends: they had their family! They didn’t need time to themselves, or the space to develop into independent thinkers and persons: their value came from being a cog in the family machine, and providing necessary benefits to the family and their parents.
Mr. LaQuiere stressed to us that anything that placed the needs or wants of the children above those of the parents and the family was not only morally wrong, but would train children to be selfish and irresponsible. He taught us that we needed to do whatever was necessary to protect our families against a world determined to pull us apart and lure us into spiritual death with its age-segregated “youth groups” and “child entitlement”, and other thin excuses for children to get into trouble, or think they were “owed” anything from their parents or the world. On the contrary, children owed everything to their parents, and a childhood spent serving their parents was not only a way to pay back a little of the debt, but a spiritual benefit to them as well, which would teach them to develop humility and self-sacrifice. The responsibility of parents was to provide training to their children; the responsibility of children was to respond with instant obedience and submission at all times. This was the God-ordained family structure. Children were “arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior”, Mr. LaQuiere said, and we should never forget that arrows that try to leave the mighty warrior and the bow are nothing more than useless sticks. Joe LaQuiere raised his own children to know that their needs came secondary to the needs of their parents, and the family, and he taught us to do the same.
Often this meant that all the families spent a lot of time together doing work projects, which was actually quite fun! We only met officially on Wednesday nights, but spent a lot of the week meeting at various home improvement projects, not only to help, but to be around Joe LaQuiere as much as possible so we could absorb his wisdom on daily life situations. One summer we built additions on three different houses. My brother B learned how to drive a backhoe. I learned how to line up shingles on a roof, and how to handle a nail gun. We didn’t exactly raise barns together, but there are pictures of us raising walls for the new additions, looking like a bunch of renegade Amish: boys in high-waisted carpenter jeans with side-parted hair plastered down, and girls in flowered dresses or mom jeans and baggy t-shirts. The Amish probably wouldn’t have wanted to claim us, but the neighborhood clearly thought that’s where we belonged! All the men and boys, and a few of the girls worked on the construction. The other girls (who either didn’t want to or weren’t allowed to help) worked with the women to prepare huge lunches and dinners for dozens of hungry men and kids.
These times working together as a family had a positive side–I think it did teach considerable responsibility, and strengthened family bonds (and let me escape dresses and “girl work” temporarily!)–but it had a darker side. This “construction phase” was the backdrop to some of my worst memories . They centered around my younger brother B, whose irreverant joie de vivre had caught the critical eye of our leader-in-chief. Mr. LaQuiere’s next “training” project was underway.