Harper's Magazine: Family Values

From XFamily - Children of God



Harper's Magazine/September 2005
Vol. 311, No. 1864, p. 18, 20.

From The Story of Davidito, an account of the childhood of Ricky Rodriguez written by his nanny, "Sara," and distributed during the 1980s as a child-rearing manual to members of the religious cult then known as Children of God. Rodriguez, who was about three years old when the manual was written, killed Angela Smith, a high-ranking member of the cult, and then himself last January. "Dad" is Rodriguez's stepfather, David Brandt Berg, who founded the cult in 1968. Now known as The Family International, the organization has admitted that between 1978 and 1985 some children were abused as a result of its teachings. According to a spokesperson, the organization now has approximately 8,000 members living in 100 countries.

One night, after a real good dinner talk on the importance of sharing and how timidity is really just pride, Dad suggested we have a "come-union." He set up a place for Maria and Timothy on the floor, we had the couch, and a sister took care of Alfred upstairs. Davidito just wandered around from one group to the other for a long while. While watching all four of us in the living room, he said aloud, to try to get our attention, "Ahem! I would like to play with my cars now," as if someone should stop the fun and join him. Then he thought about getting my attention and said in a very self-righteous, straight way, "Sara, I want to go upstairs and read a book about Jesus." How "saintly and sweet"! He figured that'd really get me to pay attention to such a good little boy! Ha!

He did a few favors for Daddy, such as turning off the lights and bringing us more wine, then he went upstairs to watch Alf in action. Whenever Dito had seen me with Daddy before, he'd act very jealous and sometimes naughty, so Daddy suggested that I'd better go find Dito and pay him a little special attention. And guess where I found him? Sitting on the stairs peeking down at us!

We were all really surprised that he took everything so well, since he is usually very jealous about "sharing," but he waited his turn and was a real good boy!

In the evening he attended his first movie, called Beautiful People, about the African animals in the desert. We made sure that someone else viewed the movie before we took Dito, to be sure it would in no way scare or affect him, and anything we thought he wouldn't understand but might worry about was explained beforehand. He really enjoyed it, and the main thing Davidito remembered out of the whole movie was "Daddies protect their babies."

Davidito was real shy and not very talkative around the other children. I noticed that, while playing, Dito was every once in a while looking around for me, not in an insecure way but in a protective sort of way. Sometimes before bed he jabbers to his stuffed animals. One night we heard him say to them, "You go fuck Pat, and you go fuck the big girl in the kitchen! Oh, you don't want to? Oh, okay, I'll fuck Pat!"

He still acts just like the cute little jealous Spanish lover! Whenever Alfred accidentally bumps me or tugs my hair in bed, Dito will knit his brows and say, "Alfred, don't hurt her!" and pull me away so it won't happen again. Cute thing!

For a nature walk together, Davidito packed in his little pouch his magnifying glass, a shovel, and a small pair of scissors (we protected the sharp edges with thick masking tape). As we walked along, he'd touch the autumn leaves on the trees and watch them fall to the ground. We talked about dead and living things and the changes in colors all around us.

As Dito struts down the street taking big long strides in front of Mommy and Daddy, Dad often says, "Look how biggety! He's so proud and biggety, what a big little man!" Daddy wants Davidito to have all the love that he ever needed and wanted and didn't get. And thank the Lord we can enjoy sharing real "loving up" together. It all comes about so naturally that it makes me wonder what all we must've missed in our own childhoods! It's wonderful to be able to pour into the children all your "dreams-come-true"! Real love, joy, and peace—here and hereafter!