After having a child of my own now, I’ve been thinking lately about how much I got picked on as a kid. I am the youngest of three girls, and that produced an attention-getting tendency–I was the clown, and also the family’s people-pleaser. A combination of awkwardness and the product of divorce, produced an angry middle-schooler. I was constantly in flux between internalizing conflict and being taught to “heap burning coals of kindness” upon my enemy’s heads like Jesus taught. I think the analogy of burning coals caught more of my interest than the kindness, although there was a particular incident where it worked on a bully in middle school (the kindness, not the burning)…but I digress.
I recently spoke to my sister, Lacey, about my childhood memories. For a period of time in my tween years, most memories involve just me, and I wondered if I just preferred my own company or whether I didn’t have any choice. Beyond a few exceptional people who accepted me for who I was, I didn’t have a whole lot of friends to work with. One particular memory was of me making my own yard sale in hopes of making a few dollars. I hung some clothes in the branches of the tree in our front yard, and spread the other items on a table and on the lawn. My Uncle David was visiting and bought my pogs for a whole $5! If I recall, that was one of my only sales. I also remember some girls riding by and teasing me.
This last Thanksgiving, my mom and I were reminiscing on how difficult it was for me to make friends, and how my mom (riddled with guilt by her own admission) felt it was important to let us work out our problems on our own. I eased her guilt by assuring her I completely agreed with that philosophy. I had enough insecurity without my parents reminding me how many friends I didn’t have. But it made me think: How would I try to help Viola if she had the same difficulty? I remember being so bogged-down by the constant stinging comments by the more popular, skinnier and prettier girls at the top of the social food chain, that I would daydream terrible scenarios which would result in their pleading apologies. I know. Scary stuff, I admit. Looking back, I see the pattern that leads to school shootings. To be clear, I don’t condone extreme violence to others as a result of bullying (although it would have been nice to know how to throw a punch). And knowing me, if I was pushed to breaking, I would most likely curl up in a ball and cry before inflicting physical harm on anybody. So, that’s pretty much what I did most of the time as a young adult: I cried.
I did eventually start wedging myself into the social scene by High School, thanks to some Smashing Pumpkins fanatics who gave me a chance. I was always a little unusual, and by no means popular, but I found my little corner until college where I could start over. Is it any wonder I became a theatre techie? They accept everybody, and black helps you blend nicely into the shadows.
How will Viola be? How can I help her be her best self without being one of those helicopter parents? I think it would be worse if she became “one-of-those-girls” who picked on the overweight and less popular. I pray against that most of all. Its my childhood memories that push me to panic and prefer homeschooling, but Eric keeps me grounded on that point. I think my parents had a good balance and I’ll take their lead on this one as best I can.