I’ve gone on and on about Listening Time but I haven’t really gone into all the options for it (maybe a future post). One that I had heard of was connecting with what was happening in your life when you were your child’s age. Now I am very holistic and I love all things within that realm. I love a lot of people who work within that realm too but there’s also a skeptic in me (maybe also my husband’s influence) and I don’t love her voice but sometimes it gets very loud! So I have found myself feeling a real push/pull when it comes to these sorts of relationships, particularly when we are talking about stuff so very early on somehow impacting parenting now (there’s also a strong possibility I don’t want the past to have such an impact on what currently trying to do). Well, I love nothing more than to prove that loud-mouthed skeptic wrong and this is one of those moments.
The first few times I heard about the approach I knew I had no chance of remembering being 7. My childhood memories are few and far between. Then I started to hear more and more powerful stories about this process so I decided to think more in terms of the when than just trying to remember being that elusive age and then… BINGO!
I worked out my youngest sibling is just under 7 years younger than me. Again, Skeptic Susan dismissed that as I didn’t really have rivalry issues until we were older but then I remembered that my Grandma died shortly after that and Mum took the newborn baby overseas with her, leaving my brother and I with Dad who was probably also feeling a lot of emotion around all of this stuff.
THEN at school they hired a substitute teacher who really liked to make a show of rewarding the good kids and punishing the bad. Another friend and I kept waiting to get our “prize” and it didn’t come.
So here it is.
The worst thing I ever did.
One lunch time this other girl and I went back into the class for our lunch or something. Then we saw the teacher’s handbag sitting on the chair with her Ninja Turtle chewing gum and cards for the “good” kids and we decided to take our reward since it was never going to happen for us. Then we rifled through and the other girl said we should take some money. So she took money and I took some cards… diabolical right?
Now here is a memory I’ve never forgotten. I remember sitting in the dark on my bedroom floor and cutting up the credit cards thinking “Take that, Mrs …”. I don’t think I even knew what a credit card was (I certainly didn’t know what a nightmare it would be to replace) I just wanted to hurt this teacher who was always so angry and always calling me out and never giving me that oh-so-exciting prize that I wanted (Rewards and punishments – another future post).
We weren’t smart thieves so, after a bag-check, the jig was up a few days later. We were sent to the Principal where I was given 2 weeks detention (the other girl got off as her parents believed her falsified account of me as ringleader even though this was not this kid’s first rodeo by a long shot).
The worst part and most vivid of my childhood memories was getting in the car with my stunningly beautiful Mother who had literally just stepped off the plane, head newly shaved (custom after losing a parent) and was sitting looking utterly shell-shocked and disappointed. I honestly have tears in my eyes whilst I write this as I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse about anything.
That incident followed me around for years. People used to ask me “Are you the kid who stole the teacher’s credit cards?” and sometimes they would be amused, other times they would be shocked, some thought I was a badass. My own reaction always had a large layer of shame and sometimes I would quickly explain that I didn’t actually know I was “stealing the teacher’s credit cards” in the true sense of things and other times I would just roll with it.
So after connecting with all of that in my Listening Time, there is no way I can argue that there’s a connection with me struggling to parent my child of the same age and what was happening for me when I was once there. It was obviously a tumultuous time for me! I highly recommend people trying that strategy of working out the year and what else might have been happening in that time period.
However, there’s another layer to this story too.
When I was trying to come up with this week’s article, this story started to force itself to be told but I was resisting thinking about all the people who might judge me, what they might think of me, etc.
Imagine what people thought when this happened 26 years ago.
Future psychopath. Criminal. Off-the-rails! Headed nowhere fast! “This is just the beginning..”. “No hope!”. Bad egg.
That’s what a lot of people do even now (but particularly back then).
No one offered me any form of counseling, either. There was just the punishment and “don’t do it again”. Kids get judged and punished for their acts but often no effort is made to understand. Whereas we know through empathic child-rearing that there’s always something triggering off-track behaviour. Well, the backstory here is pretty much textbook!
I really feel for that younger me and everything she went through. The betrayal of the friend (who I never spoke to again) still feels rather raw, particularly as she dropped from people’s memories having not had to “serve the time” (as my parent’s insisted I needed to). I feel for the teacher who would have had a nightmare setting those cards back up again. I feel for my daughter who is in the midst of a rather difficult age developmentally who also has a Mum working through the pain of the past.
But that’s what I will do. I will keep chipping away at those memories. I will keep getting Listened to. I will also keep advocating for kids who make minor mistakes or even totally explosive ****-ups like that one. All the time knowing that sometimes the child you predict to be a lawless, off-the-rails psychopath will one day be the empathic activist who wants to make this world a better place.
With much love and compassion for all your tender parts,
Aunty Ask xx