When I was in second grade, my teacher and I had a “misunderstanding.”
Apparently, I was in the bathroom when she yelled at the class that we couldn’t talk anymore, and by the time I returned from my restroom galavanting to the main building– our class was a portable, and we had to walk to another building for a potty break– all the students were eerily quiet. I didn’t understand what was going on, or what we were doing, and leaned over and asked a fellow classmate what happened.
She ignored me…
But the teacher didn’t.
She pounced, taking my hand, and dragged me to the entrance of the portable in front of the class. She made me stand there, back to everyone, with my nose pressed against the door.
I didn’t even know what I had done.
In a split second, I went from bewildered to completely and utterly embarrassed. In fact, I think ashamed would be a better word.
And I didn’t know what I had done.
Once I was free to go back to my seat, I had determined I would be perfect. I wouldn’t go to the bathroom during school anymore, so I wouldn’t miss anything important…
I’m not sure how long it was after I sat back down, but we were dismissed to different “centers” around the room, and I found myself coloring next to a boy named Daniel. He had a pack of 8 crayons… and my parents had sent me to school with a pack of 64. (It even had a crayon sharpener in the back, which I loved…) I felt kinda sad, that he had so few shades, so I began shifting my crayons closer to him… trying to tell him we could share without actually saying anything.
He got up and went to see the teacher.
The next thing I knew, she had my hand again, taking me back to the door, and my nose pressed against its cold metal again. She accused me of “being ugly” and trying to take over the center and covering poor Daniel’s space with my stuff. I turned to tell her that I was trying to share, that I just wanted to share… but she hissed at me that I needed to keep quiet or I would make things worse.
The whole class was staring at me, and I turned away, preferring the door to their looks– some of them of pity. Others of disgust.
I stood there, for what seemed like forever, and told myself over and over again, “I’ll never talk again. I’ll never talk again.”
It was only the second day of second grade.
For years, I had a visceral, physical response to going to school. Gagging. Nausea. Sharp stomach pains.
Even in junior high, my stomach would quiver and lurch from our highway exit until we pulled up to the building.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much that one day in early grade school affected not just my body and what-would-have-been-love for school, but even how I viewed myself.
I wish I could get the adult version of me to step next to that child and tell her everything that I know now– how an emotionally-unstable woman and a bad morning shouldn’t affect my stomach or my psyche for so incredibly long. I wish I could give that freckled-faced kid the perspective that just because someone else treats me wrongly doesn’t mean I am wrong– my position or even my existence.
I wish I could have instilled in her how loved she was– by her family and by Jesus. And that everyone else could just take a hike.
I bring up this no-good-very-bad-day from so-long-ago because…
Emotional baggage isn’t kicked to the curb by itself.
After talking through some emotional-baggage kinda stuff with a friend, this memory kept coming up in my mind. Over and over. And I’m learning that even if connections don’t seem to make sense, when our emotions are involved, it doesn’t really have to. There is a reason it kept being pulled up, and so, it needed to be dealt with. Even if seems stupid. Even if it is from second grade, and logically shouldn’t have any current bearing on your life. If there is something that your mind can’t move past, despite reasoning… there is a reason. Stop and analyze it. See how it impacts you now. Deal. with. it. It was super helpful to talk through this day, and how, in a lot of ways, I still see myself as a powerless child being told not to talk. Not to disagree. Not to explain or ask for clarification. And I shouldn’t feel that way anymore.
Not only is it an important reminder about getting rid of emotional junk, but also how young we can be when we pick it up. As a parent, I think it is super valuable for me to remember this day. I was six years old when this happened. Six. And I can remember this day as clearly as anything, and remember how horrible I felt, and how cold that door was. Now, my daughter is almost 5. They say by five, your memory really starts becoming long term, even though we are affected by things we don’t remember at all. As a mom that can be stressed, and has a tendency towards impatience even if I don’t want to be (and especially at certain times of the month)… I need to remember that my response is so, so important. My actions shape my children. My actions teach them about what to expect from authority– and even God. I want my children to expect authority to seek justice. And love mercy. And to be humble. And to know that when authority isn’t being those things, that authority isn’t acting rightly.
If my children expect authority to be unstable, and manipulative, and angry, and and and… they won’t have the moral compass they need to recognize it as wrong. They will recognize it as “normal.”
People don’t go out of their way to change “normal.”
So, to keep my own children’s baggage as light as possible… and to give them the ability to recognize abusive authority when they see it…
It is so important to unpack where we were wronged, so we can let it go, break the cycle, and become healthier selves to shape healthier families.
This unpacking isn’t pretty. And it definitely won’t be comfortable. And you will feel awkward– maybe even like a second grader standing in front of a staring classroom.
But don’t let that stop you. The temporary discomfort is worth the realizations it brings and the relief that will follow.