Last night I saw the movie Lady Bird with my daughter. As I watched the movie unfold, I was taken back to my own childhood. Being a teenage girl wasn’t easy. It isn’t a shock to say that, though, I don’t think it is easy for anyone of us?
As I was sitting there with my own daughter, suffice it to say, it was a tad uncomfortable watching parts of Lady Bird’s teenage life portrayed in disturbing and moving ways. In particular, the scenes with her mom and harsh words spoken to each other provoked tugs on my heart. They fought about discovering sex, alcohol and drugs, the embarrassment of each other, failure, betrayal, you name it, the movie covers all the emotions of growing up and parenting, even to the point of tears. As some would call it, “A good old chick flick.”
On the list of not easy moments in life, being a parent and facing regrets of how you wish you would’ve done better rank right up there – close to the top, like being a teenager. Or how about how you wish your own parents would’ve done better raising you? Or how you wish significant adult figures in your life would’ve done better influencing you? All can be challenging and cause us to reflect on what we wish we could erase from memory.
As I fell asleep last night, I found it hard to shake some of the feelings I experienced watching the film. I woke up still thinking about childhood. Growing up as a child without affluence, like Lady Bird had, I could relate often to her in the movie. Some scenes resonated as I grabbed my first cup of coffee for the day.
I took a sip of coffee and thought of an eraser, a box, and a boy. What? Not a girl? Yeah, sure, I am the girl…but the boy was the person who stories reverberated in my thoughts.
In the movie, Lady Bird desired to branch out and expand her creativity. Those desires were squelched in the movie to some extent, by her family and her teachers. It is no fun to have your desires pushed aside. As I reflected on that part of the movie, I remembered how my own first real craving for writing was squelched.
When I was in 6th grade, our teacher gave us an exciting writing project. We were to write an animated story about any item from the inside of our desk. We were to write something each day from the perspective of the object we brought to life. There it was, the launch of my first creative writing project.
I chose my pink block eraser for my object. I imagined it had a smile on its face. With my #2 pencil in hand, I described how excited it was to see me each morning as I opened up the lid on my desk. How scared it was to be all alone at night in the dark desk. I wrote about it helping me correct my errors. How it experienced warm feelings from the friction on the paper as it rubbed errors off my homework. I wrote about the value it brought to my life for making my assignments correct. And how it slowly grew smaller each day. I looked forward to writing about it every day.
That is until I couldn’t stop noticing him anymore. Him, as in ‘DK.” (real name omitted to protect his innocence…). DK was our class clown, only without Ritalin. I don’t even know if that drug was out at that time way back then? If it had been it probably would’ve been used for his challenging behaviors. He was constantly getting into trouble with our teacher. Despite his overt attempts at gaining friends, he wasn’t exactly liked by anyone of us.
I started to wish my eraser could erase him from the class. DK was distracting and I didn’t enjoy seeing the teacher’s emotions escalate to frustration when she tried to deal with him. I’m pretty sure that’s when I started to recognize the feeling of empathy or lack thereof.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. There was a blow-up between the teacher and DK. She had lost her cool, and so had DK. DK was escorted down to the principal’s office and he didn’t return for the rest of the day.
That afternoon, as she cooled her own self off from the ordeal, the teacher let us sit quietly and read. It was peaceful, something we all had missed in a way. I and my eraser felt a moment of victory, we had erased DK out of existence for the day.
The next day, as I arrived to class, I couldn’t help but notice something was different. There it stood. A huge box. Right smack in the middle of the room.
DK was in there, it was his new home away from home. As I walked slowly to my desk, I glanced over at it and saw a small window facing the front of the class. Strategically placed so DK could pay attention to the teacher and ignore his classmates on all sides. He could no longer disturb us with his antics. Apparently, the teacher decided that if he couldn’t behave by following her rules, he needed to be in his own little area, closed off from the rest of the class.
The box method worked for the first few days. Day one you could cut the silence in the room with a knife. I don’t think anyone of us knew what to do or say. We sure didn’t want to show up someday with a box around our desks? We were all in shock. My eraser and I couldn’t erase the image of the BOX with DK in it. As much of a pain DK was by always making noises and interrupting us, I felt sorry for DK. I wondered if he was crying in the box or not?
DK ultimately won over the box method and moved on from our classroom. I don’t know whatever happened to him. But I do know that prior to him leaving, DK’s box shook like an earthquake was shocking it. No one could avoid noticing DK’s presence. The moves DK and his Box shook up together turned into more of a distraction than without DK being in the box. The box was zero assistance for helping curb his upsetting behaviors.
Lessons learned – It is hard to erase shocking childhood memories. I know I shall never erase DK or his Box from my memory. As adults we can’t erase the pain we cause by our words to our children or our children’s words back to us in heated moments. As role models or teachers, we can’t erase the negative things we say or do either. I can only imagine it to be true, but I believe that our teacher couldn’t erase DK’s desire to be himself. He’s still shocking the world somewhere no doubt.