A Letter Written for My Younger Self: School-Aged Edition
A Letter Written for My Younger Self: School-Aged Edition series will be written to heal the broken parts of my inner child. I am a therapist and this is something that I do with my clients, regularly. As I was working through this topic, it dawned on me, that I needed to do this as well.
Let me preface this by saying that I have amazing parents and family. My parents have been married for 61 years. Their love story is one that I hope to get written, on behalf of them, one day. It has not always been sunshine and rainbows. There have been a lot of storms and uncertainty. In the end, however, their love for each other has grown stronger.
What I dealt with, as a child and teenager, has no reflection on their love for me or how I was raised. I am blessed to have a provider and protector in my father. Equally as blessed to have my Oak who has roots that run deep and a can reach even the deepest holes to pull me out when I need it.
Dear School-Aged Brandi,
I want you to know that you are NOT stupid. In fact, the way your brain works is quite fascinating. I will agree that telling time is hard and knowing your right from your left is challenging. You were able to master tying your shoes, eventually and math can sometimes still be a struggle, but you learn some tips and tricks that help things move a bit more quickly. Newsflash of hope: In your mid-thirties, you will “accidentally” learn what the deal is and why you struggle with the issues that you do. A sweet therapist, of one of your children, will notice some things about you. In the kindest of ways, she will mention that there is a name to what you thought was just stupidity. It is called Dyscalculia and a lot of people have it and you will conquer it.
Don’t get me wrong, eventually there will be smartphones and your job will have a lot of numbers you have to get right. On occasion, you will call the wrong person but it is all good. It is not a big deal and people are nicer than you think they will be. They don’t think you are stupid, they just think you dialed the wrong number. It is okay and there is no need to be embarrassed or make excuses.
Heading to Kindergarten
You wanted to stay home with your mama. She wanted you to stay home with her but she had to put you in Kindergarten. Going to school was hard on you both, but you both made it! It was not your teacher’s fault you had never seen a 4 legged dog. How was she supposed to know that? How were you supposed to know that dogs had four legs when you had never seen one? It was an honest mistake. Granted, she should have never told you were stupid but do you remember your Oak came in like a lion. She fought for you, defended you, and taught that teacher a thing or two. Your Oak set the stage for your graduating that year and moving on.
That day, in Ms. Dallas’ class where you couldn’t tell your times table was really hard. Here’s the thing. If Ms. Dallas knew better, she would have done better. She didn’t know that you got your numbers mixed up. She didn’t know that there was a reason for that, however, she shouldn’t have made fun of you. Her making fun of you made the other kids laugh at you and call you names. She certainly should not have kept you in from recess so many times until you got it. I am sure she sees how her calling you names and laughing made the other kids do that as well.
Eventually, you learned and for that, you should be proud of yourself. I am not sure why you chose not to tell your Oak. If you had told her, she would have come to the school and fought for you again. She was never too busy to fight for you. I’m sorry you felt like you had to stay silent and hold that pain inside you. You are safe now. Those times tables are a bitch but girl, you have them down, mostly LOL. Regardless of what they say, you don’t scream out that 8×7=56 in your everyday life. It’s all good and you did it!
In 5th grade, it isn’t your fault that you didn’t understand what an adverb was and it wasn’t your fault your teacher got so mad at you. She might have been having a bad day but that is not your fault. You should not have been thrown out of the classroom. You were not trying to cause trouble, you just didn’t understand. Your brain works differently than most peoples brains and that is okay. It is okay to be different. You know, now, the big ones. A noun, verb, adjective, conjunction, and even a gerund and dangling participle. Girl, you can spell, read fast, comprehend what you are reading, and all that fun stuff. To add to the accomplishments, you have graduated 5 of your 7 children through homeschooling. You are a beast. Your teacher just didn’t see that then but that moment in time does not dictate your future.
In Sixth Grade
In 6th grade, the bullying started because you were placed in the “stupid class.” That was so hard for you. Honestly, I am so sorry that you felt singled out, was made fun of, and hurt so deeply. I know when you lined up and were paraded in front of the other kids, your ‘friends’ laughed and pointed at you. There were chants of us going to the “stupid class.” It was embarrassing and hard but you covered up that pain with acting silly and being the class clown. You had almost mastered covering up that pain with laughter but I know on the inside, you were breaking.
I believe that is why you fight so hard for your kids, who are in public school. Those classes are called “special Ed” classes and they are not for stupid people. They are for kids who might need a little extra help in some areas of learning. They are there to help kids, not to hurt them. Again, when you know better, you do better. Guess what? You told your Oak and she went to that school and fought for you, again! She got you out of that class and put you back where you belong. However, what mom did not know is that the “social damage” had already been done. She is a beast of a mama!
Special Ed, Now
Now, several years later, they integrate the kids who need some extra help into the mainstream class. What they do is place collaborative teachers in the mainstream class to just quietly lead, guide, and help where needed. If you were in school, now, you wouldn’t have had to be paraded like that, you can just go to the regular classroom. Isn’t that awesome. The school knew they needed to do better and over the years, then they did better. Is the program perfect? Nope, but it is better!
Middle and High School
After elementary school, middle and high school was nothing but an isolating bully-fest. I am so sorry that you were made fun of for what you wore, your hair, your smile, and basically just breathing. Your peers were not nice to you because they realized that your dad was a police officer and he had busted a lot of those people you went to school with at the time. Your dad did his job and did it well. You were just a byproduct of the bad choices that those “friends” made. None of that is your fault.
In the future, there are still cliques, bullying, and peer pressure. Honestly, it is a little bit slicker and more polished, but it is still the same as if you were still in school. I am really sorry that you didn’t have any friends and that you were made fun of for not wanting to have sex or do drugs. You had values and you stuck to them. I know that it was “assumed” that you would probably get pregnant in high school but the joke is on those people. That was the last thing on my mind. Also, I am sorry that you were made fun of by the clothes you wore because they were not name brand. Your clothes were just fine and you always were clean and looked nice. The fact that those ‘friends’ could not see that is not your fault.
I am sorry you didn’t go to your senior prom. You were so humiliated that no one asked you. Honestly, you could have gone alone but I understand that money was an issue plus you would have been made even more fun of if you went by yourself. It is okay to be sad about that and when your teacher says “go anyway, it will be the greatest regret of your life.” That isn’t true. Girl, there are plenty more things that you will regret but it was sad. Once again, you masked your pain with indifference and humor. You still do that…one day, we need to sit down with each other and have a chat about that little issue.
You did graduate high school, but in true fashion, you were left out again. The local newspaper always does a huge article and lists off all the graduates. Your name was not on the list. I know it was shocking when you start getting phone calls from people asking why you aren’t graduating. I’m not really sure how you got left off, but they did send you a “special” article with your name in it and an apology. Now, did that go out in the mainstream paper? No, but still, they tried to make amends.
You left that school with no friends but you had a diploma. There are pictures of you smiling with your classmates but it was a “let’s get this over with” type of smile. That’s okay, your school years were not easy. Your life began after school. You did not just graduate from high school but you graduated from college as well. Girl, you graduated with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s. That master’s degree you have, you graduated with a 3.97 the first time and a 4.0 the second time.
A Billion Years Later
When Facebook came around, it is amazing how people from your past find you and want to “friend” you because we had the “best” time in school and were the “best” of friends. You did receive a ton of requests and you accepted them all because you finally fit in! They wanted to know what you have been up to and fill you in on their wonderful lives. Your “friends list” grows and grows. Finally, you are accepted and they want a relationship with you. Then, you realize that that is not the truth. Good job in learning to distinguish between a classmate, a true friend, an acquaintance, and so on.
Just so you know, you will make an amazing friend you call Lady. You will also meet someone in the same parenting stage as you, you will reconnect with a college friend who will become your accountability partner, and someone you will meet online that friendship will continue in your real life and not just through a screen. One day, you will have a job and meet a like-minded person. There will be a friend that will pop back up from many churches ago who will be a prayer warrior for you. A friend of your sister’s who will become a sounding board and then become a friend of yours. Then, there will be a friend you meet in the adoption world who gets you on every level. There are so many more people from church that will change your life.
You Did It
The hard stuff, you did it.
Graduating, you did it.
Persevered, you did it.
Survived bullying, you did it.
You became stronger and you are the person that fights for those who are considered “less than.” The lessons you watched from your Oak, you have taken and instituted into everything that you do. Incidentally, your Oak became an AMAZING teacher of kids from hard places. Your dad still fought the good fight and a lot of those people from school attribute their lives to him saving them.
I know, today, you have not learned to love yourself or your differences. There are days when you continue to mask those differences and by the time you can take the masks off, you are exhausted. Please give yourself grace and know that, in the end, you are gonna be okay. Be proud of who you are.