Moving On

The Tram Car Elephant 🙂

Picture this.

A few (just a few) years ago, in a classroom, stood a middle aged man who was pointing at a blackboard. The blackboard was covered in squiggles. Of pluses, of minuses, of x’s, of y’s. He jabbed, he pointed, he expounded, he directed. Heads of gel and pigtails nervously bobbed up and down, frantically taking notes. He stopped. Looked around the class, looked them up and down. He saw everyone. Everyone but the new girl, seated in the far corner, her head down, working industriously. She was quiet, she was focused, she was overlooked.

She flunked maths.

But why? Because she was not frantically writing down silly maths equations with no apparent use. No, she was writing to friends left behind. She was describing the bore in the front of the room and the cliquy girls sitting in front of her. She was drawing on what she knew to stay connected to a past that brought comfort and familiarity. She was clinging to a life that no longer existed.

She moved again, and again, and again. And her patterns remained the same.

Tomorrow my daughter is going on her first school camp and I am mildly terrified. It seems ridiculous considering that earlier this year she travelled by train from Copenhagen to Berlin as part of her choir. She stayed with complete strangers and survived to tell the story.

Tomorrow she journeys by bus, for a full half hour, to stay in cabins with her new peers (she alternates the friend/not friend status so regularly that it is safer to use a neutral word). She requires no passports, no mobile phones, no foreign money, and no bag of goodies for the journey. Why, oh why, does this make me nervous when Berlin did not?

It’s the girls. It’s the kids. I remember what it’s like to not quite fit in yet. Every time she tells me the horrors (??) perpetuated on her by the kids in the school, I shrink a little inside. On the outside, I’m calm, I give her hugs, tell her to get a grip. On the inside, I cry. I see the virtue in homeschooling. In wrapping her in cotton wool and never letting her out again.

Today, I see my friends struggling, as adults, with the loss that is almost unbearable. Of wanting to be part of the old life but no longer fitting in. Facebook is cruel in its constant reminders that we’re not there. I can then flick across and see the lives of older (of acquaintance not necessarily age) friends who managed to survive the pain of my departure. Who picked up the pieces and found new friends.

This pain has dimmed and the ache is less than it was before.

I choose to believe that this makes us strong. It makes us wise. It makes us cherish what we have been given.

It gives me the strength to hug a sad little girl, wipe her tears and tell her tomorrow is another day.

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2 Responses to Moving On

  1. Oh I am so sorry to hear of this bu!!sh!t happening. You are not the first and you won’t be the last, and that isn’t offered as a ‘suck it up’, it’s offered as ‘what is WRONG with people??’ I hope you go beyond wiping tears and telling her to buck up and start having the conversations about why young people do this (pushed or berated at home by parents who expect excellence or demean and bully themselves), how none of this reflects on her but rather on them, to seek acquaintanceship (which may lead to friendship) with others who may be on the periphery of ‘cool’ but who are wonderful people in their own right, that most of us are caterpillars waiting to become butterflies while others are butterflies whose best years will peak in middle/high school… Going to school officials often makes the problems worse, but a quiet conversation with a couple of your daughter’s teachers might help keep them on the lookout for inappropriate behavior AND they might offer suggestions about how your daughter might deal with the situation. They may see things in your daughter’s conduct that you don’t that might inadvertently be making it easier for the bullies to act; this is NOT blaming your daughter, this is gaining teachers’ experience in dealing with kids this age. Do remember (and tell her) that the first 6 months are usually the most difficult, then it generally sorts itself out. Tell her to seek out the pre-butterfly caterpillars because they make the best friends AND the best people. My daughter wasn’t bullied but the move at 13 was tough, and her pre-butterfly friends have become the most amazing butterflies (and kindest, most caring friends) you can imagine. I gained credibility when my life lessons came to pass, but it is these wonderful catepillars who made it happen.

    I would also suggest you read Ruth Van Reken and the late David Pollock’s Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. You may think your children are too young to be TCKs, but I bet you find significant info that will help you help them (and you, too).

    As for you, just remember that you traveled the world and made plenty of new friends in very different places; you can do so ‘at home’ as well. It just takes time, and not everyone is savvy enough, kind enough or perceptive enough to remain a good friend when circumstances change.

  2. Laney says:

    Thanks Linda. The camp went very smoothly and, in hindsight, very beneficial. She has managed to bond with a group of girls and can now be found chatting after school … “Mum, does this mean I’m mature?” She seems to be finding her stride again which is wonderful to see. And as you said, it does take time and she is seeing that her mother’s mantra to take deep breaths, let the slights wash over you, to give people the benefit of the doubt and let them get to know you is paying off. She also had the pleasure of catching up from a friend from Copenhagen (now living in Sydney but about to move to the US) over the weekend. They picked up as if they’d never left one another. Was beautiful and encouraging.

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