Thursday, July 22, 2010

A dig into my past

The other day, I was having lunch with my kids and they were talking about school (they miss it), and I wondered how I was as a student when I was my kid's age.  When I reminisce about the early years of school, my academics aren't first on my mind, instead it's mostly about my friends, the teachers, the fun stuff.  Do I remember how I did in French class?  Not at all.  Language arts?  Umm, nope.  

I dig out my old school reports, which turn out to be a revealing window into my past, full of happy surprises, shock, and questions.  See, my beloved Waldorf school didn't give grades, instead, I got an annual hand-typed report listing every subject and how I did according to the teacher.  

This is the first sentence I read from my first grade report:  "Daria's exemplary behavior, sensitive nature, and diligence made her a great asset to our class."  

Oh yay, this is going to be so much fun!  Aaah, but of course I was a wonderful student that all of my teachers loved! 

I read on that in first grade I was "a good listener" (language arts), "has a rich imagination and an ability to express it" (drawing), "pleasure to watch Daria work" (woodcraft), "participated fully" (French), and many other most excellent remarks.

Only once did I feel a little concerned, but then kind of relieved when I read this: "What at first seemed like shyness is in reality an inner strength which already at this tender age can discriminate against participation or can enforce it, for I found out that Daria has 'a mind of her own'."

A "mind of my own", huh?  That's good, right?  Or was my teacher just forcing the words to sound nice?  I clearly remember that if I didn't like something or the teacher, I would protest, not in a tantrum snotty way, but sort of manner of fact.  Stubborn?  Not!  My young mind of my own had very discerning taste and stayed true to myself, that's all!

Moving on...

Second grade, here we go with the first paragraph:  "...This year, however, one felt, that the opposite of this confidence and at-oneness with the world was also experienced by Daria - much too soon.  A conscious setting one's self apart, a shutting one's self in, and 'I don't care' attitude - all these were painful to behold, for they do not properly belong to this young age.  I suspect a deep lying sadness in Daria, which even at times would surface in a show of attempted cynicism."  

Wow.  How sad.  What in the world was going on with me then?  I'm really not sure.  What is also hard is that I recognize myself in this young child - the setting myself apart (feeling like an outsider), the shutting in (putting up walls and cocooning), being rather cynical (just ask my husband), and sometimes the unexplained sadness and lack of joy. Have I always been this way?

Sure, the rest of the yearly reports produce wonderful insightful remarks which I relish (I had no idea I was so good at math?!), but the negative words mostly during second and third grade stand out like a sore thumb: "talks back in a disrespectful way", "easily frustrated and discouraged", "shows disagreement to almost everything asked of her in Eurythmy", "talks a great deal out of turn", and many more comments that are pretty harsh, even to the point of making my jaw drop in dismay. Ouch.

In all fairness to myself, many of the teachers were old school Waldorf to the extreme who lived 100% under the philosophy that embraced the whole individual, well, as long as they didn't challenge the traditional Steiner methods or beliefs.  Honestly, I thought the scowling Fraulein German teachers were mostly cold and mean. Eurythmy made me giggle because, well, it was weird and way too serious.  Sports was lame - the revolving door coaches never really taught us how to get better, so what was the point?  I had a hard time not expressing my disapproval.

Luckily, I came around and did much better in fourth and fifth grades.  Are my kids anything like how I was described as a child?  Academically, I see plenty of resemblances.  Many of the subjects that they excel in are the same that I loved, too.  I also see a lot of my kid's traits in the positive comments, but not so much in the negative.

What's loud and clear to me, is that my life was vastly different from theirs at that age.  When I was seven, I was profoundly affected by the divorce of my parents, I moved several times, I longed for the elusive affection and attention from my father, no siblings to take out my aggression on, and I was forced to grow up much too quickly.  These life experiences shaped who I was...and who I am today.  There's no blame here (please don't cry mom!), just the honest facts.  After all, I think I turned out okay, for the most part anyway.  I grew up striving for a different life for my kids, just like my mom did for me, and I see so many qualities in my children that I was missing in my youth, like loads of joy and confidence.

Speaking of my sweet kids, they listened intently as a read the best excerpts (both good and bad) from my school reports to my husband.  They just love hearing stories from when I was a kid, and I like them to hear that I wasn't perfect.  About an hour later, I ask them to get on their shoes for a walk to the library.  Talia struts out of her room announcing out loud "I am Talia and I have a mind of my own and I will wear two different socks if I want to".  I couldn't help but giggle.  It is obvious she wants to be just like her mommy.  I'm thinking she deserves an "Excellent" mark for her adorable cuteness.  

1 comment:

  1. I have always thought that your exterior does not always show the rebel you inside. The two are at battle, and that is what causes your discontent at times. I go through the same thing, but it is the opposite. I am loud on the outside, quiet on the inside in terms of my true nature. You are quiet on the outside but clearly a sex starved bubble gum blowing vixen on the inside. Hmmm... interesting.