-the redhead- (theredhead) wrote,
-the redhead-

A final victory over childhood

Open toed shoes.

Not very scary, hmmm? A normal thing that millions of people do every day.

A frightening childhood monster to me. One that I finally overcame. Today I wore open toed shoes.

Growing up being a uberbrainy redhead is bad enough, but much of the childhood torture (for that’s what it really was, it went *far* beyond a bit of teasing) I suffered centered around my disfigured right foot.

As a very small child I had a tumor in my right foot, which eventually lead to having my 2 middle toes removed at age 6. Medically it was a successful procedure - all of the suspect tissue was removed, I never had a recurrence of the tumor, and I was young enough that my foot adapted and I never had walking problems. I was the typically resilient youngster, and it only slowed me down for a matter of months. So everything should have been wonderful, right? *sigh* Unfortunately that was not the case. I was teased mercilessly and shunned by many of the kids in the neighborhood and at school. I was a favorite of the bullies.

I won't argue that it's not a self esteem thing - it certainly is. Not the issue of an overly sheltered child who was unable to take a bit of teasing, but the situation where I was bullied. I can still here the horrible nicknames in my head - 'Three-toes', 'Eight-toes', 'Gimp', 'Cripple', 'Clubfoot', 'Monster'. The day we talked about leprosy and sanitariums in class provided a whole new world of opportunity for the bullies, who made sure *everyone* knew. *sigh* I still remember the shame of being uninvited to a sleep over because everyone was 'grossed out' by my foot. And the same with hanging out at the pool. I can still feel the cold steel against my foot when a group of kids held me down and threatened to cut off my other toes with a steak knife. And how one of the moms just laughed and said 'Kids will be kids'. I remember being shunned.

(I feel there is a great deal of overemphasis on building self esteem in children these days. Yes, children need to know they are loved and that they do things right. The need to know they matter. They need to know they are safe. But there is a big difference between treating a kid like a kid with the commensurate amount of care, and sheltering them from every possible disappointment or hurt. Kids need to know when they have done wrong too. They need to know there are consequences as well as rewards in life. But I digress - that's another soapbox.)

What this accomplished was to drive an already scrawny, shy, ugly duckling further into her shell. Childhood is when I learned to build the walls so high and so well and fill the moat to the brim with reserve. I was never seen without socks and shoes for my entire childhood and most of my adult life. Even at home I'd wear at least socks. Nary a pair of sandals graced my feet, even at the height of summer. Going barefoot was unheard of.

So I suppose that as an adult I am a stronger, more self sufficient, and more capable person than many of those kids who took pleasure in pointing out my disfigurement and shunning me. Perhaps I am even a bit more compassionate and understanding than they. But I think the price was too high in some ways. Could the parents of those kids have done anything differently, could they have taught their children some understanding and compassion? Perhaps. Tho my childhood was not a time of great tolerance for differences in society. The goal was to be just like everyone else. It seems like a silly thing that had far too great of an impact upon my life. Nonetheless, it did shape and scar me. This contributed to the person I am today.

Being an adult carries many responsibilities. One of those is to overcome the irrational fears of childhood. It was time to pull the monster out from under the bed and leave it to melt in the sunlight. I'm a grown up now, and shouldn't really care what people think. I know I still will, but I just shouldn't worry about it to any great degree.

I have felt brave of late. Maybe it has to do with all of the other things which I have forced myself to change or overcome over the past 2 years.

Today I have tilted with this last childhood windmill and won.

-the redhead-
Tags: musings
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