People can also be really nice to kids

My last post got me feeling really miserable because I had to dig into some really unpleasant childhood memories that haunt me to this day. To counteract that post, I’m going to write one now about times that people were really nice to me as a kid. I’m going to start off talking about Mrs. F because most of the incidents in my last post were about her being super unreasonably mean to me, and I don’t want it to sound like she was a terrible person. She wasn’t any worse than any of my other elementary school teachers, nor many of the other adults I encountered along the way. It was just that I had one specific memory of her, and it opened the floodgates to a whole shit storm of other memories.

For whatever reason when I was a kid, I always wanted to have glasses. Maybe it was a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy that caused me to become as blind as a bat as an adult, but I didn’t get prescription glasses until I was 10. In third grade, I kept going on about how I wanted glasses because I kept seeing Harry Potter with glasses and it made me jealous because I always wanted them. So my mom took me to the store and we picked out a pair of sunglasses that were big, gold circles. She punched the lenses out of them and I wore them like glasses. I was so excited.

I wore them to school the next day, but I was nervous because I thought people were going to make fun of me because they weren’t real. It turned out that I was apparently surrounded by dip shits because no one knew they were fake except for Mrs. F. She looked at me and exclaimed all excitedly, “Well, look who it is! Professor McGonagoll!” She of course knew that I was completely obsessed with Harry Potter. I had not only read ahead in the first book that we were reading as a class, but proceeded to chew through the next 3 in the series throughout the course of that year. For the rest of the year, anytime I put on my glasses, she would refer to me as Professor McGonagoll, never breaking character. The glasses were also kind of magical because I have no memory of her ever yelling at me while I was wearing them.

It was just so nice of her to not only humor me and let me keep wearing my pretend glasses, but to completely go along with the whole ridiculous thing that I was doing. She never suggested to any of the students that my glasses weren’t real, never questioned why I was wearing them, and even defended me against other teachers. When the gym teacher asked me when I got the new glasses, she chimed in saying, “That’s Professor McGonagoll,” like that was an answer, so I never had to explain myself.

In first grade, I had a little trouble fitting in because it was the first time that there was the concept of friend groups. Before that, everyone played with everyone and we never really thought much about it. It first grade, there was the whole idea that if you played with these people, you couldn’t play with these other people. It ended up being perfectly fine, but at first it was an adjustment because the friend group that I thought I wanted to be in (which was actually full of 4 asshole girls that weren’t that fun) was so different than me and I felt like they didn’t like me because of it.

Anyway, they were always talking about stuff that I had no idea about, movies, music, video games, etc. I didn’t really know anything about that stuff because my parents didn’t really expose us to any of that. One day, one of the girls, Harley, mentioned about a new CD that she just got, and the other girls were like “Oh yeah! You finally got it? Isn’t it great I listen to it all the time blah blah.”

That was the last straw. I decided to fuck it and buy into all of their shit. When I got home, I told my mom that I wanted the CD that Harley has. She asked me why, and I explained to her about how they were always talking about stuff I knew nothing about and I wanted to be a part of it. I said nothing about liking the music and didnt’ even know what it sounded like, but my mom said sure and we went to Walmart to find it. My brother, Jason, came, too.

She took us to the CD aisle and then asked me what CD was. I had only heard Harley mention the name once, and I barely heard it, so I had no idea. “Something mound,” I said. “And the back of it is blue, I think.”

Those were all the details that I gave, but bless their souls because Jason and my mom combed through the entire music section of Walmart trying to find it. I couldn’t even help because I was too slow of a reader and I couldn’t handle those fancy fonts. Every once in a while, they would show me the back of a CD and ask, “does this look like it?” I would shake my head, and they’d keep going.

Finally, my mom showed me one that they had already shown me twice before and I denied. “Are you sure it’s not this one?”

I looked at the back and shook my head. “No, it’s definitely not that one.”

“It’s called Smashmouth…?”

“Oh yeah that’s it.”

After verifying that I was sure because I had said no to it twice already, we paid for it, opened it in the car, and listened to it on the way home. Both my mom and my brother said they kind of liked it. I don’t know if they were just humoring me, but it doesn’t even matter. They were so patient with me and really wanted to help me deal with my dumb issue. Neither of them probably remembers this moment because it was so anti-climatic, but it’s one of those memories I look back on and feel all warm and fuzzy and loved.

Another time in first grade, I remember we were decorating flowerpots for Mother’s Day. Some parent volunteers, including my mom, were there to help, even though the entire activity was just coloring on flowerpots with markers. I was so excited to have my mom there that I was being super energetic and reckless. After drawing some green stems on the flowerpot, I searched the room for pink and purple markers to draw flowers on the tops.

“Raise your hand if you need another color!” some mom said.

“Ooh! Ooh! Me!” I squealed, standing up on my chair. The flowerpot immediately rolled off of my desk and fell to the floor where it shattered.

Of course, I burst into hysterical tears. I was so sad about it not only because it was such a dumb thing I did, but also because it was a gift for my mom. Moreover, I had to just sit there watching everyone else decorate their ugly flowerpots while I had nothing to do. (Quick aside: As I was typing about dropping my flowerpot, I literally dropped my computer. Thankfully, it didn’t shatter. I guess I never learn…)

My first-grade teacher, Mrs B, was sitting at her desk grading papers during this activity. She was probably so relieved to finally have some time for herself to get work done, but she had to stop whenever shit went down. She saw me crying, asked what happened, and then, without a word, disappeared. She came back later with a hot glue gun and spent the rest of the afternoon gluing together my flowerpot. I have no idea how difficult that was to do, but it was definitely no easy task because the pot literally shattered. It wasn’t just a few broken pieces—the thing was nothing more than a pile of tiny, square-inch pieces.

Watching her work calmed me down. I just stared at her silently. At the time, I had no idea what was happening because she never said anything, and I think the helper moms were either too awestruck or didn’t want to get my hopes up in case it didn’t work.

Whatever the case, by the end of the day, I had my flowerpot, completely in-tact. There were still cracks in it, but Mrs. B explained that a lot of the professionals did that on purpose to get that look.

I took the flowerpot home, and my mom said that she loved it. I complained that I was never able to draw the flowers, but she said she liked the way it looked because it looked like grass that needs cut.

Another time, when I was a wee tot that never talked to anyone, I went on vacation to the beach with my extended family. I usually didn’t talk to anyone and just did my own thing the whole time because I was very shy and they often didn’t bother putting in the effort to come to me. Now, I don’t blame them in the slightest for this because it’s fucking vacation and who wants to force a small child to socialize with them? They were all busy drinking and having a fun time on the beach.

But I distinctly remember this one year. I must’ve been like 3 or 4 or something because it was before I started school. It was in the evening after dinner. Everyone was in my parent’s condo hanging out and drinking and having a jolly good time. I was sitting in the corner playing with some sand toys. My uncle’s girlfriend at the time, Bethany, whom we all had just met on that trip I’m pretty sure, came over and sat down on the floor next to me.

“What are you making?” she asked.

I didn’t answer and just kept playing.

“Can I have some?” she said gently.

I scooped up some imaginary sand from the bucket and offered it to her wordlessly.

She pretended to eat it. “Mmm that tastes good. Let’s make some more of that.”

We kept that going for a bit until one of my aunts pulled Bethany away for some adult thing, probably shots.

The whole encounter lasted maybe 10 minutes tops, and I don’t think I ever saw her again after that. It turns out she was an alcoholic, which is the story about why they broke up (I don’t think that’s the actual reason but whatever). I just think back to that all the time. I remember during vacation thinking that I really wanted her to be my aunt. I was so sad when I heard that they broke up.

It’s funny because Bethany has no fucking idea what an impact that moment made on me. That was over 20 years ago (fuck I’m old), and it was such a small encounter. Not only that, but I don’t think I said a word to her the whole time because I was so super shy, so she probably didn’t even know how much fun I was having with her and how much I really, really liked her. She was the only person other than my parents that went out of their way to interact with me on that trip. I think about that moment pretty frequently, and I really wish I would’ve at least spoken something to her so that she would’ve known how much I appreciated it at the time. And I wish I would’ve fucking slapped my uncle for letting a woman like her go.

Anyway, all of this is to say that, just like how small encounters can easily scar a child and stick with the child throughout their entire life, they can also hugely affect the child in nice ways and be incredibly pleasant experiences. None of these instances were monumental things. They were just quick little acts that some adult did that really stood out and resonated with me. Again I emphasize that it is so important to be mindful of how you are around kids. Even the teeny tiny things can have huge impacts on their life and their future, positive or negative.

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