Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Good Family" Guilt

Yesterday, I was in a big meeting of Episcopal and Anglican women planning for the March '07 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women gathering that focuses on girl-child issues. The problems and crises are enormous for girls throughout the world, so trying to get the UN to address them is absolutely essential.

The thing that threw me off was when the speaker asked us to discuss two questions with the person sitting next to us: 1) Can you recall a time when you were a girl when you weren't allowed to do something you really wanted to do simply because of your gender? 2) Can you recall a time when you were a girl when you were showed favoritism simply because of your gender?

Oh, dear, though I. Here we go. If I tell the truth, it will sound smug, and if I make up something it will be, well, a lie. Trouble is, you see, I was a pretty kick-ass kid. (Back me up on this, Bro and Sis.) All of us were. I really can't think of a time when my parents or a teacher or whoever didn't let me do something I wanted to do just because of my gender.

I was repeatedly warned about acts of physical double-dog-dare-ya', like jumping off the monkey bars or climbing to the top of a tree, but I reckon that had more to do with saving me from a broken neck.

There was never any understanding in the family that only my brothers would go to college. Neither of my brothers played Little League; I never wanted to be in Little League; so no problem there. Mother and Daddy seemed to have the same expectations for all four of us as far as chores and behavior was concerned. And I was never told to be stupid just to get some guy's attention. My friends were the same way - we all competed fiercely with one another academically throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school.

As far as the second question is concerned, well, yes, of course I've been shown favoritism because I was a girl. Mainly from my daddy. But Mother always bent over backwards for the boys, so it all evened out.

I know so many people - women and men - who have terrible childhood issues. I'm so mindful of those problems, in fact, that whenever such things come up in conversations or at conferences, I usually just keep quiet about my own experience. What's the use? The more I say I had a charmed childhood, the more folks think I'm sublimating something.

But I'm not. I was just really, really lucky. Lucky that it never entered my mind I couldn't do something because I was a girl. Lucky because Mother and Daddy loved each other and loved us. Lucky there was no substance abuse (unless you consider Bro Dave's fondness for fried baloney sandwiches).

All was not perfect, of course - lots of normal fussing and fighting among siblings, mainly over who got the good TV chair, but we all gave as good as we got. Tears and rages over one thing or another, but nothing that lasted more than a few minutes, and certainly not a lifetime. We still speak to one another, plan family gatherings together, enjoy one another's company.

Yes, I'm guilty of having a good family, which doesn't give me much to talk about at meetings or in therapy. But I'm a good listener for others who weren't so lucky.


J. Branum said...

Your house was always fun to hang out because there was ALWAYS something happening . David will always be burned in my memory going up and down the street on his Moped , or working on a car , I will always remember your dad making time to answer one of my stupid questions . And the airplane engine in your basement. Your house was truly a "fun" place to be. I won't forget it. I love the picture. What cute girls !!!

Bro said...

I really do believe it is truly our cross to bear that we had such normal childhoods and came from a loving home.
Yeah, you were a kick ass kid.
Monkey bars, she was so addicted to them her hands were constant bloody blisters.
Any therapy we may need at this time of our lives the reasons would have happened long after that picture was taken.
Jay, I had forgotten we had an airplane engine in the basement. We tried to build the airplane around it but then we couldn't get it out through the door. I would bet that engine is probably still sitting in that basement. ;>)

Lil Sis said...

So, I'll back up my sister, brother, and neighbor...we had a great childhood. And I don't remember being denied anything because I was a girl. Let's face it - Mother was pretty independent and strong willed for her generation. I think both our parents expected us to succeed, but we certainly didn't have the pressure that is exerted on kids today.
***One note on the kick-ass side of your personality, I was reading back from last week about your favorite games. WELL, let me tell you big sister does not like to lose games. You should see her face when she gets mad - red, puffy, and that mouth that crinkles up! WHEW! I didn't win very often 'cause I was the youngest, but I would purposely lose because big sis would quit if she wasn't winning - game board, cards, and game pieces would go flying!
P.S. I love you, Sis!

MaryB said...

Geez, I forgot about the airplane engine in the basement! Good one, Jay! (Yikes! That basement -)

It was a fun place to be. Even when we fought over the TV chair.

And nope. I did not like to lose, baby sister. No one wanted to see me make "that face"! ;-)

Elsie said...

Mary, I'm guilty, too. It's a terrible burden, one I wish everyone had to endure!