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Mean Adult

The Bridging Ceremony – by Nancy C.

Today is a tale of hurt in a different situation: an adult to a child. Because careless words, even if not meant to be malicious, can hurt. Nancy C shares her story, how such a seemingly small thing made an impact, and how her mother helped her heal.

* * *

My mom let me wear my hair down that night. It rested on my shoulders, a silky curtain.

It was my Brownie Bridging Ceremony.

I waited with my tribe in brown. My sash was pressed and pinned to my shoulder to prevent slippage. My beanie was bobby-pinned to the back of my head. My mother noticed details.

Each of us was to walk across a small footbridge, placed awkwardly in Mrs. G’s sunken living room. Before “bridging” from first-year scouts (this was pre-Daisy days) to full-fledged Brownie-dom, we were to stand before the troop leader, shake her hand, and receive a pin and a carnation. Then we were supposed to cross the bridge, to presumably more exciting levels of cookie sales and campfire songs.

Mrs. G called her daughter up first. “I want to take a moment to say something special about each girl. For Heather, I must say that she is kind. I love her so much.” They hugged, and Heather floated across the bridge, beaming.

I stared at the bouquet of carnations, studying each pink, folded leaf. I couldn’t wait to hold mine, to hear my special words.

Amanda walked across, “Adorable.” Then Jamie took her turn. She was, “Intelligent.” Maria was “Friendly,” Julie was “Funny,” and Hannah, lucky Hannah was “Pretty.”

Mrs. G called my name. “Nancy. Nancy is many things, but the word that describes her best is….Talkative. Very, very talkative.”

Heather giggled from the other side of the bridge. Amanda joined in.

My face burned, as Mrs.G’s smile grew wider. She handed me my carnation. I blinked back my tears and shook her icy hand. “Thank you,” I mumbled.

Once across that bridge, I slumped next to the Kind, Intelligent, Pretty, Friendly, Adorable, and Funny ones. They chattered to each other. I, the Talkative One, wordlessly studied my carnation, noting the pink was already rotting to brown.

I threw it in the trash can as soon as we got home. My mother kissed me goodnight, then picked up the phone.

The following year, my mother was the new Brownie leader. I did not cross the bridge without her.

She silenced the mean adults, and helped me find my voice once more.

Nancy C.


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.


37 thoughts on “The Bridging Ceremony – by Nancy C.

  1. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share this story. It seems like a little one, but it has caused me to question my voice and what I have to say on more than one occasion.

    But yes, things do get better. So much better.

    Posted by Nancy C | June 20, 2011, 5:53 AM
    • Thank you for sharing it.

      It isn’t always the big moments in life that change us.

      Sometimes it’s the little ones. This moment shows that, and how careless comment left a lasting impact on you.

      It is a good thing to remember.

      And how an amazing parent can help us heal.

      Posted by Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos | June 20, 2011, 3:53 PM
  2. Note to self: Stop reading this blog before coffee. I am sniffling and it’s only just gone 7 o’clock.

    Nancy, I want to be the kind of mother like yours was: fiercely determined, involved, loving. What a beautiful action to take to protect you!

    As for Mrs. G – that she would hang her own insecurities on a child speaks volumes about the kind of woman she was. I pray I never make a child feel so small. I’m sorry for your hurt.

    Posted by Liz McLennan (Bellymonster) | June 20, 2011, 6:22 AM
    • Thank you! My mom is amazing. And feisty. It’s amazing what words can do. I was a sensitive kid, but I know that what she did was outrageous.

      I always try so hard to think about my words, especially around children.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 20, 2011, 6:32 AM
  3. Nancy your Mother rocks! I’m sorry you experienced that I want to say it only made you stronger but pain is pain and we all know that. Thank god you have a Mom that has your back and now you are that Mom for your boys!

    Posted by Kathy | June 20, 2011, 7:03 AM
    • She does! She was present all through my schooling, while getting her Masters degree and holding down her own job. She wasn’t perfect, but she did have my back.

      I hope I can balance stepping in and holding back accordingly when my oldest starts Kindergarten this fall.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:32 AM
  4. One would expect an adult to have more sense than that, to call other girls nice names and then called you talkative. It’s not in the same class. Adults can be mean girls too.

    Posted by mairedubhtx | June 20, 2011, 7:12 AM
    • Exactly! Even if it was meant to be a joke, it was still a strange place to do it. If she really had issues with me, she could have said, “inquisitive” or “intelligent” or “bubbly.” Synonyms can be our friends.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:33 AM
  5. This post is a great reminder to all of use who work with children – our words matter. What may just be a flippant comment to us may resonate with a child for the rest of her life.

    Nancy, sometimes your writing makes me laugh and sometimes it makes me cry but it ALWAYS makes me think.

    Posted by Ms. Wasteland | June 20, 2011, 12:38 PM
    • Yeah, after I wrote it, I was left with the same thought. I know I have stood in front of a classroom and probably either said or let students say things that turned into tears at home.

      I’m certainly not perfect. But I really, really need to think before I open my mouth, especially around children. It’s not them being “sensitive” as much as me being “kind.”

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:36 AM
  6. Wonderfully written, and such a sweet story. I love your mom. I was the talkative one too, but my mom could not rescue me from herself. She was my Brownie and Girl Scout troop leader, and I was the one she yelled at or humiliated when she was angry with the troop. Once I asked why she singled me out and was told “I expect more from you because you are mine.” I tried to please her, I earned more badges than anyone in the troop, but I never felt her love. One meeting I made the mistake of whispering to a friend during opening ceremonies and she swooped over, put one hand on my mouth and the other on the back of my head, shaking in rage and said Do Not Talk. I did quit talking, to her, and became her silent child, because I believed she did not care what I thought or felt. I spent years seething until I realized she was unstable and crazy, even if few could see it. She never understood why I quit scouts when I moved up to cadets and out from under her thumb, or why decades later, after my first year as Brownie troop leader, I realized I was not the warm and nurturing leader I wanted to be, so I stepped down and let better women than me do the job, better women like your mom. I hope she knew what her kindness and support meant to you, and how it resonates in your life.

    Posted by Mel | June 20, 2011, 1:48 PM
    • I don’t think it’s better women, it’s just women who have different types of skills. If I had daughters, I’m not sure I could be a Girl Scout leader either, because I suffer from a serious crafting and bullshit deficiency.

      Oh, it’s so incredibly hard for a child to have a mother that is sick, a mother that uses her children as a vase in which to pour resentment and rage. I’m so sorry….I want to hug your younger self.

      It’s so clear that you have moved away from all that, and really found the amazing woman within.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:39 AM
      • You’re so sweet. I want to hug both our younger selves! The best thing to come from all this was that I never let my volunteer activities become about me and not about my kids. I carry all those self aware childhood moments around with me and try to spare my kids from them as best I can. I know you do too. xo

        Posted by Mel | June 21, 2011, 11:11 AM
  7. Nancy, this is a beautiful, poignant story. You were blessed to have a mother who was willing to get involved. To protect you. Not everyone has one of those. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson | June 20, 2011, 4:51 PM
    • Thank you for stopping by! My mother did get involved. She had a lot of her plate, but she was always able to be there. Now she lives in Colorado, and I only see her a few times a year. I miss her.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:40 AM
  8. Thanks for sharing. I have so many memories of being picked on by adults. They may have been teasing, but children remember everything and are sensitive. I’m sorry your special moment was ruined by that woman.

    Posted by Teresa | June 20, 2011, 7:04 PM
    • How can adults be so clueless? I wonder if she was trying to please her daughter, who didn’t like me, or if she was simply thoughtless. You’re right. Children do remember. Especially meanness, because they so often live in a bubble of kindness in the early days.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:42 AM
  9. Love this story, Nancy.

    First time knowing of such a blog. Opens up floodgates of my own brownie memories. Ack.

    Posted by only a movie | June 20, 2011, 8:10 PM
  10. The image of you standing there, wordlessly, on the other side of the bridge is heartbreaking…from one “talkative” girl to another.

    I was often labeled a talker, or motor-mouthy, or (succinctly) loud.
    Why not creative, outgoing, energetic, eager? (so eager. I wanted to please.)

    I suppose adults underestimate the fragility of children. But it is clear this moment had a lasting impact on you.
    Still. Look at you now; turning this hurt into good.

    Your words? Have power and meaning. They are beautiful.
    And luckily, you have plenty of them to share.

    Thank you for that.

    Posted by julie gardner | June 20, 2011, 9:36 PM
    • Thank you!

      Getting on my feminist pedestal for a moment, why are verbal girls and women encouraged to be quiet? Why is it considered “sweet” to be silent?

      Chilling, really.

      And yes, having two very chatty children, I do understand the annoyance factor. But still? Synonyms are our friends. Why not find a good one? Especially at an awards ceremony?

      Thank you for your always thoughtful comments.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:45 AM
  11. *HUGS*

    Posted by Kim | June 20, 2011, 9:45 PM
  12. Oh, Nancy. I just love your mother. Almost as much as I love you.

    I was a “social butterfly.” Not to be confused with a beautiful butterfly, that was clear.

    Posted by Cheryl @ Mommypants | June 20, 2011, 9:49 PM
    • Yes. They do make it clear don’t they? I hate labels and all that they mean.

      Okay, when I write about girls and women issues, it really lights a fire for me sometimes. How do you do it, people with daughters? How do you keep yourself from screaming at the injustice of the patriarchy?

      Okay, simmering down now.

      Posted by Nancy C | June 21, 2011, 5:48 AM
  13. Ooooh! That makes me angry. Some people have no business working with kids!

    Posted by Victoria KP | June 21, 2011, 6:12 AM
  14. I’ve never understood grown adults so wrapped up in pettiness that they had to lash out at a child. That was awful. I’m sorry you hold such a sad memory for what should have been one of those sparkly moments in a little girl’s life.

    And yay for your mother, for being the warrior and protector. I overheard one of my teenage daughters the other day. She was talking to a friend when she said, “I feel sorry for anyone who messes with me or my sisters. My mom will take them down to Chinatown.” (A worn out movie reference from The Fockers that we use way too excessively in this house.) And even though I’m not like a cage fighter or anything, I’m glad my girls know I will go to bat for them every time.

    Posted by joann mannix | June 21, 2011, 8:45 AM
  15. Oh so true. The scars our words can leave is reason enough to watch what we say…and to be uplifting and heartfelt.

    Posted by kruesbell | June 21, 2011, 9:11 AM
  16. What that woman said to/about you was especially crass, but I’m amazed that she labeled ALL the girls. Kind, funny, intelligent, etc. As if it’s not possible to be ALL of these things at once. And don’t even get me started about her labeling one girl as ‘pretty’ at the expense of all the others. She was extremely irresponsible in her role as a leader of impressionable children. I think what your mom did was awesome.

    Posted by Kristin @ What She Said | June 21, 2011, 11:33 AM
  17. I love your mom. I know that kind of hurt. The little things some of the adults said along the way have taken so long to separte from. This little story of yours has a big impact. I love that you shared it here.

    Posted by Kim | June 22, 2011, 7:46 PM
  18. Ouch! I’m sorry that happened and I’m thrilled that your mother is your mother.

    Posted by Unknown Mami | June 25, 2011, 12:58 AM
  19. I’m sending you a hug to give to your Warrior Mama right now. I’m so sorry for your heartache, but what a gift you were given – eyes wide open, bearing witness to her supportive love.

    As with most of your words, these will stick with me for a while. My boys thank you.

    Posted by Ash at Shades | July 6, 2011, 2:40 PM

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