I watched Troop Zero the other night. At the end, I cried and cried. I cried more than I normally do. I’m not a crier. I never felt safe enough to cry. I did love the story. It was a great movie. The main character was a little girl in a very difficult circumstance. Her mother had died. She had a father who had a big heart but struggled to make money. And she hitched her star to a woman who was going to walk away to attend law school. She was a misfit, a loner, but by the end of the movie, she had found a band of friends who were willing to be vulnerable and consider how life could be different.
It was an amazing movie. But my inner children were screaming. It was the “happy” ending they had always wanted and never found. To some, her poverty and her childhood without a mother would have been heartbreaking. To me, her life would have been everything. Why? Her pain was measurable. Our society has standards for what qualifies as pain and she falls right into our favorite story of pain. There are no secrets in her story. She was poor. She was motherless. That’s awful. We can give her a scholarship and a really nice grief camp and feel better about ourselves. We can watch her make friends with the other “less than perfect” people and feel like she’s found her place. We can tell her story and her “happy” ending because we can feel better.
But what about the rest of us? What about those of us with secrets? What happens when we would give anything to have a dead parent? What happens when we would rather be homeless than spend one more night in our hellish middle-income home? What happens when we can’t talk about the horrific abuse from our parents? We can’t talk about it because our parents are still alive and we should be grateful. We can’t talk about it because our families weren’t destitute and we should be happy for all we had. We can’t talk about it because it is stigmatized and nobody wants to hear about it.
So we suffer in silence. And we hope for any friend who isn’t an animal or an inanimate object. We hope for one person who would be there some of the time. We wouldn’t even care how faulty they were. Instead, we are alone because nobody wants to take the time to figure out how to save us. We are too complicated. We don’t fit the mold. We can’t just be saved. We are the dirty little secrets of the world.
I wish my parents had died. I know that sounds awful, but I do. I wish I could have had those Troop Zero outcasts as my friends. I wish I had a sense that one person cared about me at all. I wish I had one adult look me in the face like they gave a shit what I had to say. But that wasn’t my life. Everyone just looked at my typical life on the outside and ignored the hundreds of red flags because that was convenient for them. I was dissociating. I was exploding. I was bullied by everyone. But it was so much easier to look the other way.
In the movie, the main character was a bed-wetter. She was teased and bullied for it. But she started to wet the bed when her mother died. When I got a hold of my medical records, I found out I was a bed wetter too. When I was three, I was wetting the bed. You may be wondering why I wasn’t wearing a diaper at night when I was three. That’s a good question. I would love an answer to that question. But I also had chronic UTI’s. My mother would tell the nurses they came from my bed wetting. My mother said I got UTI’s from wetting the bed and nobody thought that was strange. Let’s face it! They thought it was strange! But they didn’t care. I had a mother. I had a father. They had some money. I wore a London Fog raincoat. I must have been fine. I didn’t grow up in a trailer. So I was fine. There were no programs for me. There were no social workers knocking on the door (except for that one brief mistake which was finally covered up). Nobody gave a shit. My story doesn’t make the movies. Nobody wants to watch my story on the big screen. Our society only wants the solvable problems. They want the low-hanging fruit.
How many kids have to watch the world feel sorry for the kids with the acceptable problems while drowning in their own complex trauma? I don’t know. But until we wake up and start focusing on the abusive, but very much alive parents, we aren’t going to solve this massive world crisis we are faced with. Dead parents and poverty are huge risk factors for children to face abuse. We have to acknowledge that. But abuse is happening everywhere and the kids who experience it are feeling completely alone. When are we going to do something about it?