By Christopher Banks
When I saw this ad on page 2 of my now-cherished 1967 Woman’s Weekly, I responded immediately to it: the over-saturated colours, a good representation of how I’ve always seen the world; the Rotorua landscape, where my parents and I spent some wonderful holidays when I was a kid; and the car.
For the most part, we never had flash new cars when I was a kid. At one stage, my mum had a lime green 1100 much like the one in the picture. Then we had a dark green Maxi, which I loved.
The kids at my school didn’t seem to like it so much, though. Some of them would see me being picked up after school in it, and our old car was a source of much mirth. At least one of these kids drove his own car to school, a fairly brand-new Honda Civic.
I went to a Catholic school, and there’s two types of kids who get sent to Catholic schools: actual children of Catholic parents, who believe that their child will get a good well-rounded education there, including religious studies (that’s me); and the children of social-climbing middle-class wankers who want the prestige of a private education but can’t quite afford it, so they’ve successfully fallen for the Catholic Church’s prime bait – that its schools provide a quality education superior to that of a state one.
The joke’s on them really: for woodwork and metalwork classes, we used to get bussed once a week to a state school nearly 10km away. And parents were paying for this. We’ll leave the discussion about the music room facilities being limited to a battered old upright piano and a trumpet that even the Salvation Army would turn its nose up at for another time.
It wasn’t just my mum’s car that was up for teasing as well: it was her. I’m adopted, and my parents were on a seven-year waiting list before an opportunity to have a child came up. I’m not grateful often enough that that child was me.
What it did mean was that my parents were raising a child a little later in life than a lot of other parents at my school. This meant that I’d often get teased about how my mum looked.
“Hey, was that your grandmother picking you up yesterday?”
One day, they tried it while she was in earshot. Once they realized, they weren’t embarrassed by their behaviour. One of them just leant in through the passenger’s window and sneered, “Hello, Mummy.”
I try to think back now and objectively assess whether any of this made me embarrassed of my parents. I can honestly say, at the time, I never was. Home was my sanctuary at the end of the day when I was going through the worst of my bullying experiences.
n later years, though, it unknowingly created an instinct in me. An instinct to push away help from my parents when it was offered, and this was more than that burgeoning feeling of independence that occurs as you get older. I can say now that it was a hangover from those experiences at school.
If I was to be labeled as the “spoiled only child”, despite the fact that I came from a working family on a very modest income, then I would work twice as hard to show that I could do everything myself, without anyone’s help. That’d show them.
“Them” have had many identities over the years, usually vague and non-specific.
I’ve learnt now that you shouldn’t ever refuse an offer of help, especially from your parents. Not just because if they’re offering, they’ve recognized that you probably need it – and since my diagnosis with bipolar, I’ve definitely needed it – but because for you to dismiss that offer out of hand is a form of rejection.
Yes, I admit it; I’ve taken out the rejection I’ve felt at the hands of others and projected it back onto my parents. And that’s something that I am embarrassed about.
But I still remember my childhood in glorious, oversaturated colour.
For more from Christopher Banks, visit bipolarbear.co.nz.
For more information on mental health and wellbeing, visit the Mental Health Foundation website: www.mentalhealth.org.nz.