Where For Art Thou, O Superhero?

Posted: September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I need a superhero.

My therapist and I have been dabbling in some “inner child” work lately, and her latest assignment was for me to create a list of “needs” I feel have been seriously missing in my life. What was it I needed most as a child, but never felt I got? A superhero.

I grew up in a family filled with kids and chaos. I was the youngest of six. With such a large family to monitor, what time my parents had to give to each of their kids was minimal and sparing. Being the last in line, it always seemed to me that whenever I needed something, I was the last to be heard and get it.

I was a scrawny, gangly kid with bucked teeth and bad eyes. Looking back on it  now, I see my inner child as totally “adorkable”, but back then, I could have been a poster child for both the ophthalmology and Orthodontia Associations. I needed a lot of work done to straighten out my teeth and realign my eyes. In the end, only my teeth got fixed. I’ve been living without depth perception and balanced eyes since 1975. I’ve adjusted.

But as kids are prone to do, this made great fodder for bullying. I was bullied as a child — starting right around sixth grade, as the hormones began to kick in and boys’ and girls’ bodies start to develop. I was way behind on the maturity train, if that helps explain things.

This isn’t about bullying, even though the way I was treated by my peers back then has a lot to do with how I respond to the world now. This is about what I needed as a child to help me endure and rise above the mistreatment and disappointments of life. I needed someone in my life who could have rushed in at the moment I needed it and said “YOU WILL NOT TREAT HER AS SUCH! YOU WILL LISTEN TO HER NEEDS AND FEELINGS AND RESPECT THEM!”

I have some very vivid memories of  events from my childhood where my superhero had totally “left the building”. One event has permanently impacted my physical stature.

I went through a rapid growth spurt in fifth grade and was outgrowing a pair of shoes about every three months. With the way money was so tight in my house (according to my dad- if you read about him in my tribute you’d know what I mean here), I felt it was too much of a financial burden on the family if I told my parents I needed new shoes. I was sure I would hear my dad say “What do you mean you need new shoes? We just bought you a goddamn new pair three months ago!!”

So, instead of letting my parents know my feet were now a size 7 instead of a 5, I would just continue to wear them, knuckles bulging upwards as they formed into permanent hammertoes.  I bet my superhero, had he or she been there, would have gladly swept into the house, picked me up in his or her arms. and flown me to the nearest shoe  mart to find me a pair of new, bigger, less binding shoes. But sadly, that never happened.

The other incident I will never forget was the time I came down with a case of tonsillitis so advanced I nearly landed in the hospital with surgery. Again, I was reluctant to tell my parents I didn’t feel well, because there was always some sort of kid crisis going on with my older siblings. Who was I, the littlest one, to ask for help? So, I endured the blazing sore throat, the high fever and chills, and just “toughed it out” until one day I could barely swallow my soup. I happened to find my mom in a rare moment of solitude, and approached her cautiously. “Mom, my throat hurts a little, can you look at it?” My mom audibly gasped and recoiled in horror at what she saw. My throat was bright red, with white oozing pustules and yellow streaks running down the back. My tonsils were so swollen they were almost touching each other.

Obviously, my mother rushed me to the doctor immediately – she wasn’t one of those “It’s just a little viral thing, you’ll get over it” kind of moms. The doctor, however, felt my mom had been negligent, and proceeded to rip her a new one for not bringing me in sooner. He was ready to send me to the hospital and have my tonsils ripped out. Eventually, the antibiotics kicked in, and he determined tonsils were more beneficial than not having them, so surgery was called off.

Again, if I had had a superhero in my life, he or she would have let mom know I was truly, really, sick days before I worked up the courage to tell her myself.

Moments like these occurred all through my life. The Catholic upbringing played a large part in it as well. Being constantly told to remain humble, not stir the pot, be good, patient, etc., because that’s what god wanted, in a large family where everyone has too many needs that all can’t be met right now, caused me to always put my own needs aside for everyone else’s.

But now it’s time to become my own superhero. My therapist has been encouraging me to raise my voice, speak my mind and let my needs be known. She is working on giving me back some of what was missing in my childhood – the strength to speak up and out about whatever is bothering me, or what I needed.

Perhaps, she’s the superhero I was looking for all along.


  1. I like the idea of being your own super hero – that way, help is right there whenever you need it, where ever you are :-).

    Great post and a similar to how I grew up with the exception there were only two kids – my sister and me – but with one parent stretched to the limit, I (as the youngest) also learned early on to “suck it up” and “tough it out”. I had an ear infection that numbed the left side of my face. Had it not been for the kid sitting next to me on the bus to school noticing I was a little warmer than I should have been (I was apparently giving off so much heat I’d made her nervous, lol), I surely would have gone to class and not thought to tell anyone I couldn’t feel anything below my left eye.

    Great post. 🙂


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