A story for E’s client
A woman wearing tartan skirt and shawl came to tell me about her life as a young child.
A story for a very angry young girl
Hello, my name is Mrs McIver, Mary McIver. You can call me Mary. I’ve come to tell you about myself. When I was a young lassie I had red hair and freckles. My family looked different from me. My mum and dad had straight brown hair. My brothers had blond hair, but I had reddish curls and lots of freckles. Sometimes they teased me and I used to get cross. I used to shout at them when they said I needed a good wash in the burn (stream) to get rid of them. I knew I was clean. They knew I was clean. Why did they tease me? Families can be like that sometimes. They like to give you a label. My sister was known as ‘the quiet one’. One of my brothers was ‘the rowdy one’, the other was ‘the clever one’. I was ‘the angry one’. They used to say it was because I had red hair, and that would mean I would be a cross kind of person. I always thought that was a really stupid thing to think. I had a friend in school that had red hair too, and freckles. At least she wouldn’t tease me. I didn’t used to get cross with her. She was lovely. We used to play such great games. We had trees in our playground. We pretended we had horses and we would gallop in and out of the trees and tie our horses up to the tree we called our stable. She was called Dianne.
One Day I heard that Dianne had left my school. She just disappeared. I was so upset. Who could I play with now? The other kids all seemed to have their own friends. They didn’t want me. My brother ‘the rowdy one’ didn’t help. He and his pals came over to me sitting alone on the step in the playground. He didn’t know about my friend leaving.
“What’s the matter with you, misery guts?” he asked.
I couldn’t tell him I was so upset, but instead of being upset I put on my fiercest face and I said ‘Get lost, I hate you!’
My brother turned round to his friend and said, “It’s no wonder she hasn’t got any friends. I told you she was always angry.”
It was just not true. But I had discovered that being angry instead of being upset made me feel a bit less upset. So I used to get angry every time I was upset. Instead of crying and explaining why I was upset I would just get very, very angry. People would turn away instead of helping me to sort out what was upsetting me. They didn’t like it when I was angry.
It was little things that made me angry – like when my brothers or my sister seemed to get more of something than I did. Or if they had a chance to go somewhere or do something and I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I just screamed. I used to get into such a state. I’d hammer on the walls and stamp my feet. I’d get sent up to my room. I’d feel like I was burning up inside. If anyone came to see how I was I’d throw something at them. I only felt better after I’d had a sleep. Then I’d want to forget about it and I’d be OK until the next time. I thought it was all right to do what I did. Nobody seemed to think I could change.
But one day my Grandma’s sister came to stay. I had only met her once before. My family always said she was a ‘good listener’. I was in one of my terrible moods, shut in my room. I heard her voice outside my door. I didn’t think I should chuck anything at her. She wasn’t really in my close family so I thought I mustn’t be horrible to her. When she came in she just sat on my bed and reached out her hand for mine. I let her take my hand and I felt all the anger and tightness in my chest just turn into tears and sobs. I thought she, if anyone, would listen to me. I told her about my red hair and my friend leaving, and being lonely. She listened to it all.
“Ah,” she said,” Don’t you think your Ma and Pa would like to hear about this? Would you like me to tell them in case it makes you angry again?”
I let her tell my Mum and Dad. When they came into my room there was a different look on their faces. First I hugged my Mum and then I hugged my Dad.
“Shall we all start again?” asked my Mum. “No more name calling. If I’m upset I’ll tell you why, and if you’re upset, you’ll tell me why. Is it a deal?”
“Yes, Mum,” I said.
It made such a difference to me. I can’t say I never got angry again, but I wasn’t afraid to tell people how I was feeling anymore. I never needed to scream and shout and shut myself in my room again. I found some new friends and I did have a happy life.
1. What did Mary’s family expect Mary to be like?
2. What name was she given in the family?
3. Did other members of the family also have ‘names’? Do you remember any of them, for example one was ‘The noisy one’.
4. How might it affect a person if they are given a label, or a teasing ‘nick name’, eg. ‘the angry one’
5. How did they tease Mary? Was that fair?
6. How did Mary act when they teased her unfairly?
7. Who noticed that Mary’s problem could be solved, and what did that person do to help?
8. How did Mary act after she and her family had a new agreement, and what was the agreement?
9. Does the story remind you of anything in your life?