Life Lessons from Matilda

Life Lessons from Matilda

This Sunday, I went to see Matilda, the Musical with Little Girl C. I knew she might be a bit young to capture all of it, but I had tickets anyway and took a shot. Even though it took some explaining and she is still working through some things, I am pleased I went. At the end of the show I applauded emotionally this bunch of little ones that had just reminded me of some of important life lessons.

Life Lessons Item #1: Life is not fair

You can’t help but be astonished at the unfairness of Matilda’s life. This unwanted and inconvenient baby from virtually illiterate parents who never had any love for her. Or even understood her nor cared to do so. Unfairness is everywhere and we are struck by it all the time. War. Hunger. Homelessness. Being born in certain parts of the world. Being born at certain times in life. The list goes on.

When kids are 6 (or even less), the expression ‘it’s not fair’ comes out of their mouth at any given moment. I can’t have ice cream right now? That’s not fair! You are reading Baby S story? That’s not fair! My friend gets to watch TV all the time? That’s not fair.

I am adamant with Little Girl C about 90 percent of the times that there is nothing to do with fairness in the described situations. If I lose it I may even raise my voice (yes, it happens) and ask ‘what’s not fair?’ to her bleak reply ‘people that have no home’. Yes, I am that much of a Cruella on this particular matter.

After yesterday, the concept of fairness may take a different meaning for her. There are many things life is not fair with. Not having a lolly is not one of them.

Side Note: Justice will prevail

I had an HBS professor that preached:

You have to act on the belief that justice will prevail over time

It was a tough ask, but then again he was trying to teach leadership to those leaders that are meant to ‘make a difference in the world’.  Through life, I have bought this belief, even before I heard it from Rob Kaplan. And through life you have to repeat – it does not prevail at all times, but OVER time, it does. There was no turning meanies into goodies in this story. That is not justice, it is fairy tale. I am glad it was not a princess type of ending as life is not like that. But I am glad some sort of justice prevailed.

Life Lessons Item #2 You have to stand up for yourself (and others)

Matilda is a show to give you the strength to stand up for yourself, no matter what sort of abuse you are under. She goes through an ordeal of verbal abuse at home and heads to a world of verbal and physical abuse in school. I find that the reason she did not find school scary and actually could stand up to it was only because she had built a thick skin where there was likely to be little in life that could put her down.

Now, it is a scary thought to think a 6 year old can have such a history that can make someone like Ms Trunchbull be a normal human being, true. But it is a glimpse of hope to think that sometimes you can still come out of such a situation with a positive – the ability to stand up for yourself, after so many years of being dragged in the dust. I was stunned by the lack of fear but thought it was realistic enough in light of the background.

And the act of being fearless gave Matilda an edge in being able to stand up for herself and for others. We all need to be a little bit more fearless. I will go and practice my power pose 🙂

Side Note: Bullying is not ok and bystanders (or rather upstanders) are key

The story turns when suddenly all the kids stand up to the bully Ms. Trunchbull in a surprising act of solidarity with yet another brutal punishment. The kids do what the grown-up Miss Honey is not able to do and stand up in mockery and asking for punishment as a group, as they claim they are all guilty. Not knowing what to expect, but knowing it could hardly be much worse, they stand up one by one. The movement of the group is what gives Matilda the strength to use her ultimate superpower.

If you have been reading my weekly newsletter to The Viewpoint, you will know bullying is a matter currently very close to my heart, as Little Girl C suffered at school for over 5 weeks. For exactly how long it is hard to determine. 5 weeks is how long it took me to identify the problem after knowing there was one. Who knows how long that took.  And as the book Raising Girls described, the importance of bystanders is key. Not only to protect those who are being bullied in the moment, but also to show that bullying is not ok.

Life Lessons Item #3: Sometimes you have to be just a little bit naughty

I should probably not shout this one too loud given I took my already tough to manage 6-year-old along. But the statement does bring something more than naughtiness. Indeed, it is all about taking control and taking matters in your own hands. The default under such situation is most likely than not to withstand it in silence and take it as a given that life has done to you. With its bit of exaggeration, Matilda was reading books (including originals in Russian), creating stories, doing her times tables without stop. She was a genius because she had to – it was her way to be away from her own world.

That inner strength made sure she knew the only way to resolve her life was to take matters in her own hands – and be a little bit naughty sometimes. Maybe avoid putting super glue in your dad’s hat, but short of that, some good ownership of our own problems and a creative approach to solve them is the way forward.

To Little Girl C –  may you always be fierce but kind

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