When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with Matilda. The book, the movie, all of it. On watching the movie a few weeks ago I realised that even now, I still know most of the script!
As a child, I was very much like Matilda. A bookworm, who was bullied at school and wanted desperately to fit in. I wanted desperately to be recognised for something or other and I’ve always had a very strong sense of what is right or wrong. Something that has carried me well in the last few years, in fact.
I have a very vivid memory of my sister and I on the first day at our new school in what must have been the year 1999 or 2000. We had moved from Germany, where we had spent the first years of our lives growing up on an army base and attending an army school, at this point I must have been about nine and going into year five at school. My sister was seven or eight at the time, I remember meeting up at play time and asking “is your teacher like Miss Honey?”
Sometimes Matilda longed for a friend, someone like the kind, courageous people in her books.
I longed for a teacher like Miss Honey. I think most kids that are familiar with Matilda did at some point. As it turned out, my year six teacher was almost a male version of her. Strong in the face of adversity, supportive and really wanted me to succeed. I think, to this day, he’s probably one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Anyhow, I digress.
What I realised watching the movie more recently and then the musical, is that I share more with Matilda that I’d realised. Especially her constant declarations of “but that’s not right!” I don’t think I ever really wanted a Miss Honey. I’m pretty sure that, like Matilda, I wanted someone to listen to what I said, I wanted to be valued. I wanted to be recognised and most of all, I wanted to be good enough. A lot of things that were missing from my home life, if I’m honest with myself. Some of these things, I still struggle with now.
“What she needed was just one person, one wise and sympathetic grown-up who could help her.“
Anyhow, something I didn’t expect as a parent was seeing things through different eyes. It’s something that surprises me almost every day. I look at some things completely differently nowadays, not through the rose tinted glasses of my childhood, but with a deeper understanding now of why Matilda was who she was. I feel a bit like I’m returning to A Level English Literature lessons when I say that.
I still think Matilda is a wonderful book, a great movie and a lovely stage show. But I also think it’s a pretty stark reminder of the role we have as parents and how seemingly easy it is to screw that up. Valuing a child starts at home. I think we all need to remember that. Home should be a safe place, where somebody is listened to and treated fairly. Kids shouldn’t need a Miss Honey…