The Power of a Childhood Peer Group

Feb 27, 2016

The Power of a Childhood Peer Group


Rite of Passage Four –First Love–
From the book ‘Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world’
Question #11 ‘Peer Group’
(1945 – age 11)


How soon do you recall being concerned about your own peer group’s opinion of you, as an individual?

During my public school years I had been advanced to the senior school because of my height and found myself unable to find a peer group. Everyone else was at least a year older. It wasn’t until I arrived at Michael Hall, the Rudolf Steiner School, that I had the opportunity to relate to my own age group and discover my peers.

This coeducational school had no grade system or exams and even played games without scoring. It was a huge relief after the trauma of my immediate past. I recall being something of an oddity since the other students had, for the most part, been there for 4-5 years, always with Ms. Dawson as the class teacher.
I was, nonetheless, welcomed for who I was, not for what I had left behind. At no time did I ever feel that I had to try to gain approval. The no grades method spilled over into our relationships and meant that nobody was the most popular or best liked; we just didn’t have to compete with each other.

I look back on this treasured time with one profound regret. I wished that I had been able to remain at that school until I graduated…alas this was not to be. My whole life has been a ‘moving feast’, just long enough to find a friend and then to say goodbye, not unlike the life of a military ‘brat’?

I wonder if these short term associations with my peers was to lead me to always be somewhat ‘set apart’ and with very few deep friendships?

ROP 3 caption "class at Michael Hall school" set on left. "There were no marks or grades on papers...."(DONEx3)

Class at Michael Hall school.

So…what about now?

At some point in one’s life the peer group moves from personal to professional.
It’s no longer so much about friendship as respect and not really a matter of hanging out with one another on a day-by-day basis.

In the heat of the battle I was fiercely competitive with those who did what I was trying to do. For the most part I wanted to be better rather than trying to ‘put them down’.

My behavior as the Galloping Gourmet had drawn me into a separate class of ‘gourmet’ than had hitherto been the case. Few, if any, ‘foodie’ has ever jumped over chairs and told shaggy dog stories before cooking a dish from some remote corner of the world.

I know that many of my well-known peers at that time were, to say the least…unimpressed. I didn’t blame them; if I had been in their kitchen clogs I would have felt the same.

Over time, however, I do feel that I have made several deep and lasting friendships with individuals whose professional and personal lives I respect and admire.

That early experience at the non-competitive school has never left me. It was, (and is) such a splendid idea and would solve so many of today’s aggressive contests.

Imagine a world in which we might be at peace with all men. One in which we might consider others as more worthy of attention than ourselves. Utopian? sure, but isn’t that better than simply drowning in the present day alternative?



  1. Patti Jean Meehan Says: 1:37 am

    Very early in life most definitely by my teen years. Being a very feminine boy I was ridiculed and assaulted for what or who I was.

  2. Jean N Sozio Says: 11:08 am

    Learning about the salmon was so fascinating. From birth to maturity it aimlessly flows along the current of the river with many other elements (other species, plants, stones, etc.) until one day it becomes evident to finish and finish well it has no other choice but to go against the current, with its own kind, with a common purpose, for a common goal. God has built this into them and into “those who are called according to His purpose” – “to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God”.

  3. Lynn Severance Says: 1:42 am

    Jean and Graham –
    I love this intersection where we find ourselves sharing. It truly is a stream, both in Graham’s metaphor, and how it allows us to flow in to be friends for the journey. 🙂

  4. Jean N Sozio Says: 10:12 am

    Lynn and Graham – – – Amen. I love blogging – journaling with compadres of like mindedness.

  5. Graham Says: 3:33 pm

    I am sitting here grinning like a Cheshire Cat ( why Cheshire..does anyone know!)
    The reason for my joy is that I can now see the beginning of a shoal of like minded ‘up streamers’ who are sharing their past and present as we negotiate this extraordinary river ..all of us wanting to be known for who we are and in the end to finish well.

    I am so very pleased to be here in your midst and am touched by your comments about your lives….Bless you for sharing. Graham

  6. Lynn Severance Says: 2:53 pm

    Jean – I appreciate your analogy of a stew with its various ingredients to our lives with all of the unique experiences that comprise the whole. We’d not be who we are (or who God has called us to be and who we are continuing to become) without all the ingredients. Perhaps that is why a blessing before eating or a prayer before entering our day can make a difference in how the Holy Spirit directs our path. Arise and shine for a new day has come. All the days before remain within us – but it is in the “now” we are asked to continue to dance.

  7. Jean N Sozio Says: 3:56 am

    P.S. On stew – beware too much salt and pepper (Pharisees). On wine and spirits – forms a unifying flavorful foundation for a dish when the alcohol has been boiled/simmered away (the redeemed).

  8. Jean N Sozio Says: 3:46 am

    On “friends” – I so relate to Lynn – yet ours was not a military family – however, being the youngest of nine 6 boys; 3 girls) I became quite aware of rank and gender expectations. I gladly enjoyed (and even thanked God) being a girl. I had a full and active life though not what I had hoped or planned. Since age 6 (I am now 61) my life has been a series of survival – get on with it because there is no other alternative. The pattern has been that through loss (death and/or relocation) gone are all those that I love or have loved me sincerely including friends and family – – except for my dear and awesome husband and one brother whom I praise God has spared for me to hold until my last day. God has left me to endure hardships and those most cruel and unkind in my life – the stinky socks in the basket – why ?????? I so longed to have a “normal” life – a kind, peaceful, lovely life. My only way to accept life as it is is to equate it to a stew. The stew, known for its form of “comfort” is comprised of individual parts unique in their own flavors and textures – when placed together in proper proportion to each other become so sweet, fragrant, and satisfying. Individually they are quite different and none can morf into another – you is what you is – accept it. Some elements like onions can really stink – they make you cry and are only sweetened by extreme heat (strife) – as are many vegetables that start out firm and become soft. Gravy (for which I see myself) is smooth, warm, comforting, irrigating, and easily flows over and around that for which it is placed – but not at all appetizing cold. God is the master foodie !! It’s all stew to Him – such why we were birthed in the garden.

  9. Jean N Sozio Says: 3:23 am

    P.S. I also agree with Dave. You really did not have contact with your audience to know the joy you brought to so many by your wit and antics. I’m sorry we as your audience did not know the stress you endured on the other side of the television screen. I would love to have those Galloping Gourmet shows on DVD. All was not bad.

  10. Jean N Sozio Says: 3:19 am

    I agree with Dianne. When I became a believer I put my focus on Christ, Jesus and like the worship chorus says, “all the world around me faded away”. I love that there is “no condemnation” for the believer. God gave us His word (Old & New Testament) to set us free from such. I am amazed (stunned) at how we are in the same place we were 50 years ago with racism in the U.S. I thought for sure when we elected a black president we were saying enough is enough – we are now equal – we are now all just people – no distinction. God is love and only with love (His leading) will we find our true place of purpose for which he has equipped us from birth. He intended us to be family without strife – each one contributing with which he is equipped and best suited. It comes naturally just by knowing who you are – what you like and enjoy – this is your road to hoe so to speak. There is so much gold to be mined in the Bible. Like lemmings and blind mice only those who stumble upon it find the key to lasting peace. Thank you for this forum Graham to share and serve together in God’s family.

  11. Mitchell B Mahony Says: 11:22 am

    I actually wasn’t very popular at/around age 11. I don’t really know why. I was nice to everyone. Once in a while someone would want to be my friend. But would end up being disappointed in the end. So my inner circle of friends to day is somewhat small. I’m still wary and so it’s hard to crack that circle. Back then, I did make ONE friend. Oddly, it was an older man. Now, don’t jump to conclusions. He was very funny with a zanily odd sense of humor. He had travelled the world. And he would share his adventures with anyone who would listen. That was me and I don’t know HOW many others. Now, understand…I have never actually met this man, I got to know him through the miracle of TV. You see, this man had a cooking show that aired on KCOP ch 13 in LA. And this show, along with the man behind it helped propel me toward acquiring some basic culinary skills. I’m not a chef, but I can hold my own in the kitchen. So, THANKS Graham for being my friend in those formidable years. It was one of the few shows that didn’t have my Mom urging me to go outside and get some fresh air.

  12. Lynn Severance Says: 11:04 pm

    I have been slowly ‘floating” through “Flash of Silver” and responding over at the Reflective Readers Club. It is wonderful to read the experiences that others have written in the comment boxes before me. Truly – all stories have their intersection points where a similar scenario ( or surely a same emotion ) causes pause for connection. I came to the book later than those posting before me – and hope to continue onward. But I am finding the blog postings a GREAT place to share, too.

    Peers: Graham said, “My whole life has been a ‘moving feast’, just long enough to find a friend and then to say goodbye, not unlike the life of a military ‘brat’?”

    I will chime in and say (although shared elsewhere) I DID grow up as a military “brat” and my formative years up to age 18 were much as Graham expressed. As it became a way of life, it was what I came to expect: caring friends and then having to leave them. College was a new experience in that for four years I stayed put and have a few friends who have remained in my life since then.

    I agree that when in a career, one can feel a closeness with their colleagues. Friendships form within that environment – occasionally times are shared outside of it. One of the surprises for me when I retired was that those comfortable times of seeing people every day no longer remained. It takes effort to keep up friendships and often life styles are not conducive to keeping up with “everyone”.

    And I am at an age where most of my friends have husbands who are retired – often I am a friend to a “spouse”, too. They have grown children and grandchildren who understandably get first dibs on attention. So I find myself not exactly back in feeling “set apart” or “torn apart” from my formative years as a member of a nomadic military family, but set apart in that I don’t “fit in” having no spouse or children/grandchildren.

    It is much easier for me to enter in with enthusiasm to my friends conversations about their “lives” when there is a chance for communicating. I have plenty to share about my life ( and love sharing as is obvious from my LONG comments 🙂 ). I have friends who care about me even if getting together is sparse as compared to earlier years. I can’t quite put it into words – but their enthusiasm to listen to me share about my life (sans spouse and children/grandchildren) does not elicit a lot of conversation. But I’d not miss a moment with them given the chance!!

  13. Joe Whiting Says: 3:11 pm

    Always so ‘right on’ Graham. You helped me to learn how to cook and now in this phase of your life you are helping me to understand life and myself more. Thank you for being yourself.

  14. Dave Zenz Says: 2:19 pm

    Interesting, . . . I do recall enjoy watching you jump about. It caught my eye, and then my mind. Today, right now, it makes me smile. Blessings – dmz

  15. Dianne Says: 1:08 pm

    like John Lennon’s song ” IMAGINE ” one of my favs, I dream & pray that all non believers see the light of our Savior Jesus Christ, I have never strived to be better or above anyone, I’ve always been content just to be me, a daughter of Christ, & not always an obedient one, at which I’m constantly asking for forgiveness, mother always told me since I was young, that I’m not better than anyone & no one was better than me, to always own the room which was not easy all the time, but it drew people to me, I’ve been very Blessed to be loved by many & been able to love back, I’ve had many friendly acquaintances, & 2 life long girl friends, 1 has past, it has been 71 yrs since we met, God is good, <3

  16. Michael Bersch Says: 10:58 am

    So much here on which to ruminate.
    What do we mean by friendship? By “deep” friendship? By respect?
    Does “peer group” by definition encompass worthiness and judgment?
    And isn’t there some type of drive in most all of us that wants (needs?) approval, or at least positive feedback, without which we have no baseline, no foundation to know right from wrong, mediocrity from excellence. And, if we strive to do our best, are we not at a minimum in competition with ourselves? Perhaps peace comes not from eliminating competition, but eliminating jealousy of those who achieve excellence.

  17. Denice Grant Says: 9:12 am

    This so wonderful! Yes, I’m all for this utopian vision. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

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