In her newest book, Little Miss Merit Badge, a memoir, author Ronda Beaman offers a humorous account of her life on one level while, on another level, sharing the angst and pain of growing up in a dysfunctional family ruled by a verbally abusive father. This book’s greatest gift is the template it provides for looking at ourselves in a different way and the understanding that only we can decide who we aren’t and who we are.
Although Beaman’s recollections reflect the generally upbeat attitude she was seemingly blessed with since coming into the world, it is apparent from her story that she truly had a challenging childhood which will remain an influence throughout her life. By age six, Beaman acknowledges that she was suffering from “accomplishment addiction,” a state of mind many young children develop, especially girls, when they are deprived of parental nurturing of their fragile perception of their self-worth. As a child, given her situation, the author chose to remove herself from her mentally abusive home life, and seek accomplishment and recognition through the Girl Scouts. She could never have enough merit badges. While much has been written on the subject of accomplishment addiction, perhaps no one has done a better job of capturing the essence of the malady than Beaman.
Little Miss Merit Badge provides an intimate ramble with the author from her early childhood through her adult life up to the present time. I don’t think I am revealing too much by noting that Beaman does successfully navigate the troubled waters of her youth and continues, at a lesser and more balanced level, to pursue a life of accomplishment, but one tempered with the seemingly sincere desire to give back of herself to others. Among her numerous accomplishments, she became a university professor, was the first recipient of the National Education Association’s “Excellence in the Academy: Art and Teaching” award, and a highly regarded international speaker.