Mary Elizabeth Stricklin, 22, grew up as the daughter of a United Methodist minister in West Palm Beach, Fla. and Deland, Fla. She recently graduated from undergrad and is currently pursuing a master’s program in a science-related field. Read about Mary Elizabeth’s experiences as a PK in the Q&A below.
What did you enjoy about growing up as a PK?
I think the biggest benefit was growing up with an entire community of support. I never had to look very far to find someone to talk to, or a mentor.
Was it hard to grow up as a PK?
I think the biggest benefit was also the most difficult part. You are always being watched. Whether the congregation is watching to see how you succeed, how you fail, or how your parents have raised you, there is never a moment when you feel like you are just another kid.
Did that make you rebellious?
I wasn’t very rebellious growing up. I always tried my hardest to do the right thing and be well behaved. If anything, I just tried to be a normal kid.
How would you classify your experience?
Unique. I wouldn’t say I had a perfect childhood, but I also have very few complaints. There were always higher expectations, but that also meant I stayed out of trouble. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a loving home and with two great role models as parents.
Were you sheltered?
My parents were not really extreme when it came to sheltering me. There were a few things, like I wasn’t allowed to read “Harry Potter” growing up, but that was mainly because they didn’t know anything about the books. By the time I reached middle school I was encouraged to have all kinds of friends and experiences. I will say that I never really knew what the most popular music was, or what the cool shows on TV were, but that was my own choosing.
Did you ever feel stereotyped because you were a PK?
Absolutely. Most of my classmates thought I was really sheltered and didn’t know how to have fun. The friends I made were typically surprised [to find out I was a PK] when they got to know me. Any time someone would pick on me it was usually making fun of the fact that I wouldn’t drink or curse, but it never bothered me too much. I honestly feel like most of the friends I had knew me well enough to know who I was without stereotyping.
Has your upbringing impacted your life today?
It is a major part of who I am today. I grew up having to form relationships with all types and ages of people, which I believe has helped me be more social and well-rounded. I also understand both the business and spiritual side of a church. Being in the spotlight made me conscious of what other people perceive, but has also taught me many hard lessons about my self worth.
What should people know about being a PK?
I wish people understood how much pressure is put on kids of religious leaders. We grow up in the spotlight, and no matter how much you tell us that we are not being judged, we also know it’s not entirely true. We typically hear all of the negative parts of the church more than anyone else, and we still have to put a smile on every Sunday, Wednesday or whenever and pretend to be the perfect family. Mistakes we make as kids reflect on our parents.
Also, I wish people understood the pressure we have to see our parents endure. My dad doesn’t just work on Sundays. He never stops working, and that means as we were growing up, we had to be ready for him to get called away at any time. You expect your pastor to come running when you are in the hospital or during times of trouble, but that also means he is leaving his family.