Honest Labels

Originally published at www.anneeswriting.blogspot.com on November, 2012.

Labels stick with us. They sometimes mold us into something we are not. I have felt the sting of a misguided label. I am now guilty of doing this same thing to my own son.

Honesty is the best policy when dealing with kids, I always say. Tell the truth (on their level) and try to answer any question they may have with an open attitude.

There has been alot of honesty for my seven year old. It all started when our beloved beluga whale at our city zoo got sick and died. My son was almost 4 years old.

But even before that, we made him switch rooms in our house explaining that when his little sister came she would need the nursery. Then two days after his sister was born his wonderful companion, Jaker Baker (his Grandparent’s dog) passed away.

There were preschool and daycare transitions to explain and God questions that surfaced. Every day my son received less and less attention from his Mother as she tried to accomodate for a second child.

After Kindergarten I should have insisted in keeping him at Hoyt for one more year before asking that he be transferred into the “big” Washington-Hoyt building.

It seems that at each point along that way there has always been something that my son has had to leave behind.

We tried to explain as best as possible. Transitions are natural. Explaining death was not easy. I am still explaining it to him. Looking back on all these “deaths” I realize that my son has been extremely adaptable and has been able to handle my honesty with an open heart.

Except when he simply cannot. Like the 5 minutes before we leave for school — socks itch, shoes don’t velcro right, the jacket is a jumble and my son falls apart. Or like the 5 minutes leading up to “lights out” — blankets are too hot, stuffed animals are not arranged right, more hugs, more kisses, a potty emergency, bizzare aches and pains and my son falls apart. Or like the moment leading up to dinner when legos cant be built fast enough, video games cant be won fast enough, hunger cannot be found and my son falls apart. I could go on — forever.

All of these situations add up. I begin to subconsciously label my son as anxious, stressed out, sensitive and simply not able to handle life’s speed bumps.

…And then we move and my son changes schools, neighborhoods, homes and friends. The transition goes better than expected. I am honest with him on all accounts. If anyone were to ask him why we moved, he could answer in his sleep. He interacts with new friends well, likes his teacher, loves his new room, and adapts well to the new community. There are still so many moments in between when he falls apart.

Currently we are in the process of looking for a new home in the same community. His elementary school boundary lines were re-drawn and we fall one block outside the new lines. We talked about this with him. Life. What could we do.

Tonight when I was putting my son to bed I hugged him and said, whatever happens there is no need to worry. Your mommy and daddy are doing everything we can do to keep you at your school. We are not worried and we know that everything is going to be how it is going to be.

My son looked at me and said, “I’m always stressed out, Mom. I can’t help it.” As he said this I could feel the tension in the room rise. “Why?” I wondered aloud. “Do you think it is just part of your personality?” I asked. “No,” my son said. “It is just what I do because that is what you and Dad say I act like.”

Wow. I took the next 10 minutes and relived with him all of the big transitions in his life and confirmed that he had handled each one with such grace and strength.

“Who cares about the little stuff — sometimes we all need to vent”, I said. When I left his room that night I was so convicted — labels stick with us. They sometimes mold us into something we are not.

I have felt the sting of a misguided label. I am now guilty of doing this same thing to my own son. I opened his door again and said, “Thanks for your honesty. I am glad we could talk about this.”