Labels: Fragile – Handle with Care

Stranger #1: “Wow, your daughter is tall.”

Stranger #2: “Oh, how old is your son?  20 months.  Really?  I would have guessed that he was closer to one since he’s so small.”

Daughter: GROWL. Rah. Rah. Rah.

Stranger #3: “She must be shy.”

I’ve heard the comments above from numerous strangers in the past few weeks.  Comments from what seem to be mostly normal, well-meaning strangers, who, like many other people, can’t help but notice and share their opinions on my two children.

We have ALL encountered this.  From the very beginning when strangers stick their heads a little too close to your snoozing newborn, to curious old ladies in the grocery store, everyone seems to have something to say.  Sometimes it’s something nice and encouraging, while other times, not so much.

I’m not against exchanging pleasantries while I’m out and about with my children.  On the contrary, I like being friendly and striking up conversations from time to time.  I hope to set a good example on appropriate social behavior to help counter my 3.5 year old’s growling phase.

I am afraid that these comments from strangers will turn into labels for my kids.  And no, I don’t want my daughter to believe she’s shy because she growls instead of talking to strangers.  No, I don’t want my son to think he’s small because that’s what people tell him.  With a lifetime ahead of them of being labeled, and experiencing typical growing pains, can’t we simply celebrate how beautifully made they are at this moment?

My own label from high school came from a teacher, who called me “Goody-two shoes,” or GTS for short.  It fit me spot-on, and I still have some GTS in me today.  I wasn’t particularly harmed by it, because I knew that it was true: hyper-involved and in charge of student council, captain of the basketball team, member of honor society….all around over-achiever (you get the picture).  I know I had my critics, but I was blessed with wonderful best friends to support me – friends who I am proud to still be close to even today. Regardless, I know labels can make us feel fragile, question who we are, and do a lot of harm in very formative years.

Back to the exchange that I had with stranger #2, who commented on my son’s size, I just shrugged and said, “He’ll grow when he grows, and in the meantime, we just keep on feeding him,”  though I was hoping for a retort with more of an edge.

Despite her comments, I somehow managed to talk both children out of the toys that they wanted me to buy for them.  Magically, they both listened and put the toys back on the shelf just liked I asked!  Couldn’t stranger #2 have just focused on their wonderful behavior and kept the rude comments to herself? Please spare my kids from such comments, so they can avoid being labeled before the age of 2 and 4, respectively!

What have strangers said to you about your own children?  How do you deal with your kids being labeled?

Along the same line, why can’t we just be more supportive of moms and children?  There’s often a lot of judging and critique going on!  Check out Kaela’s post on this subject.


7 thoughts on “Labels: Fragile – Handle with Care

  1. This is SO true! I feel like I’ve become more sensitive to this now that my daughter is getting to the age where she understands more. I don’t want people to tell her she has wild hair or that she is big for her age or has a gap in her teeth. While they are mostly well-intended (or thoroughly thoughtless) comments, I know how she will interpret and latch onto the things people say about her. I still have a hard time loving my curly/wavy hair because it gave me the nicknames “mop head” and “wild woman” and made me feel disheveled as a result. Sometimes it’s best to keep our mouths closed, isn’t it?
    Love this, and thank you for the repost!

    • Yes – thoroughly thoughtless is a great way to put it!

      Your post was so close to my train of thought – we need to be more positive to encourage and support other moms. What we say about ourselves is equally important because our kids overhear us and model their behavior accordingly.

      Everyone should follow “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.”

  2. When my oldest was 2, and just not ready to talk yet, we were in the grocery store; she in the child’s seat in the shopping cart and I pushing. Two elderly ladies smiled and said “Hello” to my child. My child replied, “ah,noaw, waga, figa.” The old ladies looked flabbergasted and looked to me to explain this poor child’s obvious deficits. I looked at the old ladies and said, “Nah, min-sho-aw-da.” That’s all it took. No more discussion or evaluation. Sometimes humor comes in small packages–if we can only “get it.” Thanks for this post–it brought back delightful memories.

    • What a great comeback! This is more of what I had hoped I had on the tip of my tongue (or something like that). Glad my post reminded you of that. Thanks for commenting and making me laugh!

  3. Now I know why I like you so much…’re a “goody two shoes”!! I was not the goody two shoes in school but for some unexplained reason ALL of my friends were! I didn’t realize it at the time but when I reflected back on it some years back I noticed how every friend I had was an overachiever and morally sound! I obviously know why I liked them so much but can’t really understand how I fit into that bunch!

  4. Pingback: Boys vs. Girls | go mama o

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