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.