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Thursday, September 29, 2011

I feel trapped.

This was a comment made this morning. By someone with a label. That broke my heart.

I wasn’t going to write this post.  It is in answer to a question about labeling. (Ok… I was debating about doing this writing prompt because I am trying to flex my “writing” muscles a little.)  But, I am in the middle of a picture heavy, happy fall post.  I suppose I was toying with the idea because I had words floating in my head, “what does labeling mean?” “is it fair?” do I support labeling?”

And then… a conversation that hit a little too close to home.  “I feel trapped,’ can you imagine?”  yes… I can.

Here were my original thoughts:

Labeling is essential in life.  As a teacher, there is no way I can appropriately teach you if I don’t know what “level” you are on.  Can you read? Do you need a big challenge?  How can I push you?  What are your interests?  How can I engage you?  How can I relate to you?  Everyone is different, but – grouping people into “sort of boxes” gives me the advantage of reaching people at the level they are. 

Example:  If you put William Hung in the same music class as Jackie Evancho, everyone might get frustrated.

Yes, inevitably everyone gets labeled.  The nice thing about our society is that we don’t live in a caste system.  You can move freely in and out of your label.  Athletic, musical, intellectual, social – you can be all at once or move into and out of your labels.

That would have been the gist of my post.  That would have been the stand I took.  My head still says… “We need labels! They are a necessary ‘evil’ in life!”  But my heart weighs in heavier on this one.

I Feel Trapped.

Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Teacher, Administrator, Coach, Student, Child…. it could have been anyone.

Andrew. Addison. Alexander.

Alexander’s eyes say, “I feel trapped.”  I know he is cognitively aware of what is going around him.  He laughs.  He plays peek – a – boo.  He wants to do things that his body just will not allow him to do.  When I look into his soul… it says, “please, don’t let me stay trapped forever.” 

What if we would have listened to the doctors when he was born? What if that label would have defined him?  What if others let that label define him? What if someday we are not around to look into his soul and fight to release him?  I hate every label attached to him.  I hate the words “Mentally Retarded.”  I hate the words delayed.  All the while my teacher – self says those labels are necessary to get him the assistance he needs, my “mommy-self” screams those labels do not define my child.

Andrew and Addison.  They are the the siblings of a child with a severe disability.  They are close in age.  Where ever Alexander goes, they will also go.  And vice – versa.  I pray that they can stay together.  I pray that they support each other.  I pray they don’t have resentment for the things they have to or can’t do because of their circumstances.  Please… just let them love and support each other.

What if Alexander’s labels harm their feelings of self worth?  What if the labels that come with them change their feelings of self worth?  How can I prevent that?  How can I prevent them from slipping into a caste system where they can never overcome a label?

In life, I am a Mommy first.  I am their Mommy first.  I have some real concerns about the labels that are now innately attached to them.  I am afraid those labels could be so life defining that they won’t be able to attach themselves to other labels. Mama’s Losin’ It

I’m linking up today with Mama Kat – and her writing inspirations.

Oh - And don't forget to link up tomorrow if you're "Confessing!"

So what do you think?  Labels a good thing?  A necessary evil?  Or – all together wrong?

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At September 29, 2011 at 8:09 AM , Blogger Amanda said...

It would be great if labels would only be used for a person to get the help they need. Unfortunately it doesn't work this way.

It's (usually) up to us mommies to convince the world that indeed our children are so much more than just their labels.

At September 29, 2011 at 8:24 AM , Blogger Krista @ Not Mommy of the Year said...

I don't know what to say except, YOU are doing what you need to do for your kids. You probably fight more as a mother many of the rest of us do because that's what they - all three of them - need from you. You fight so the rest of the world can see them for who they are. Labels hurt. Labels cause pain. Labels make people think they know who we are and what we need, but they don't.

At September 29, 2011 at 8:27 AM , Anonymous Denise said...

I agree with Amanda that it would be nice if the labels only helped to get what you need. It's tough because there are good and bad aspects of labels. I guess you need to own the labels that help you and cast off the labels that don't.

At September 29, 2011 at 1:18 PM , Blogger Minivan Mama said...

I'm just finding it fascinating reading everyone's take on this prompt. Your post is heartfelt and thought provoking.

My take on labels, like you, depends on how you look at them applied to a certain situation!

Great post!

At September 29, 2011 at 1:24 PM , OpenID fromthebungalow said...

Unfortunately, I think you're right. Labels get our kids the services they need. Hopefully they don't supersede the individual needs of the kid.

It's interesting to see William Hung next to Jackie Evancho. Point made.

Your kids' presence in each other's lives is purposeful. They'll learn and grow with/from each other because you're a parent who understands and guides.

At September 29, 2011 at 1:40 PM , Blogger Tiffany said...

I couldn't agree more that if the labels that are used were only for the good of the person. But with the evilness of human nature some people cannot get past that label that some one else wears. It reminds me of this woman that goes to the church I used to attend.

She is mentally retarded and many of the other church members avoided her. But she is such a beautiful soul, if only they took the time to look past her inadequacies they could see that she has a special gift.

At September 29, 2011 at 2:05 PM , Blogger Arnebya said...

I read this heartfelt post and spent the next half hour reading random posts of yours. Pretending to be working when someone walks by is hard.

I agree that labels do not define the child (unless no one teaches them that the label is just that -- a descriptor, not a definite).

At September 29, 2011 at 8:22 PM , Anonymous A Mother's Thoughts said...

I believe that labeling is something that we all do whether or not we are aware of it or not. A pre-judgement if you must. Do I think that it is right, well I guess it depends on what the circumstances are behind the labeling. Alot of the time it is a hurtful judgement and it meant for wrong doings. Shallowness, but we all do it, so to say you are wrong, would be calling the kettle black. Great post! It really makes you think.....alot of the time the person being labeled is truely a beautiful soul.


At September 30, 2011 at 4:13 AM , Anonymous Anna said...

Labels are only labels if you let them define you. Sometimes they are useful, like to get the things you need. But I look at it this way: My son is MORE than any diagnosis. He is a PERSON first. We all are people first. No matter what you do in life, you will always be popped into some kind of category by the people you come across.
Personally, I take it all with a grain of salt.
Our lives aren't normal. They are a different kind of normal (I wrote a post on that actually).
You are the one who controls the labels for your children. You can choose to educate people. You can choose to live a different kind of normal life and just use labels to get you what you need. For example, I always drop the "I am a social worker" line if it means I get what I want. We all use labels to manipulate things sometimes (or is that just me??!!)

I find that kids accept things so much easier than adults. I worried about the exact same things with Braeden. You know what I have found? He loves Ryley with all his heart. He is proud of him. When Braeden's friends ask why Ryley makes funny noises, Braeden just replies simply-"Ryley has no words". And everyone just moves on and includes Ryley.

Somedays it is really hard to see people automatically attach the label of 'disability' to your child without taking the time to know him. But that it THEIR STUFF. If it doesn't impact me, then I figure it isn't my problem!

Great post!!


At September 30, 2011 at 11:15 PM , Blogger Non-Stop Mom said...

Truly a question of good vs. evil. Like you said, labels help people get necessary services. But at the same time, those same labels can give people an often incorrect first impression. Like a teacher who sees a kid on her class roster at the beginning of the year and says "oh, he's the ADHD one" or something like that. Yes, it could help her to understand that child's behavior, or it could cause her to already resent the extra effort that she may have to put towards that child.

I've had friends whose children have various diagnoses, and they refuse to tell the schools about it so that they aren't treated differently. They don't want their children to be perceived as being different. I have mixed feelings about that too.

Awesome post, as usual!


At October 1, 2011 at 11:50 AM , Blogger Mama Kat said...

This post gave me shed light on a whole level of labeling I hadn't considered. Great insight!

And there is no way that baby boys siblings are going to turn away from him.

At October 3, 2011 at 9:51 AM , Anonymous Kathleen Basi said...

My daughter has Down syndrome, so I struggle with the same issues you do. Our kids are 6, 4 and 2, with one on the way, and I will say that I think the best way to combat the labels is simply to get out there, to be honest, to talk about things with your kids so they understand, and to advocate for your child. My daughter is getting ready for her kindergarten IEP. And I'm gearing up to make sure her label doesn't define her.

At October 3, 2011 at 11:50 AM , Blogger Helene said...

I was just talking about labels with some moms this weekend. More about the negative impact of labels than anything else. Wouldn't it be so nice if labels were only used to get the proper services we need for our kids all the time...with none of the bad stuff that tends to come along with those labels??

The video of Alexander is so sweet. I just want to reach through my computer screen and squeeze him. I can see why your heart is so filled with love for him...what a precious little soul he is.


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