Thinking about labels

labelsI’ve been thinking about labels lately, and I finally figured out what I wanted to say.

Last week, I  spent time with an “educational assessment specialist” to start the process of figuring how how to best help my oldest son.  It’s a heart-breaking journey for me, and I’ve been extremely resistant to letting some expert slap a label on my child.  I see him as perfect as he is.

When I’m ready, I tell you more about Watty and how we got here.

But for now, I’ll tell you about some of the labels I’ve worn.  Because understanding MY labels helps me make sense of his.

In 7th grade, I wore the “fat girl” label

I was only a size eight, but I was a bit… bountiful up top and sported an 18″ waist.  I was the definition of curvy.

Mooo…. here comes the heifer.

moooo…. moooo…  mooo…..

Oh no, she’s backing up.

beep beep beep beep

Looking back, I know I wasn’t fat.  I’d give anything to return to that figure.

Objectively, I think it was more about my giant udders than anything else.  They were pretty darn… big.

But I wrapped that label around me like a blanket.

At a pizza party, I thought nothing of taking a 3rd slice.  After all, I was already “the fat girl.”

When it came time for dessert, I felt no need to hold myself back.  Why should I?  Restraint was for skinny girls.  “The fat girl” was all about enjoying dessert.

And stupidly, for years, the voices still stick in my head.  When I reached for dessert, I hear

Mooooo…. mooo…. moooo….

But now, I laugh.  It’s just a word from the past.  It doesn’t define me.  It’s not a big deal.  It doesn’t hurt anymore.

are labels good or bad? from thishappymom.com

In my 20’s my dad’s family labeled me the organized one

At the time, it might have been true.  But why wouldn’t it be?  I was done with college, I had a full time job.  I wasn’t married and I didn’t have kids.

I had time to be organized.

Oh Susan, you’re so organized.  Can you help sort out these papers.

(oh yes… yes… i love to be helpful.  i like it when i can help.)

Oh Susan, you’re always so together, can you organize that?

(oooohhh…. i get to be in control…. i like that.)

But now… the label hangs around my neck like a millstone.

I.am.not.organized.

I had 2 kids in 2 years.  During the same time period, we moved… twice.  I suffered PPD.  I developed a thyroid condition.  And early menopause.

I fell so far behind in housework that I despaired of ever catching up.

Then I remodeled.

We moved our stuff so many times and left stuff in storage so long that I no longer have a clue what I own.

I found a box in storage that was labeled “do not lose this box.”  I’d stored it for a year.  It was full of trash.

I have no clue why.

In the midst of drowning in papers, clutter, and my failure as a housekeeper, my brother calls.

Susan, you’re so organized.  Can you….

(i was fighting not to go into hysterics.  i’m not sure what he said.)

If he could have seen my house, he would never have asked.  But he didn’t know.

How could he?

I’ve been hiding my mess.  I’ve been struggling mightily to live up to that organized label. I wanted soooooo much to live up to that expectation. I wanted to be “the organized one.” So I lived a lie.  I needed (and need) help to dig out from the mess and chaos, and I’ve been paralyzed to admit it.  I wanted the label to still fit.

A few weeks back, I finally came clean and admitted the label doesn’t fit.

I had a panic attack and was hyper-ventilating into a paper bag.

But letting go of that label was the best thing I could do.

It freed me. People understood why I say “no” and they understand when I’m scattered.

When I was 8, I got a different label.

That’s when I got the label “child of God.”

Ultimately, it’s the only label that matters.

The labels that other people put on me in an attempt to tell me WHO I am… they pale in comparison to knowing WHOSE I am.

Knowing this helps me remember that I’m NOT “the fat girl” and that my family loves me even if I’m NOT the “organized one.”  It’s what has helped me live beyond the other labels that have been stuck on me at times… “the *itchy one” and “depressed” and “unemployed” and a dozen other silly labels just don’t matter.  They’re just words.

What matters is knowing that God loves me and that I belong to Him.  God sees value in my life.

Ultimately, that’s what freed me to let my son get some spiffy new labels for school.

I know that Watty has the best label of all.  He too is a child of God. And he knows it.

 

What labels limit you?  What labels free you?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://thishappymom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/DSC_0036.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Houston Mom Blogger Susan Baker has a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood. She has two elementary school boys, one engineering husband, and one cat. She has a strange fascination  for eggs, socks, and books.  She spends far too much time on Social Media and at Target. [/author_info] [/author]

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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Comments

  1. (HUGS) for your son babe, praying that he gets what he needs.

    I was bullied and made fun of in my Catholic grammar school all through till 8th grade. I came out feeling like nothing, and really didn’t LOVE myself until I turned thirty.

    I am so sorry you were labeled and made fun of, but it has made you a stronger person.

    I agree only one label should be the most important, a child of GOD

    • I’m 46, so I’m pretty much OVER whatever happened in Junior High (thank goodness!!!!) But I remember when it did still hurt and bug me. When I hear “moooo” now, it’s more like the echo of a memory. It’s more amusing than anything. (Partly because I saw a photo of the guy who used to call me heifer. I saw his wife too. umm…. karma rocks.)

      But I’ve been really really resistant to letting my son get labeled. He has an undiagnosed learning disability. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. I had to think through what was going on in my own head to figure out why I’ve been acting like I have been.

  2. I love this post! I think it is so hard to turn off those voices in our head that record every label we’ve ever been given but so important to be able to do so. I hope your son will get the help and support he needs from his school.

    • Thank you! It sounds silly, but it was kind of scary to push “post” this morning and admit to the world I used to be known as “heifer.” (eye rolls) I’m certain that my son will get what he needs. He’s in a great school and I know it will be ok. It’s just so hard to see him struggle.

  3. Love this! Its as hard to let go of the labels we can no longer live up to as the ones that never fit anyway. Child of God is the only label I can fully wear because I didn’t earn it and I can’t mess it up.

    • Amy, my husband and I were actually discussing this at lunch. He was adamant that there were some other labels that I should care about and that matter. Child of God is obviously most important, but he wanted to make sure that “wife” and “mother” and “daughter” still had some value. Of course they do! But the only reason I’m a decent wife/mom/daughter is because I am a child of God… the one I didn’t earn and I can’t mess up.

  4. Not to get all Roberta Flack on you, but “you’re strumming my pain with your fingers and singing my life with your song”…

    Seriously, I had both the fat girl and organized/over achiever labels and they both blew up in my face on multiple occasions. To add insult to injury, I moved to Southern California from Tennessee in 6th grade and I was already 5’10, so I was also The Jolly White Giant and The Girl with the Weird Accent. Luckily, those days are far behind me as I embrace myself with love these days.

    As a teacher, my 2 cents on Watty are: 1. you’re right not to label him to fast. In my experience certain labels lead to some teachers and students giving up because they feel like it’s hopeless. 2. on the other hand, some labels in the right schools with the right teachers and right admin can lead to valuable services that change the course of the student’s education for the better. It is a tough call, but you are so thoughtful and hurumph…organized that I am sure you will be the advocate he needs to negotiate the educational system. You’ll be in my prayers.

    • Oh… Jolly White Giant would have hurt. Ouch. sorry.

      I’m having Watty’s assessment done external to the school system. So I can choose what labels they do or do not know about. Until I know what the labels are, I don’t know for certain what I’ll do with them.

  5. Thanks for fixing the comment box! That really helps!
    I was always labeled the class clown. It was actually very convenient for me as I didn’t really want to share any of my innermost thoughts with anyone.
    Wishing you all the best with your son.

  6. Holly Jahangiri says:

    Those aren’t labels, those are meta-tags. Deprecated meta-keywords, for the most part. Not even meta-description. Though I do think it’s sweet that Dennis wants you to remember how important “wife, mom, and daughter” are when you’re searching for meaning in your universe and labels to parse or error out on. 😉 I think that when the arms go out and the hugs fit, those labels are pretty darned good ones, don’t you?

    I think that what you really have to remember is that we are not our “disorders” – those are diagnoses, not labels. I survived cancer, but I don’t refer to myself as a “cancer survivor.” I had breast cancer; I am not a boob. 🙂 Sorry… seriously, though, our labels should only reflect our higher sense of self and our most integral values – “Child of God” – “wife, mom, daughter.”

    • There is part of me that just wants to run down the hall with my fingers in my ears yelling “badges? Badges! We don’t need no steenkin badgezzz.”

      Our halls are short, so I’d have to yell really fast or run really slow.

      You make a great point. There needs to be a differentiation between diagnoses, values/roles, labels, and sociological categories. There is a huge difference between them.

      “She is the dumb girl” and “she has a dyslexia” are a world apart.

  7. Hey,
    Wow! You and I share the same ultimate label. Yea! Living in label world is not where it’s at. Maybe we ought to literally put all the labels (except the most important one) we’ve ever embraced or been stuck with into a box, haul it to the curb on trash day, and watch the garbage truck take it away. That’s not a box we want to keep in our storage unit, amen? “God, You can take my labels and wash my memory of the hurt that came from them. Thank You for the ultimate label that I willingly wear…Your child.”

    • Amy, sharing the child of God label with you is even cooler than sharing the Five Minute Friday community with you!

      You are right. God can remove all the other labels and wash away the hurt. He has. He does. He will.

  8. I love this post! I think it is so hard to turn off those voices in our head that record every label we’ve ever been given but so important to be able to do so. I hope your son will get the help and support he needs from his school.

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