Sunday, June 11, 2017

Please don't label my child.

Being kind is hard. It takes patience, empathy, consideration, warmth, open-mindedness, curiosity, and courage. Each day I work to be kind and to raise a kind child. One thing I’ve learned is that I can have a kind heart and still not be kind in each moment because I’m not perfect.

My daughter is the same way. She has a kind heart. Each morning she wakes up with the priority to take care of our three rescues. She won't eat until they have. She’s giving. At her first Easter egg hunt, she filled her basket with eggs and then went to each of the kids still learning to walk and put eggs in their basket. We left with zero eggs. In spite of that heart, she has moments that are perceived to be unkind. And this is when the world knocks her down. This is when the world holds her to a standard that none of us could meet. This is when the world labels her as “spoiled”, “selfish”, “manipulative”.

Recently, my daughter got upset with a peer. She tried to communicate but neither her nor the peer got their messages through so my daughter slapped the other child. To a stranger she’s a “mean girl”. To me, she’s a girl that can’t communicate her frustrations in words and wanted space so she used her hand to help the other child understand. Yes, we're working on using words not hands to communicate but we're also teaching her that her body is hers - it's confusing and a learning process.

Strangers aren't the only ones to label her. Last month she wasn’t paying attention to a relative and refused to share with the 10 adults in the room. To our relative she’s “spoiled” and suffering from “only-child syndrome”. To me, she’s the only child in my family and we’ve taught her it’s okay to not give hugs on demand. As for the sharing, we’re working on that! We’ve been told it’s normal for her to still be learning the concept at 22 months.

And that’s what really irks me. Before she’s even old enough to fully grasp the concept of sharing she’s scolded for not sharing. Being kind is hard already but gosh it’s got to be a lot harder when the world is telling you - that you’re not kind.

I don’t want my daughter to have to fight against others’ preconceived notions of her (this goes for everything not just kindness). Yes, I want her each day to work to be kind, but I know she’ll fail sometimes. I want that to be okay. I want it to be okay for her to not share right now without folks labeling her as selfish for the rest of her life. Honestly, we’re all constantly learning and becoming better people. If I was judged on the person I was even 2 years ago...yikes!

There’s no one on this planet that spends more time with my daughter than me. I see the girl that talks to trees, tells her fish - “I love you”, won’t leave the house without making sure her fur brother, Levi, has his baby, says hello to strangers, makes sure everyone has a ball in gymnastics before she does. Maybe all you see is the moment when she’s tired and/or hungry - so not her best, but I see the girl that looks in my eyes each night holding my cheek. I see the girl that hugs me for no reason at all. I see the girl that reads to her "Bubbas" and can't leave the store without a treat for each of them.

Maybe if we worked harder at understanding others and showing kindness ourselves we wouldn’t be so stuck on labeling. My gosh, my daughter is 22 months old and this Spring alone she’s been called “simple-minded”, “selfish”, "mean", showing signs of “first-born and only-child syndromes”, and “likely to have psychological problems when older”.

Give the girl a freaking break! In addition to being none of those things - she’s not even two! Yes, I want her to grow up kind but if I struggle with being kind in each moment at 32 - I can’t expect her to get it overnight.

Maybe I'm doing everything wrong. But, in the same way it's not helpful to label her, it's not helpful to label me. I've had strangers and family call Hen spoiled and then scold me for coddling her. It's frustrating to feel judged from folks that do not seem to have a genuine interest in my family. It's enraging when the judgment expands to labeling my daughter.

When you treat my daughter like she’s a selfish jerk after spending 5 minutes with her - it's unfair to her. It tells her that she’s been labeled. It tells her that she needs to be perfect and if she can’t be perfect why be kind at all. She hasn't even been given a real chance to grow into a kind girl before being labeled a mean one. She's 22 months old and incredibly hurtful words have been hurled her way. She will understand those words one day. Those words will play a part in the person she grows up to be.

So, if you're one of those adults hurling the labels our way - what kind of influence do you want to be?

Love, a Mama Bear trying to nurture her daughter's kind heart.

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