|May 07 2012 | written by: Megan Sayer|
|Words Will Never Hurt Me?|
A visiting friend. A plate of biscuits. School holidays.
“Mummy can I have another one?”
She’s telling me about how she loves her new job, but…
“That one’s got a broken bit.” A small hand flutters over the plate like a pink moth, or a prize fighter waiting to punch.
… the hours are long and so is the travel…
“Mummy, can I have two?” That piping voice cuts through everything else.
…and then her car stopped working, and she…
“This one’s got lots of icing in the middle.” The hand flutters, touches, takes, returns.
“Please can I have another one Mummy?” the words echo again, and then the smallest hand reaches in and snatches.
A screech. A piercing cry that stops all conversation with its urgency.
“Muuuummmmmmy, Zac’s taken all the bikkies!”
My friend stops mid-sentence. We look at each other, and down at the suddenly empty plate, and there’s a second of amused silence before the obligatory biscuit redistribution and the telling-off.
“Yeah they are,” I agree. “That one’s the Talker.” She asked questions about eating biscuits. “That one’s the Thinker.” He took his time thinking about which biscuit to eat. “And that one’s the Do-er”. He just took them all.
That was all it took. A spur-of-the-moment comment was all they needed to define themselves. It became their catch-cry for weeks.
My “Thinker” was proud of his label, and he told everyone “I’m a Thinker!” However, we had to stop him delegating all his chores to his little brother, “because he likes it. He’s the Do-er”. My Thinker was so vocal about his label that after a while my Talker began to feel that she wasn’t as smart as her brother, that he was the only one who could think. My Do-er didn’t care. But the dinner time when we told him to come and sit quietly, and he responded with, “But I’m the Do-er, I’m DOING something!”, I knew that it had to stop.
We say things to and about our kids all the time without thinking: He’s shy. She never shuts up. You’re stupid. You’re clumsy. You’re the chubby one. And because kids don’t have their heads filled with adult concerns they listen, and they remember. All it takes is once, and then they label themselves from then on, and they act out of those labels.
I’ve had to learn to say, “That was a stupid thing to do” and not, “You’re stupid”. How to say, “I think you could do better than that next time” rather than, “That wasn’t very good”. It takes effort to remember, and practice. But if my kids are going to wear labels through life I’m going to try my utmost to ensure that they’re good ones.