Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now nothing makes a mom more defensive than...

Parental Labeling.

You've probably heard of it. In fact, you've probably done it, subconsciously. Or maybe even consciously.
"She's too easygoing." "He's too strict." "They're too organized." "They're all over the place." "She's too proud of him." "She's a mom, but acts as if she was still single." "She's so scared of germs, she washes the baby's hands after a diaper change." "Her kid will get more than his peck of dirt." "They're too suburban." "They're too redneck."

Everyone does it. And who does it better than one's family? They have known you longer than everyone else. They have a vested interest in your children as grandparents, uncles, and aunts. They watch you more closely than they would watch a friend, knowing where you come from and expecting certain things of you.

Families are expert labelers.

I became aware of my family's label for me shortly after my baby reached 2 months. I wasn't surprised to be labeled; I knew *I* did it. What did surprise me, though, was the label itself. "Dinah," they said, "is a worrywart."
A worrywart! Dinah the calm, Dinah the sensible, Dinah the rational - Dinah the worrywart??
Was I?
I knew where it had started. My baby has allergies. Before I figured out what exactly she was reacting to, she spent about 60% of the time feeling sick. Rash, itchyness, congestion, fussiness, and general blah-ness were common.
I told mom about it one day.
"She's sick at least 60% of the time." I said. "It's awful. I'm not drinking milk for a while, to see if that causes it, too. I know nuts are bad already."
The next day, Katherine was doing fine (a 40% day, obviously), and I went to mom's to do laundry.
Says mom: "She looks the picture of health." (Katherine smiles and coos at her.) "I don't know what you're worried about.
I never thought you would be like that, Dinah, worrying about your baby all the time."

I smiled wryly. "Neither did I."

I considered my worries legitimate in the face of that unknown allergy that was making my baby unhealthy and unhappy. But mom, and others in the family, as I soon discovered, thought that babies are just sensitive little people and I should get used to it.

They had a point. They had experience with babies. They *knew.*

But then again, she is my baby. I have experience with this particular baby. I *knew.* I reached up, peeled the label off my forehead, and stuffed it into the garbage can.

If I've labeled you, I take it back. I didn't know.

The moral of this story: You'll never be able to label with complete accuracy. Bring the labeler back to Staples and get your money back. Buy chocolate instead. Relax and enjoy.


  1. You're too analytical.....I'm kidding!

  2. Haha Abi. I thought she was too wordy. ;-)