Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's on the label?

Saturday Cuppa: Lime Tea

Eliza came home from school saying she was in the top level reading group in her class. It's no surprise, really, given her and Bethany are such avid readers. Most parents would feel joyous at such news, but it brought home to me this incessant need our culture has for labelling people, abilities, standards, ways of living, etc. Paul and I affirmed to Eliza that had she been in the bottom group we'd love her just as much! Our focus as parents has been to raise children who follow their heart; to discover the truth which exists for them rather than one imposed from external sources.

As a kid, I'd 'rewrite' my school report cards. Ahem. I, er, would change the D (second lowest mark) to an A (top mark). Occasionally I'd excel myself and put A+. Quite clever, really. It saddens me now though to think I HAD to do that to ensure love from my parents. Actually my mum wouldn't have been bothered but my dad clearly had some agenda for his kids. And now, as an adult, it is clear to see that out of eight children the two he most 'loves' are the two with university degrees who were also school prefects (anagram = perfect!!!!) and got Honours in their studies. The rest of us plebs don't register in his affections. Clearly without the appropriate 'label' our lives have no purpose.

A friend phoned me in the week to say she'd received the results of an assessment by the Local Education Authority on how her children were being home educated. In a nutshell, the report concluded their education was exemplary and schools would do well to follow this example. My friend was quite upset by the report. Why? Well, in the same way Eliza (and all school children) was labelled, so too was my friend. One of the reasons parents keep their children out of school is to avoid having them become identified with a tag created by someone else. So, keep them out of school to avoid 'pervasive labelling disorder' and get labelled yourself as a home educating parent! How crafty of the LEA to judge kids by judging the parents...

There's an irony that most people don’t read ingredients labels to see what rubbish they're putting in their body, yet they'll willingly wear and read a label imposed on them; a label that everybody else can read to determine what they're 'made of'.

People who parent naturally or intuitively buy into this as well. How often do we hear the terms 'earth mother', 'attachment parent', lactivist, etc? At one level we're defining who we are and yet at another we create duality by our differences. Is it human nature to sift wheat from the chaff? To sort things into order, into definition?

This week Bethany had a new friend from school come to visit one afternoon. That morning she asked if I could take down a picture we have (had!) in the lounge room. It was a life drawing of me from seven years ago, when I was at my ideal body weight. Not remotely a full frontal, it is just of me lying on my side, with my back to the artist. A simple outline in charcoal, and nothing more. Clearly, though, Bethany felt this might be a bit much for her new friend.

My first reaction was to feel like our whole lives were something that would have to be hidden lest we not offend anyone who walked into our house. Paul reminded me that when I was a teenager I had embarrassment issues with my mum too. Well, that got me even more upset. He was right! My mum was the ultimate liberated woman, yet back in the 80s when I was in High School I didn't find it that groovy to have a mum who went braless and single-handedly managed to have men fall over their own feet when she walked through town. In our smallish rural town of Warwick in Queensland, Australia, my mum with long blonde hair, breasts wobbling about beneath a t-shirt, and lyrical German accent, was rather an exotic sort of creature to those beer-bellied Aussie men! I used to get her to meet me well away from the school. I cringe at that now!

As my children immerse themselves into mainstream culture, our labels, named or otherwise, will come under the girls' glaring scrutiny. Bethany claims she doesn't care who or what we are, she just doesn't want people to laugh at us.

Laugh at us? For what? Eating consciously? Considering the earth in our daily actions? Raising our kids intuitively? They can laugh all they want honey, I'm not bothered.

A good friend phoned me yesterday afternoon. We share the same labels. I love being with her as it feels like wearing an old coat; warm, comfortable and safe. And yet, I have friends for whom there can't be a label in common apart, perhaps, from 'woman'. Somewhere, somehow, our relationship works and the labels are irrelevant as we meet in the sacred space of who we 'truly' are.

Here's a little game for you to play. Write down the three 'labels' which most identify you. Eg, Mother, wife, editor, sister, gardener, pianist, dancer, lover, teacher, healer, midwife, doula, yogi, student of spiritual studies, gymnast, doctor, raw fooder, chef, vegan…

Now take those titles away. If you could no longer wear those labels or be identified in that way, WHO WOULD YOU BE? How would you describe yourself to others? How does it feel NOT to have those identity tags? Do you feel lost or liberated? Labels are simply labels and nothing more. They provide a service and a disservice. The more we invest our identity into such labels, the further we move away from our true nature into the realm of the illusion.

To be label-less is to find freedom and peace. Have a glorious week, Veronika


Lactation Guru said...

label-less...The same goes for illnesses as well. How is it beneficial to a child with mental illness to label the child with 3 or 4 "flaws" b/c that is how a child views it, as a flaw, as something that is bad wrong with them. Diagnoses in the mental health field are over used, and abused. How much better would a child feel if you just told them, "hay, you have some issues you need to work thru, and you may have to take medicine or go to therapy, but you are OKAY! and you are YOU and God made you that way for a reason." i was falsely labeled as a child and to this day, even tho i know i am OKAY, i feel a bit of shame, even if they were misdiagnoses, and my mothers attention seeking behaviour.
Let the child be who they are, and love them with a love unbridled by terms and conditions on pieces of paper. Ok, the end, off my soap box! :)

Harmonious Living said...

Hello dear hearts,
Yep totally resonate with all this labelling neurosis. BUT - I also delight in celebrating each other. And although our children know we love em no matter what. They - like us - appreciate and blossom in the resonance of acknowledgement.

When they were tiny we celebrated in joy their first steps, their little 'achievements' -
The child doesnt really understand about those school labels - but they naturally delight in success and naturally bring that home to mum.
Just like the cat brings home the latest kill to the bottom of our beds!!! and sort of presents in pride almost awaiting our delight!!??
So also our children seek the joys of acknowledgement.

Just a bit sad that as they 'mingle' their sense of what achievement is! - gets a bit muddied by the 'system' - But for them its still a huge achievement and its merit to you dear Veronika that they bring it to you in glee and delight.

I guess in this new world of school (which I am sure they will tire of lol) these tokens of shallow esteem offered them, might be like tokens of initiatory acceptance and inclusion??

Just some thoughts shared!
Have really been appreciating your sharing and talking about this time Veronika.
I would find it so difficult to be forced to deal with the system in such a head on way! as you are being called to right now.

But always remember your girls are just still the gleeful delightful blossoming young princesses they always were, just the scenary has temporarly shifted for them.
Blessings and light.

rawraw2 said...

I just wanted to say what you wrote about your girls going to PS is totally how I would feel. But it seems no one understands and they all think it is no big deal. My husband wants to send the oldest to school and he just does not understand what the big deal is. My kids do not want to go and I feel like I am talking to the wall trying to explain why i do not want to stick my kids in that system. I admire you for how calm you are taking this whole think. I am calm about most things but this issue really makes my head spin.

I use to be rawraw but lost my password so I had to change my name.

mighty acorns said...

this has put such a different perpective on labels for me. I am rather proud to give myself some labels (such as 'aspiring earth mother', 'sometime vegetarian') and as I read the blog, was really captured by 'intuitive parent' (hmm, might use that one next time I try to explain my parenting style...). And if my little girl wants to call herself a princess that's fine by me! But understand your sentiment, this is definietly food for thought for me!

Linda Jansen said...

How nice that you notice the teacher's mistakes. We're all human and we make them. It's not so nice to be so downright condescending and arrogant, while you yourself make those same, if not worse, mistakes, Yes, your own writings are constantly filled with grammatical errors. For, even in that very post where you yakked on about the teacher's spelling error, you went on to write, "It's no surprise, really, given her and Bethany are such avid readers." Her and Bethany? I think not, my dear!

The correct form would be:
A. It's no surprise, really, given she and Bethany are such avid readers.
B. It's no surprise, really, given her and Bethany's passion for reading.

Aren't you as embarrassed as you thought the teacher would be? Or do you claim some lame excuse for the myriad grammar and punctuation errors throughout your blog? Get off your high horse, lady.

Veronika said...

Linda ~ *some* writers would say you were technically correct...

I'm writing colloquially in my blogs. Writing and language are always evolving (or in a state of devolution, depending on your interpretation) so there will be changes in punctuation and grammar. Spelling, however, is a completely different ballgame (!) and it is NOT arrogance to expect a teacher to check the spelling list before she gives it to her students.