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