“That’s the family that cannot control their daughter.”
“That’s the family that lets their children stay home unsupervised.”
“That’s the family whose child just passed away.”
“That’s the family that is always late to parties.”
We have all heard statements like these. Maybe we have even uttered them on occasion. Labeling a family by a behavior. Or by something that happened to them. With all the talk (inspired by Ashely Judd) about “Changing the Conversation” this week, I realized that our conversations and preconceived notions run deeper than just physical traits. We are a culture that feels the need to keep up, compete, and outshine our neighbors. We judge. We take notice. We put labels on children, on ourselves, and on our families.
Labels are Everywhere
As a teacher of gifted students I see this all the time. We all think our children are amazing and talented. But the truth is that only a small percentage of them are TRULY gifted (whatever being TRULY “gifted” actually means). But that does not stop us from trying to make our child “that” child. The reality is though? My family is not defined by my child’s success or intellect.
As a mom to a daughter, I know that I have always dreaded public temper tantrums or outbursts for fear of being thought of as the mom who could not handle her daughter. Or worse, the teacher who cannot get control of their child. Or even the mom who allows her child to play with a gadget during dinner out at a restaurant instead of insisting on family conversation. When, if I am being honest, prior to having my daughter, I was the judgmental know it all sitting across the restaurant eying the children that were lost in their handheld device game, while their parents sat idly by. I could not comprehend that. How quickly times change when you are in the throws of wanting to have a meal in piece and quiet. The reality though? My family is not defined by whether I let my child play a game through dinner or whether or not my daughter is well behaved at all times.
And then of course there are the families who live day to day with unimaginable suffering or hardships. The families that have lost a parent or a child. The families who fight to put food on their table each day. Families who battle medical conditions. Families who battle addiction. These struggles can change the way a family lives, acts, and survives. The reality though? These families are not defined by their struggles.
My Family’s Labels
I thought about what labels might be applied to my family.
“The divorced family”
“The blended family”
“The family whose daughter is the loudest person on the soccer field”
“The family that does not get to synagogue enough”
“The family with the mom whohad cancer”
“The family with the mom who blogs”
Certainly there are worse labels. (I could probably come up with a few of them if I kept at it.) But regardless of the description, a label is just a label. By definition something that you can put on or peel off. Labels should not be affixed to people or families for the duration of their lives.
The Truth about Who We Are As Families
What defines us instead is how we cope. How we love. How we use our voices. Every family has good days and bad days, just like the rest of the world. Days where we know we could do better and days where we know we did our best. The fact is that we face life head on and deal with whatever is in our path, to the best of our abilities. Not every family deals with life or situations in the same way. Sometimes we hear horrifying reports of abuse and injustices forced on children by their parents, situations where it is hard not to judge. I get that. And we are human. But… I still believe that our differences make us different–not better or worse.
Ashley Judd wrote in her response to media criticism on her appearance:
“This insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in—and help change- the Conversation.”
…and we at Just.Be.Enough. could not agree more about the need to look past the obvious for ourselves and our families. So much so that we are going to host a special Be Enough Me Monday link-up on Monday, April 23rd called Change the Conversation.
We’re inviting posts from voices everywhere to share your labels and who you are beyond that. The focus is whatever you need it to be– from our lives as moms, dads, parents, spouses, professionals, survivors, athletes and more. We invite you to join us, to celebrate our strengths, to celebrate our diversity, to celebrate our voices and change the conversation.