How often have I heard myself say that as I watch my daughters play? No matter how many times I’ve actually said it, it’s one too many times. Of course Little L is more challenging, she’s younger. She doesn’t quite have the ability to reason that C has developed in the two plus years she has on her baby sister.
Then again, Little L did refuse to sleep for the first 18 months of her life, while her older sister slept through the night at 8 weeks. She throws more tantrums and is more demanding and more willful and independent than her sister ever was at her age.
C is cautious where Little L charges forward without a care for consequences. C assesses a situation, Little L acts first and thinks later, if ever. They’re different through and through, but to call one challenging seems a bit excessive, especially if I consider the fact that my hasty label might form her character forever.
I don’t want my words to be self fulfilling.
Think of the labels that were applied to you as a child, do they still ring true? Who would you have been if they had never been spoken in your presence? Little L might well be challenging, but I’d hate for her to keep being that way because she thinks I expect it of her.
“You be happy, I’ll be good.” The big sister says to her little sister in Kate Jacob’s lovely book Comfort Food. Their father has just died and they’re doing the best they can to help their mother cope. Twenty years later one sister can’t let herself get too deeply involved with the love of her life; if they broke up she’d have to be sad and the happy sister can’t ever be sad. The other sister can’t relax long enough to enjoy herself, she has be good, all the time, she’s the dependable one. The roles they assumed as children, based on the labels the mother dispensed, have stunted their growth all the way into adulthood and it takes a serious shake-up in all of their lives for them to realize what’s holding them back.
I know Comfort Food is fiction and it’s only tangentially about how labels can affect children, but as I relished the story about a “CookingChannel” celebrity the concept teased me. Next time if you ask me to talk about my children I’ll resist the urge to apply labels to them as I tell you about their latest antics.