Monday, June 6, 2011

To Label or Not.

Today was one of those days when I couldn't keep Noah busy enough. We've had a lot of those days over the last four years. Like, maybe every single one of them. I don't know what it is. I used to think that kids are simply like that. But Mattias isn't that way. Even at 3 months, Mattias entertained himself better than Noah ever has.

For me, I feel like I am constantly in a position of failing Noah with my lack of entertaining ability, or insensitivity ("No cold sunscream, Mommy!!"), or inability to answer his every "why?" I imagine him meeting with a future therapist and saying things like,

"My mother never did anything with me."
"I was so bored."
"All I wanted was for her to answer me."
"She didn't love me enough."
"I just didn't LIKE sunscreen."

As I cringe imagining this, I vow to do better. I work harder, and failure feels greater. He's insatisiable, from my perspective.

Sometimes, I try to make myself feel better about the whole thing by giving him a label. As a baby, I thought he might be High Needs. I found some websites and took some online tests to determine Noah's needy-ness. I made Fritz to do the same. When you want validation, you want validation, right?

Also, I didn't want to hear any analytical mumbo jumbo debating the merit of my quiz taking from the scientist father. So Fritz really had no choice but to take the tests as well.

We both (repeatedly) scored Noah on the borderline as a High Needs Baby.

Today, while Noah was challenging me, and I was thinking if he's my High Needs Baby Preschooler and I'm a Restrained Caregiver, no wonder it feels like a struggle. I felt a little better when I gave us these labels; I felt a little better because I gave myself one as well. (I borrowed them from Dr Sears, really.) Everything seems a little more manageable and a little less personal when you can read about it in a book and apply it to yourself and your situation.

And then there are the other times. For example, Noah's field trip last month. Like most preschool field trips, it was more of a family field trip, and less of a class field trip. Fifteen preschoolers, twenty-five adults and ten younger siblings wondering around a farm. Most of the preschoolers had minor tantrums, or ran when they weren't suppose to, or wanted to be carried, or cried over some little thing, or pushed and shoved to pet the animals first. But Noah, throughout the whole trip, was remarkably calm and mature.  He actually asked the farmer questions and listened to the answers. He waited his turn, he walked (instead of ran).

When these good things happen - when life with a four year old is smooth(ish) - I wonder how I can possibly even consider doing him such a disservice as to label him.  How dare I? Then I get very self-righteous about the whole thing. I think to myself:

It is MY JOB as his Mother to believe in him. It is my job to support him regardless.  How dare I limit his potential with a label, that may, God forbid, become a self-fulfilling prophesy? High Needs, my foot.

I wonder when and where to draw the line. When is a label appropriate? When does it streamline our ability to handle a situation, and when does it hinder potential?

Do we work too hard to find labels? When I hear all the diagnoses that children have - things that seemed like they didn't even exist when I was a child - I wonder, are we looking for labels? Are we being a society of individuals that collects labels for our sense of individuality? Or importance? Or control?

And still...there's something comforting about the ability to say, "It is this."

1 comment:

Meredith said...

I understand completely. Little Elvis wants LOTS more attention than Baby Plum. Baby Plum is perfectly capable of entertaining himself without an audience, while Little Elvis wants one of us watching him -- not necessarily enteracting, but definitely watching him.
His speech therapist seems intent on labeling him with something, and I'm fighting it. She wants to place him in a box, and he's not fitting. Her colleague made me feel like a terrible parent for not agreeing with their opinions (they aren't qualified to make them.) At this point, I'm very anti-label, though I have a friend whose son was diagnosed with something early and she welcomed it, because it helped them treat his problems.