Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 74: Label-Free Living

Trying on the 'lounge singer' role
One of the things I'm loving about Jackson's current stage of development is the imaginative play. Throughout the day he becomes any one of a host of characters, and includes Max and I by giving us roles to play along.

With a play sword he's the Grand Duke. When he dumps out his pillow and dons the case or steps into my shoes, he's Cinderella in a beautiful gown and glass slippers. Sometimes I suddenly find myself talking to Max the Bunny (not to be confused with Max the baby), Prince John, Pooh, or Baby Bear (of the Three Bears). I only know this because when I address him as Jackson I'm corrected: "No, Mommy. Max the Bunny would like more hummus."

These adventures in role play allow him to put on various identities at the drop of a hat. He can be curious and mischievous, strong and masculine, sweet and dainty (that's right, I said it...dainty...Sorry, Daddy), the possibilities are endless.

Whether it's the cause or effect I'm not sure, but the beauty of this is that it shows his totally fluid view of himself. He's not boxed in by who anyone says he is, by his experiences or past choices, or by any label he's come to accept. He's free to just be whoever he is in the moment, without having to perform to some external expectation or interpretation of who he is.

I'm doing my best to avoid playing the label game, to describe his choices or his behavior rather than his person. When he's showing off his spelling skills, instead of calling him a smart boy (*cringe*), I acknowledge how hard he worked to figure the word out or how he was paying close attention to notice the way two words rhymed. Instead of telling him he's sensitive, I try to talk to him about how he notices other people's feelings and pays attention to how he feels about things.

I can look back and see how being "the smart one" or "the serious one" kept me from developing and appreciating my creativity and sense of humor. Being labeled "rebellious" and "strong-willed" certainly didn't help me tap into my innate desire to bring harmony and cooperation to my world.

I don't want him to get bogged down in a few dominant pieces of himself and neglect or fail to ever see the rest. Nor do I want him to only be able to see himself through my eyes, with my judgment of his capabilities and traits, strengths and weaknesses.

This is no small task. Labeling is a huge part of our cultural language and definitely a huge part of my own language.

Training myself away from using labels has been a process, but I see the fruits of that labor every time Jackson shows me a new dimension of himself or tries on a new identity to see if it fits. I can only hope that giving him this space and freedom in his early years will make the labels the rest of the world will try to place on him so ill-fitting that he'll merely shake them off and continue on just being who he is.

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