Friday, May 14, 2010


Labels, labels, labels.

Story of my life.

Like most people I grew up with labels applied to me and all those around me.

I was The Only Child (well, the only in our household) and The "Nice" Girl, a term I preferred over That Fat Girl. I was also Smart and apparently Rich (I just think I acted kind of snotty). I was Quiet and Sensitive. All of these labels were applied to me, used in reference to me, and they created in the minds of others pictures of me, what I looked like, how I acted, who I was. Other labels such as Brunette or Tall or Artistic just added on extras. But they were labels, no doubt, whether positive or negative. People could group me easily with others using the various labels surrounding me and they, and sure enough sometimes they did.

I say this in order to put for the fact that labels are everywhere, even for Caucasian upper middle class folks with traditional nuclear families. The labels might have been less offensive (by a lot) but they were still there.

That being said....

Oh, labels.

Adopted. Adopted is a label. Adopted also makes my degree in English cry. My children were adopted not are adopted. Adopted is a past tense verb, not an adjective. The word you seek is adoptive. But saying "you're adoptive!" doesn't quite pack the same punch now does it? My children don't yet know what this means. Sure I speak with my older son frequently about such matters. And yet he's still small, still little enough that the term "adopted" is nothing more than a bare label with no substance behind it.

But it does mean something to other people.

To some people out there "Adopted" has a very negative connotation. Adopted. Not really part of your family. Never belonging. Unloved and unwanted. Cast aside. Charity case. "Lucky" child. Should be grateful child. Eternal child. Less rights. Less substance. Less background. Not to be taken as seriously. Not to be loved as much. Object. Bought and paid for. Adopted.

Of course, many people (most?), myself included, have different thoughts pop into our minds at the mention of the label "Adopted." Loved. Loved beyond reason. Accepted. Fate? Happiness. Joy. Strong. Painful history but a bright future. Fighter. Survivor. Apple of my eye. Willing to go to the ends of the Earth. Equal member in a family. Loved, loved, loved.

If only everyone saw it that second way....

There are more labels.

How about Black? My sons are black. Right now to a lot of people they're the cute little dark skinned boys who flirt and smile and laugh. But what happens when they're youths or teens or big, tall, strong black men? How many people out there have a positive connotation for the label of "adorable black boy" and yet have a very different connotation for "large black man?" How many people who see our older son running down the street in a mostly white neighborhood now, who smile and wave, will have a very different vision of him in 10 years when he's walking down the same street? And when is the cut off, when do I have to start worrying about people suspecting my son of "casing" their homes when he's simply walking back from the bus stop or walking to meet a friend? I wish I could believe this attitude didn't exist, especially not in my own highly diverse neighborhood, but the neighborhood listserve tells a very different story, one of police being called on black men for apparently no reason and neighbors tracking their path and trying to tie it to a string of robberies streets going on. It's disturbing to say the least. And when it comes to the young men reported on in the listserve very little information is given... except for the label of "black" and "man."

What about other labels? What about SPD? Paxton recently acquired this one. And oh, the frustration! I love knowing what's going on with him, I love being about to help him and our whole family, I love seeing him improve, getting into his mind, realizing we are far, far from alone in this. I love that we know the beast and we're defeating it.

But I hate the fact that we can be so easily written off now...

Because of that first label, Adopted, we've been written off before. We don't have a birth story or a record of his first steps, but more people won't hold that against us. What they will do, though, is stop listening to advice when it comes from someone where the child's label is vastly against their own child's label. My son was adopted, in their mind is adopted, so when I say that X helped in Y situation it's often like talking to a brick wall. When I ask for help with a behavior online and mention P's adoption I could hear crickets, yet when others ask roughly the same question and their child was born to them, bam, a dozen "me too!"s chorus in and the advice goes flying. It happens often, too often to be a coincidence. I know it's the label, and while yes there's a history behind the label it's the label itself that keeps people from seeing the real child, the real need.

And now with the SPD.... I almost want to scream. It's a label. A label for a series of events happening in my child's physio-neurological system. It's a diagnosis. His SPD did not start with the label but with the behaviors. And if you're child acts exactly the same as my child in just about every possible situation, but your child does not hold a diagnosis, please do not assume that my advice is somehow totally irrelevant. It's frustrating to say the least, especially when you know your own child could have continued to be undiagnosed and then they would have taken you seriously. Likewise their own child could very well be diagnosed with the same thing should they bring them to an evaluation, but I wouldn't normally say that unless I felt comfortable with someone. Like all the people who felt comfortable enough with me to urge me to take P to an evaluation.

I'm... getting off topic. I'm tired and a little frazzled and my mind is drifting elsewhere.

I will say this, though:

I'm still battling with labels. Not just the labels people apply to me or my children or my family, not just my understanding of said labels, but also the labels that I and others apply to other people. I myself am trying to stop the gut reaction to stop listening when someone with a child on the spectrum gives me advice, trying to open my mind and my ears and realize that behind the label, and behind the history leading to the label, there's a real human being with real functions, a real mind, a real heart, and I could learn from this child and their family. I'm trying to stop labeling people myself, stop grouping people so much, and see people, adults and children alike, as whole individuals who may hold several dozen labels, even labels that contradict, and who behind all the labels are real, complex people.


Not much to report in real life land. Ambrose has been sitting up for a couple weeks now and is more interested in rolling over than crawling. My BIL Alex walked at graduation from UNC this past weekend and the whole family went. P loved the square hats and was present for the hat throwing. Went to a pot luck at P's school Weds and agree to be their new Parent/Teacher Coordinator for the next school year. Also on Thurs went in early for a Mother's Day Brunch. P was excited I came and showed off his gifts for me: a flower in a painted pot, a huge card and a painted handprint. Ambrose has been sitting in highchairs finally which will make going out a lot easier, only he expects to eat constantly when there. Last night we gave him his first taste of Kik Alicha and Misser Wat. He loved both :) This weekend is super busy but I'm looking forward to it, and our new bed arrived in 3 boxes. We're halfway done building the drawers and then this weekend it'll be the frame. I'm excited to finally have room in the bedroom!

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