must not label children, repeat, must not label children

July 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

I try my hardest not to label my children. Not in a reward sticker kind of a way, they’re covered in those – sticker for having a dry night, sticker for eating with knife and fork, sticker for not sending mum reaching for the Vodka bottle by lunchtime – the poor things have more stickers on them by the end of the day than a BOGOF at ASDA. No I mean in a “sporty, ginger, baby…” kind of a way. Although as I write that I realise that those descriptions are accurate of my three children. That’s a bit disturbing.

4yo has alway been a ball of energy, but I try not to refer to him as ‘the sporty one’. It’s hard because he’s hardly kept still since birth, doesn’t sleep much, chatters endlessly and loves swimming, climbing, running, anything physical. Sometimes I find myself planning meaningless car journeys as it’s the only way I can get him to conk out for a bit. I have a video clip of him at 14 months running around in circles saying ‘mener, mener, mener? mener mener mener mener?’ over and over. That went on for about two weeks. Unsurprisingly then, 1yo is quieter. He can’t get a word in so most of the time doesn’t try. However unlike 4yo he’s never happier than when he has a crayon in his hand, or when listening to music and dancing. It’s tempting but I don’t want to call him ‘the creative one’. They are so young, they could easily change, I don’t want to pigeonhole them. Furthermore I want to avoid becoming one of those pushy parents, so desperate to identify a subject perhaps for a public school scholarship, or wanting their children to excel where they have failed, forcing extra lessons and making their talent turn into a chore.

On the other hand, I don’t want to hold them back. It’s true that I have taken the odd wistful look at the beautifully manicured sports fields of Dulwich College down the road from here, and it’s not escaped my notice that the Brit performing arts school is around the corner too. But for now I know I need to concentrate on enabling them to enjoy their early childhood and to make their own choices. Discover their own passions.

As a child I loved the arts. I won writing competitions, acted in the local theatre, passed piano exams, sang in the choir. A small deluded part of me when singing full volume to Aretha in the kitchen thinks I can still hold a tune. Truthfully though I think several thousand Marly Lights consumed during my hedonistic 20s extinguished my vocal abilities. 1yo used to ask me to sing for him all the time. “Thwee Bind Mi?” “Ba Baaa?” “Row row?” “Star?” But now he’s approaching two his ears must have tuned in. Pulling out his favourite story this morning I get to the bit where I sing Maisy Happy Birthday. “Happy…” I start. “NO!” shouts 1yo at the top of his lungs. I try again. “NOOOO!!!” shouts 1yo again and claps his hands over my mouth. My voice no longer meets his musical standards. Now where did I put that number of the music tutor again?


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