Do you ever stop and think about the descriptors we assign to our kids on a daily basis? The subtle messages we send them without realizing it? “Oh, he’s just shy,” we might say to a stranger who just approached our child in the store. Or, “she’s going to be a soccer player!” about a baby who likes to exercise her legs by kicking up a storm. And let’s not get started on the plethora of baby clothes out there with clever, if not inappropriate, sayings. Dressing my son in onesies or tee-shirts that describe him as “Tough Like Daddy” or give the warning “Lock Up Your Daughters!” gives my son a voice I’m not sure I ever want him to have. And I bet few of us want our “Little Diva” or “Future Ladies Man” to become self-fulfilling prophecies, especially in their teenage years.
I caught myself doing this the other day. Lenny loves to watch the local weather. As soon as he hears the chimes introducing the weather segment on the local news, he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and become captivated by the television. He could be playing, nursing, even napping; it all can wait until Lenny has seen the 7-day forecast.
I find this incredibly amusing. It’s funny what captures our kids’ attentions, and the weather report will do it for Lenny every time. But I said it out loud one day, “Maybe he’ll be a meteorologist!” And I thought about it afterwards—sure, it’s fun to imagine my son as both a scientist and a likeable, chatty TV personality, but what if I keep up this dialog? Am I pigeon-holing him into a future he doesn’t see for himself?
Okay, okay, maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic with this situation, but where does it stop? I don’t want to be that crazy dance mom living vicariously through my kids and forcing the “opportunities I never had as a kid” onto them. My husband and I play this game all the time—maybe Lenny will be an Eagle Scout like Daddy or a dancer like Mommy; maybe he’ll be artistic like Daddy or a bookworm like Mommy; maybe he’ll play baseball like Daddy or take up baking like Mommy. We want to expose him to our interests but allow him to develop his own. Whatever he decides, whether it is karate lessons a few years from now or a career in foreign policy many years from now, I want the choice to be his alone.
Lenny is far too young to understand what my words meant that day, and he probably just likes the graphics of the meteorological map and is smart enough to associate the weather chimes with the pretty colors on the screen. But I will remind myself to be more mindful of the labels I prescribe for Lenny, either consciously or unwittingly. Because I want “Mommy’s Little Cutie” to become whatever he wants to be.
All photo credits genagolas.