Yes, labels can change a person (but not the person you think!)

“I thought about pursuing a diagnosis, but the teacher said, ‘do you really want him labeled?’”
“You know, when kids get labeled, they’re stuck with it their entire lives!”
“Some kids are just different. Do you want a label pulling him down?”

Our society really hates labels. Wait, scratch that.
Our society really fears labels.

And for a while, I did too.

Here’s a big, scary one: Autism.
Here’s another one that earns a lot of eye-rolling and tongue clicking: ADHD.
And a final label, the one schools resist with rolls of red tape: Learning Disability.

Labels.

I get it. They’re powerful and scary.
There’s power in speaking names, in giving words to silent fears that have only existed in the What ifs…and Please not this… of a parent’s mind.

For a while, it was easy for me to pretend that if we didn’t put a name to my sons’ challenges that they weren’t really real.
Yes, I was deluded and the reality of my life smacked me out of that fantasy world soon enough.

But I resisted, hard and long, because I didn’t want the label to change anything.
I didn’t want labels to change the way people thought about my sons.
Most of all, I didn’t want it to change my sons.

In reality, I didn’t understand what labels really, really are.

But here’s the truth, and it isn’t as scary as I once thought it was:

A label is a word or definition that brings clarity to a situation and opens the door to services or aid.

That’s it.

Now, sometimes the definition is so huge that it takes weeks, months, or even years to wrap your head around, to try to understand, to grieve, and to accept the truth the label brings.

Like, Autism.
Like, ADHD.

But as huge and heavy as the label might be, it’s primary purpose is to be a key: it opens the door to knowledge, to counseling, to occupational therapy, to speech therapy, to IEPs, to 504 plans, to new parenting practices, new friends, new ways of looking at the world.

New ways of understanding my sons.
But here’s what the labels did NOT do: They did not give me new sons.
The labels did not paint my sons from head to foot with bold, black stereotypes.
They did not present my sons with a platter of excuses to not be or become everything they are supposed to be and become.

The labels did not change my sons, at all.

But the labels did change me.

They changed me, all at once, and slowly too.
They have forced me to peel away my pre-conceived notions about disabilities and what it means to have special-needs kids.
They have urged me to love unconditionally.
They have given me permission to forgive myself for what I didn’t know before and comforted me with the truth that I am not a bad parent and that I really am a good mom.

They have given me knowledge, drive, passion, a new vocabulary, and a thicker skin.

They have brought me peace and have urged me towards contentment and acceptance, both of myself and my sons.
My sons, my Micah and Benji? The labels didn’t change them. They were always and will always be themselves, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Words are powerful and the powerful labels we’ve accepted as true have only given me the power to be the best mother I can be to my two precious boys.

Labels can change a person, but not always the person you think.

As a society, why are we so afraid of labels?
Do you love someone with a label?
Has a label changed you, or your loved one, for the better?

Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please like and share! Thank you! 🙂 

3 Comments

  1. Cristina

    I agree! My son’s label didn’t change him, but it did give us a short-hand way to get him the services he needs. It’s a key to the door. Otherwise, we’d have to go through a whole song and dance to justify why we think he needs help. With the label, we can say that he has Asperger’s, and people know what we’re talking about.

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