If you ask my children about their childhoods, they will give you different answers. That is because they label their experiences differently. The one common thread I have realized, however, is that they seem to recall the “bad” times as opposed to the many, many “good” times.
For example, in pre-school, I was always there on time to pick up my daughter after school was over. She loved seeing me at the door. I am sure it gave her a secure feeling, which was precisely the point of my being there for her. One day I told her I was letting her stay for “lunch bunch,” which was a program where the children got to eat lunch at the pre-school and then take a few hours and play afterwards. It probably does not exist as much now as it did at that time. It was Christmastime, and I really wanted to get some shopping done without her seeing the gifts. Her older brother was in kindergarten, so it was not even going to be the entire afternoon, just a couple more hours after the regular pre-school time let out.
Ask my daughter a day she remembers and she will no doubt bring up that day in a negative way. Her routine was a bit upset in her mind, and although it certainly was not “bad,” I am pretty sure she might remember it as such.
I can give many examples of this labeling and the sometimes “unexamined perceptions” our children have about their experiences growing up in what we as parents strive so hard to make a “perfect” experience. As parents, we don’t want our children to suffer. We want to protect them from pain. We want to protect them from hurt. And, we all learn, eventually, that that is impossible and probably not a good idea anyway.
It is never good to raise a generation of humans unprepared to tackle life’s inevitable challenges. My children have had no problem with this because of life giving them challenges without any interference from me, and sometimes because of me, not consciously of course, but it just kind of happened. Divorce, death of grandparents, illness, moving to college for the first time, financial difficulties, illness, friendship and first crushes- all of these happened.
The point is they aren’t “bad.” They are just labeled as such. But if the “bad” stuff didn’t happen, then how could they possibly have grown into the wonderful three humans they are now. In fact, we are all still of course growing and evolving.
I now try not to slap labels on my life as well. That “problems,” “bad times,” “illnesses” served me just as much than the days where the sun shined bright, the flowers bloomed and everyone was healthy. Ask most people what events in their life changed them and you will most often hear about their challenging times.
The external world is the world of labels. The internal world just is. By just becoming aware of the process we are conditioned to do—label everything—we do life’s experiences a disservice.
So the next time you find yourself or your children putting labels on just about everything from the weather to their day at school, ask them to delve a bit further and see both the “good” and the “bad” in the situation. And if you can, take it one step further and actually show them how each potentially “bad” situation might have some “good” or even “fun” in it. If it’s raining and you have time, get the umbrellas, put on the rain boots and take a walk around the block—allowing your children to splash around in the puddles a little.
In doing little things like this, we teach them just because they can’t ride their bikes that day, there is still lots of “good” times to be had under the gray skies. And maybe we can loosen up the labeling a little bit and just enjoy what nature has given us to work with that day and become grateful that we woke up at all and get to experience the playground we call Earth—together.