Have you ever considered what a label does? On canned goods, it allows us to have an understanding about what is inside the metal can we can't see through. On a person at a conference or training, it shares a name. On food packaging, it shows how many calories and nutrients the item contains. Really helpful, right? Sure! But labeling people by their actions, especially children, is not so good.
Years ago, one of my sisters was working with the children under 12 years old at church. She was their music leader and worked hard every week to provide fun, spiritual songs and activities. The ward she was attending was fairly new to her, so she didn't know all of the children's names. One Sunday she leaned down to a small girl sitting in the front row and asked her what her name was. The girl replied, "Today my mom said my name is Messy." Her sad eyes and down turned mouth was enough to plant in my sister's mind the bad idea of negative labels, especially on children.
She shared this story with me and our mom and it struck a chord. I will never forget this story, even though it has been over 17 years since she told it. I often wonder what happened to that little girl and what labels her parents give her today. I don't mean to judge the parents of this little girl harshly, but if I could meet them I would like to ask them what they were thinking.
After my own son was born I was careful not to negatively label him, even in jest. I have noticed that my son (now a teenager) is particularly sensitive to the words people use about him and I feel that my sister's experience was not just for her benefit, but for mine and my son's benefit as well. (That's not to suggest I am a perfect mother by any means. I have made plenty of mistakes!)
That being said, there are good labels we can use---helpful, smart, happy, kind, fun, honest, brave, good, fast, strong, etc. These labels, when used sincerely, can help a child to grow and develop positively. One thing I have noticed from teaching is that children will grow into just about any label you give them.
Copyright 2013 Corrina L. Terry
Photo credit: Corrina L. Terry
J and 3 other Boy Scouts were lost out by Lake Mead while on a hike. A leader became ill and asked to stay behind the group to rest. My son and the other scouts had gone with the main group back to the cars, but then went back when that ill leader and scouts with him didn't arrive. They found the sick leader and went for help, got lost, and ran out of water, while my husband and the remaining scout leader tried desperately to find them and help the ill leader. The temperatures were over 112. I was at home, and then my parents' house, holding my cell phone and praying my heart out.
The boys could call me and 911, but they couldn't get through to the leaders and rescue teams who were so close to them. Eventually a rescue helicopter was brought in to save them. The boys were dehydrated, but fine. Our hearts are so heavy over their leader who didn't make it. We can't stop thinking about it or talking about it.
Ironically I had just given my testimony the previous Sunday about receiving answers to my prayers. After that testimony, I'd contemplated prayer and my prayers all week as I cleaned my classroom, entered grades, and turned in my keys at school. I'd also thought about my prayers as I ran in the early morning quiet. (I love to think while I run.) I have prayed for a great number of things in my lifetime and seriously felt people's prayers boost me up during sad times, but I never felt as prayerful for help as I did yesterday. I've also never had a son lost in the summer heat for hours without water before. In fact, J is hardly ever sick with a cold. We've been very blessed so far. Correction, we continue to be very blessed.
During all of the waiting and wondering yesterday afternoon, I went upstairs to my parents' room away from the chaos happening below and knelt down to pray. I poured my heart out. I talked with Heavenly Father about how I had prayed so hard for this son and had longed to be a mother, and after years of being barren, was blessed with him. I remembered why I had named him J. It means a spiritual warrior. I felt prompted even before he was born that he would be a boy and that was the name I should call him because he was a warrior for God. I remembered my promise on the day he was born that I would do my best by him, that I would raise him in the gospel, and that I would do all I could to love and protect him. I promised God I would be a better person than I ever had been with this brown eyed baby. He would be safe with me.
As I poured my heart out to the Lord, I felt comforted that J would be okay and that he was going through this trial with the other scouts to learn something. I felt calmer and more peaceful than I had felt all day. That helped me get through the agonizing waiting to hear the news that they'd been found.
Through all of this, our families, friends, and ward members called and texted support. Steve called me so upset he hadn't been able to find them. I told him it would be okay. I knew it would be. I just wanted my boy home safe and sound.
So I write today to express my thanks to Heavenly Father for prayer. I am so grateful it is an open communication He and I have. He listens and He loves me. If I thought I had a testimony of prayer before, I had only a small idea of it. My testimony of prayer has grown tenfold.
I am so thankful J is home safe and sound. I am so grateful for this blessing from God and that I have more time on earth with my son. My heart is heavy for the Bowman family. We continue to pray for them and hope they will find peace at this difficult time.
Corrina L. Terry Copyright 2013
Picture credit: Corrina L. Terry
I think Eddie Cochran said it right in his song, "Summertime Blues." "Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do, But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues."
As a teacher, I really, really look forward to summer vacation. I love the freedom, the family reunions, the lounging around in the sun, reading books and not having to follow a schedule. For those very same reasons I dread summer. I love a schedule, I remember why I only see some family members once a year, I'm bored at home away from people and the bustle of a job, and I NEED a schedule!
When I brought up the "summer schedule" idea to my son, J, he stubbornly put his foot down. (Wonder where he got that from?) He told me having a schedule this summer would smother him. I replied that NOT having a schedule this summer was going to kill me! It was a battle of wills in the 4 Runner on the way home from school.
Both of us.
I gave in (a little) and told him that just a morning schedule would help me get things done so that we could have fun the afternoons. The schedule would be as follows---from 8:30-10:30 am the boys would be engaged in practicing their piano, working on merit badges for Boy Scouts, getting their chores done, and writing.
J was horrified by the writing option. He has decided at the mature age of 13 that he DETESTS writing and English classes in general. His handwriting is atrocious. He doesn't care. He labors to write essays. They are a form of medieval torture. He can't believe that I love to read and write stories and essays, much less teach those things. To him people like me are crazy. He is a math, science, and music whiz.
What he doesn't know is that while he excels in math, science, and music, he's actually a very good reader and writer. But writing takes time and energy. It's a craft that must be practiced and practiced. It's his patience that he can't stand right now. His interests are not in writing anything. Taking the time to use his giant, man-like hands to hold a slender pencil and put words to paper is a frustration. As an English teacher, I am horrified at the thought of one of my boys NOT enjoying writing! It's like a band teacher having children who hate music! Thus the idea of writing time was born in the Terry home. My hope is that with a lot of practice, he will at least grow more comfortable with it.
I gave the boys several choices: write a poem, song, short story or essay on a subject of your choice each day. (I never said how long they had to be. Let's see how many days it takes them to ask.) We will go to the library for books or use our computers at home to research ideas. The boys can hand write or type their work. (I hoped this would encourage J a little.) If they choose not to write, they must work on a merit badge. Little do they know, most merit badges take a fair amount of writing. J thought the merit badge idea was awesome. Ha ha!
In the meantime, I have my schedule, sort of, and the boys have some freedom, sort of. I'm just hoping to bypass my summertime blues quickly. It usually takes me a couple of days to relax. Then after my daily scheduled time of running errands and writing, I'll find a hammock, a good book, and try to enjoy my summer!
Corrina L. Terry Copyright 2013 Photo credit: www.beachbayonet.com
Song quote: Eddie Cochran & Jerry Capehart, "Summertime Blues," 1958.