I have a Chinese symbol tattooed on my left shoulder blade. I think! I mean I know I have the tattoo, I can just never tell which side because I only ever see it in a mirror.
The tattoo, I was promised by the A4 plastic pocket flip folder of options, meant ‘strong’.
Now that appealed to me. My daughter had just been diagnosed with epilepsy and possible learning difficulties and this is what I needed. My branding would be STRONG.
I came to be in this tattoo parlour because our Summer seaside escape was rained out in a budget hovel of a house which drove us to movies, indoor golf and coffee shops. And then an unimaginative tattoo place in a shopping centre. Great dinner table story.
When I did it and for months afterwards, I felt like a bit of a rebel. Which was kind of knew for me, or at least that is what I thought at the time. I was always the toe-the-line girl, the be smaller girl, don’t ruffle the feathers girl. This then was nice. I could secretly be the rebel and also not ruffle anyone’s anything.
At the end of that fateless family flop, my kids had lice and I had my brand. I would be strong. I had to be and I could be. I was strong enough to be strong. The poster child for strong.
Symbols have enormous power. At their simplest level, they are merely a shape. Consider a number you write on a piece of paper, a 0 perhaps. It’s just an oval. But it isn’t. It is so much more. It is at once nothing and the start of everything. My tattoo had the same power, it gave me what I needed it to, out of nothing…something.
I am grateful for my husband looking up from his coffee while we hid from the pouring rain, and suggesting a way to pass the time.
I wonder which was more powerful, the wanting or the naming? As I write this I can say that I am growing out of needing to be strong. The need turned into a truth. Or rather an acceptance of a truth, I am enough. I don’t need the tattoo that means strong, which is lucky because if you google it, it actually mean ‘hair’. Oh, you don’t know how much I wish this wasn’t so. But the irony is not lost. The power was never in the label, it was always in me.
Which labels are limiting our children and which ones are releasing their true nature?
How is a diagnosis a label and how is it limiting or empowering?
How do we use labels to empower rather than disempower?