Monday, May 11, 2009

Normal is as normal does

The subject of "normal" has been coming up a lot in my life lately. Someone said to me awhile ago, "I'm really thankful that my kids are normal." Hmmmm. Doesn't take much to get my feathers ruffled but ...*sigh.* That's the mama bear in me. Today a woman with an autistic son on the road to recovery said to me, "I don't want Billy hanging around other children that aren't normal. He needs to see kids who are acting normal so he knows how to behave."

This is a family blog people. I can't even tell you what I was thinking after that one.

Then a few days ago, Jared asked me, "Mom, do you consider yourself normal?"

(Insert insane amounts of laughter here)

We proceeded to have a conversation about what "normal" means. He was referring to the fact that he wasn't "normal" because he was born with a congenital heart defect. And Luke isn't "normal" because he has autism. And Daddy isn't "normal" because he's REALLY smart and graduated with more than a 4.0. So, in Jared's logic, I'm the only, "normal" one in the family.

Again with the laughter!

I then reminded Jared that I had surgery on my bladder 9 times in 4 years and how in God's name is that normal?

"Oh yeah," he conceded. "You're not normal either!"

Phew! That was a close one.

"Well mom, what is normal then?"

Honestly, I think the sex question would have been easier to answer.

So we had a conversation about what normal means and at the end of it we came to the conclusion that normal is in the eye of the beholder. And what's normal to you may not be normal to me and really, "normal" is kind of a stupid word.

Anyone who has met me knows that I'm not all about "PC" terms but I gotta admit, I like when Luke is compared to "typically developing peers" rather than, "normal kids." Luke is compared to what kids his age are typically acting like, talking like, writing like, learning like. Rather than what "normal" kids are doing. I mean, can I get an AMEN to whoever figured that one out?

If "normal" means that at 5 years old Luke should have the "typical" language of a 5 year old and NOT a 3 year old, well, I'm ok with that. Because he has language at all.

If "normal" means that Luke should be able to go to school without needing an aide or supports, well that's OK. We pay taxes for a reason.

If "normal" means that Luke should be the same kid all day every day, day in and day out and never freak out when today something is his favorite and tomorrow it's so not, that's OK, we'll figure it out. It's a puzzle for crying out loud.

If "normal" means that Luke shouldn't be screaming when it's time to get shoes on and get in the car to go run be it. I'll still take it. 2 years ago I couldn't leave the house with Luke at all.

If "normal" means that Luke can't say "please" and "thank you" every single time he has a request, then I don't want Luke to be normal. Because guess what? He does. Granted, he might be screaming, but by golly the pleases and the thank yous are in there.

If "normal" means that Luke can't say, "I'm so happy you're back" when I come home from work, then PLEASE keep your label.

If "normal" means that Luke can't laugh so hard I worry he'll stop breathing when he's jumping on the bed with Jared on Mother's Day morning, then by all means, we'll stay, "not normal."

Here's my favorite: If being "normal" means that Luke has to stop saying, "I'm going to get your booty!!!!!!!" and then chasing Jared around in a fit of laughter, I mean I need to say it again?

What's normal to you and what's normal to me are very different things. Normal to me means that I never know what I'm going to get with Luke from one moment to the next. That's my normal and that's my reality. And I'm ok with it. I won't deny it took me awhile to become OK with it, but I am. Because he's my normal and I wouldn't have him any other way.

At the end of the day, it's just a word. Attach whatever meaning you'd like to it. But please don't compare my son to your "normal" son because I'm SO sure our definitions are very different.

And for the record.......with or without bladder surgery, I am soooooooo far from anybody's definition of normal.



Myra McEntire said...

I heart you.

C.J. Redwine said...

I love this. Absolutely, unequivocally love this.

It took me YEARS to get to the place where I can look people in the eye, see their censure over the strategies I have to employ to get my children through a "normal" outing, and shrug it off. I remember once, when my ADD child (who has the type of ADD where the slightest anxiety instantly balloons into full-fledged throw yourself on the floor tantrums rather than face something he might not be good at) was two 1/2 and had been on a plane for 5 hours. When the seat belt light came on for landing, the flight attendant made me put him in the seat next to me instead of allowing me to hold him. He FREAKED. Went into one of those fits where I was afraid he'd stop breathing. Not because he was angry. Because he was afraid. Because it was all new. Because he'd had to be quiet and contained for FIVE HOURS. Because he'd been up since 3 am. He screamed the entire time the plane landed.

He stopped the second I unbuckled him and held him. The lady behind me leaned over the seat and told me in her best "I can't believe you call yourself a mother" voice that all my child needed was a good spanking and he'd learn not to behave so badly.

I almost spanked her. :)

And yeah, I get people who don't want their kids near mine because mine aren't "normal" and you know what? I have the most incredibly interesting, vibrant, creative, loving, adorable children in the world and that's their loss.

Besides, I would have no idea what to do with "normal."

Myra McEntire said...

I'm so blessed to have not normal friends. Love you both...

April said...

CJ you are really sweet and I'm glad you like my blog. Myra forced me to do this and now I know why =) For the record, when we had to go on a plane last summer, I had a tshirt made for Luke that says, "Hey, keep staring and you might just cure my autism!" I was trying to head off any "friends" like you met on the plane!

C.J. Redwine said...

That's an idea! Of course, then I run into those who think ADD/ADHD are over-diagnosed (Are they? I don't know. I just know these two boys were different since birth.) and all they really need is some strong parenting or better nutrition or... I've had people I barely know tell me they don't agree with my children's diagnosis because ADD/ADHD isn't real.

Certainly feels real to us. :)

Anonymous said...

Last year when I was at the end of my rope I started surfing the web reading about depression. I came across several sites that talked about ADHD. I took some of the online tests and was surprised to find out that I would most likely be diagnosed with it if I went to be tested by docs. I was so shocked to read about other people's whose minds worked like mine. I was able to read about ways to compensate for the lack of concentration and other issues I had been experiencing. I'm not hyperactive so I would have never thought that was my issue. I was even able to talk to my son about things he was having issues with. It explained SO MUCH about us!!! I was so relieved that there was an answer and that I wasn't crazy. (Ok I am crazy but that's another comment :O) Bob was talking to a friend who has his Doctorate in Human Factors (or something like that). He also struggles with ADD. He said "How do we know that people who have ADD aren't the normal ones" Who knows April maybe Luke is the normal one and the rest of us aren't. I agree Normal is in the eye of the beholder. I think all of us have some sort of defect that we struggle with and it just looks different in each of us. Some learn to compensate for whatever it may be so it might not be as noticeable on the outside but it's there.

I think you are one of the best moms I have ever seen. I love you and spending time with you!!!! I think Luke and Jared are awesome boys and hope I get to know them better!!!

Heather Leigh said...

Good lord almighty, who wants to be *normal*, anyway?! Just a couple of the definitions found in the dictionary are:

conforming to the standard or the common type; approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment.

How positively BORING! Average conformists?? Well, that's just not interesting at all. Normal is not something to aspire to, it's something to avoid.

Excellent post.

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