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Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is "Normal"?

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What does that word evoke in your mind? 
For me, the word Normal has migrated from a descriptive term in my life to a word that makes my pulse race and blood pressure rise when I hear it. 

This is a Blog Hop. So, hoppers: What do you think? What are the ups and downs of normal? What’s normal anyway? Do you wish for it or abhor it?
Normal was the life I grew up with. Although, even then, it was getting closer and closer to not-normal (I don't like the word abnormal). I was raised by two parents who have been married once. No step-parents, step-siblings, no half-brothers and sisters lurking in my family tree. Just me and a sister and two parents. My mom was a stay at home mom...but back then the term was housewife. And even then, it was more normal to have mom at home then working. I have memories of opening the door to our home after school and smelling cookies or brownies. Not an everyday occurrence, but it meant an AWESOME after school snack. 

Life moved on and I went to college, met a man, fell in love and we were married. 

Our lives rolled along in a 'normal' fashion. Then we had children. Three of them. Having a third child throws us out of the "normal" club because two kids are supposed to make you happy. Well, we wanted a third. So we'll make our brand of family that makes the 'norm' of having 2.5 kids work. We balance out a two kid family. In the midst of this transition pushing us out of the verge of normal came more not-normal. Nathan, our middle child, was diagnosed with autism. 

I had teacher training in college. I knew a certain amount about child development. I had an older son. I scoured books and resources and online articles with the first one to make sure every phase of his development was normal. When Nathan wasn't hitting certain milestones--but other milestones were being hit out of order--it made me search for answers among the experts. 

It took us three years of searching to finally get answers. I was told all kinds of things. He's a little delayed in areas, but he's bright and will catch up in his own time. His mother pushes him too hard. She needs to realize he won't ever be as smart as his big brother and she needs to accept him for who he is. (And, by the way, I still fight bitterness on this one each day. I try to forgive, but if I ever run into this school psychologist again, I'll punch her--fair warning. Second by the way--Nathan's IQ is at genius levels. Who's looking dumb now?!?!) After that barrage against me as a parent, I stopped fighting outright and went passive-aggressive. We moved. Public reason--we now have 3 kids and we are overcrowded in our tiny 3 bedroom home.
Private reason--I will never, ever, let that woman near my son who will start kindergarten next year. She's poison to him and I won't put up with it. He needs help.

Then, in our new school, the Kindergarten teacher--oh so gently--mentions at Parent/Teacher conferences that she has concerns about Nathan. He might be showing signs of autism. We laughed and told her we knew he was autistic, but nobody agrees. She helped us get the diagnosis and the help.

And now, the word "Normal" has morphed into a word with a bad connotation for me. Who gets to make the definition of normal? And what is normal? Patsy Clairmont wrote a book, "Normal is Just a Setting on Your Dryer" and I decided she's a genius. 

I spend a lot of time focused on making sure Nathan hits 'normal' achievement levels in school, in social settings and in contact with the outside world. But as the numbers keep changing for autism--down to 1 in 88 from the CDC--I'm a little baffled by the word normal. (Autism rates are expected to be lowered again by the CDC, probably next year...estimated to head towards 1 in 52 or 1 in 36 depending on the report.)

So I have come to loathe the word normal. Who gets to make the judgement call that Nathan's way of seeing the world is wrong (abnormal) while his peer is right (normal). Maybe we need to assess our values a little. It seems to me that my "abnormal" or "autistic" child has never bullied other kids, he feels deeply and will sit and cry with his friends when they are hurt. He has a deep spiritual conviction and prays for people all the time. He listens without judging and accepts you for who you are. And that's not 'normal'....but it's Nathan. Nathan is in his own world of Nathan-normal living in a crass, loud, judgmental, 'normal' world.

Maybe we need to be a little more Nathan-normal in this world. 

A normal kid


Mardra said...

Rock on Sister! Your family's Normal is way cooler.

AND this is perfectly said.

Go Team Roberts!

Unknown said...

Your son sounds like a lovely child! Keep up the good work, Mommy!

Karen said...

Hear hear.

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