Our society is obsessed with being normal. Everywhere we look we see examples of how we are “supposed” to look, behave, dress, talk, eat, sleep, etc. etc. We are bombarded by ideals and expectations for every part of our lives.
Though we may be relatively unaware of it, society also tells us what our children should be like, too.
A normal child can hear, see, speak well, walk, and be well . . .perfect. When we start thinking about children, we dream about what they will be like, fantasizing that they will be a great football player or an engineer or a ballerina or a lawyer. We imagine how they will look and act, never once considering that they won’t fit the image we created for them before they were born.
So, what happens when we have a child who isn’t normal? What do we do when the child is far from the perfect image we had in our heads? No one will want to admit it, but I’m sure most parents feel a moment of dread and fear. Something is wrong with their child! Their child isn’t normal! What does this mean? A million questions must go through their heads, and I’m sure almost all of them want to know why. Why did the child end up with (insert issue here)? The questions of why may eventually turn into self doubting and shame. Is this my fault? Did I do something do cause this problem in my child?
Eventually, parents may want to find a way to fix whatever it is that is wrong with their child, if it is even medically possible to fix. If the issue isn’t completely fixable, there may be devices that can help (hearing aids, canes, medication, etc). Whatever it may be, society offers a dizzying amount of devices, medications, etc. to make differences appear more normal. And what parent doesn’t want their child to be normal? Sure, they may never come out and say this directly, but I think every parent on some level wants a normal child. A child who won’t be teased and bullied at school. Given our paternal, protective natures, this is a natural thing to want for our children. We want to protect them. We want the best for them. Yet . . .we assume that fitting into society’s definition of normal will protect them.
Unfortunately, being different is not just a physical thing. Being different defines who we are as people. It changes us. We can fix our physical appearances as much as we want with surgery and helpful devices, but we cannot change the internal effects of being different. We cannot erase the ways it impacts our lives, leaving permanent imprints on our hearts and minds. We know we are different. We know we don’t fit the “norm”, and that knowledge never, ever goes away.
So, if you have children or are thinking of having children, please remember that being normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t have your heart set on having a “normal” child because no one is truly “normal”. We all have kinks and quirks that make us unique. Yes, there are some pretty heartbreaking diseases and ailments that can make raising a child extremely hard. I understand that. Just . . .don’t ever, EVER let your kid think you are disappointed in them for being different. Don’t ever let them think you wish they were different. If your child feels you are somehow mad at them for being different, for having an issue that they have no control over, it will be a major blow to their self-esteem, and the feeling of shame and disappointment in themselves will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
No matter what difference your child has, be it hearing impairment, blindness, MS, paralysis, muteness, Downs Syndrome, or whatever it may be, remember that your child is unique and beautiful just they way they are. They love you, and they need you to show them that being different in a world obsessed with normality is not a bad thing. They need to know that being loved doesn’t come with conditions.