I just want to be normal

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“I’m not like other 9 years old”, “I don’t have a normal family”, “I’m not a normal parent”……on and on – our children may say it, we may say it but this week this concept of being ‘normal’ has struck me in two different ways.

Before I mention what those two ways are let’s explore the word normal. It’s always grated on me when I hear people use that word – What is normal?? I heard Jairek Robbins speak last year (son of the American famous coach and personal development guru). Jairek talked about growing up with his father and from a very young age going to his meetings and watching people achieve great things. To him it was normal to see people overcoming their fears – walking on fire, breaking boards and generally attacking life. For him to hear people say “I can’t do that” or “that’s not possible” was abnormal. It’s amazing what we get used to – traits become states and we think that what everyone else experiences is abnormal, when to them we are abnormal!!!

So maybe a better way to look at it is – what’s typical for…..children of a certain age, parenting, families. What’s typical in specific cultures of course is different too. I’m actually not sure much is typical either. When I think about our children and attachment styles for example. You could say they have a tendency towards avoidant attachment but of course they then do something that is much more reminiscent of an ambivalent attachment style! Maybe trying to label children, or say what is normal or typical is irrelevant to their development?!

So the two areas that I wanted to mention in terms of feeling and being ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ are:

Firstly from my children’s point of view. One of my sons has started noticing that he is different to his peers. Whether he has picked up some terminology from adults or whether he really does sense this – he seems to know he is different. I’ve heard many times people say – “don’t treat them differently because it will make them feel different” – BUT I hate to break the bubble on this – THEY ARE DIFFERENT! and they feel different. Is there anything wrong with feeling different?

I have a friend who has a brilliant approach to her children around this area of being different and an individual. Her daughter dresses in the most unique way – whatever way she feels and her Mum lets her express that which I think is ace! That little girl will grow up to know her own mind I’m sure, and not be embarrassed to express her personality.

But for our children they have so many differences about them it must be hard for them to see that as a positive thing right now. They have a complicated history with different sets of parents and experiences that typical children can not identify with. More often then not they are struggling with catching up at school and trying to fit in with their peers when they really want to be playing with the younger children or being at home with us.

The other side of this for me is how I feel about being an abnormal parent and also about my children being different. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me and I can see the positives of this great adoption lifestyle. But sometimes the starkness of the differences being my friends who have given birth to their children – who in the main are at the right developmental stages – is overwhelming. To my great shame this week I heard myself say (it was actually only in my head!) – “I just want to be normal – be a normal parent and have normal kids”. I am embarrassed to see it written down….but it’s the truth. This is not to down play the fact that ALL parenting is challenging and I’m sure those with birth children have their own exclamations they are ashamed to admit to….but for me sometimes the feeling of being different stares me in the face and threatens to destroy my connections with others – especially with my children.

So what can we take from this? For me I know that are no ‘normal’ situations – whether parenting, children, marriages, friendships whatever – we are all different and all our challenges are unique to us. At those times when the reality of how different my children are to their peers is evident I’m going to try to step back and count my blessings – that they are in my life, that I get the chance to help them make sense of things and to trust that I am growing and learning what I need to on this journey. It is tough. There are times when I want to bury my head in the sand. BUT how can we make the best of our atypical family? Definition of atypical – not conforming to type; unusual or irregular – isn’t that us as adoptive parents? It doesn’t make us better or worse than others just different. Let’s embrace those differences, not cut ourselves off from others but be at peace with how our families are made up and encourage our children to grow in the best way they can.



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