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My children really are normal, aren't yours?

After this weekend's situation of taking away all of my kids' toys, I continually thought, "Why can't my kids be normal?"  I was frustrated with their behavior.  Then, I thought, "Perhaps, I'm not a normal parent."  There must be something obviously wrong with me that my children and I always seem to be at odds.

If you've known me for any length of time, you'll know my thoughts about normal are extensive and diverse.  My studies in cultural and gender communications have solidified my thoughts and opinions that normal is a socially-defined word.  It's fluid, ever-changing and, quite frankly, ambiguous.  So, why on earth am I trying to use this term to describe my children and my parenting?  Why am I striving for normal?

Then, I realized something BIG...often times, I look at - and describe - normal as being perfect when used in reference to my own children or my parenting.  I try to force the concept that my children shouldn't make mistakes or should always innately know my thoughts, assumptions, and rules - then follow them.  But, as we so often learn, what's innate in a child isn't perfection - it's being a child, learning and growing (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually)

If we look at normal as epitomizing the behaviors and characteristics of being a child, then we're never going to reach the goal.  Our children are all different.  They're different in gender, age, size, heredity, race, language skills, physical capabilities, learning, likes, preferences, and so much more.  Most importantly, they're different than me.  They are not going to understand things or see things the same way I do, so why should I expect them to act within such a limited scope?

My daughter had an extremely mature vocabulary by the time she was 18 months old.  She could identify colors, tell me what she wanted (one word at a time), and generally communicate with me.  My almost two-year-old son is the complete opposite.  He grunts.  He throws temper tantrums.   He communicates with sign language, to a point, but generally I have to guess what he wants.  For a long time, I questioned why he wasn't communicating with me the same way his sister had.  I expected him to be a normal child, but I defined normal through the expectations of what his sister had done, not his own individual capabilities.

Yes, there are general assumptions about the growth and behaviors of children.  And, yes, you can often determine where problems lie when children aren't following these typical patterns.  But, in reality, that doesn't mean our children aren't normal.  They're just normal to themselves.  Look at a child born with a learning disability.  Just because he/she isn't progressing at the standardized rate of learning as his/her peers doesn't mean he isn't normal.  He may be excelling compared to other children with similar disabilities.  Making exceptions and adapting to each individual child should be the norm - not us, as adults, expecting them to always adjust and adapt to our inadequate ideal of normal.

I look at my own childhood as another example.  I am an identical twin.  Often times, people assumed that, because I'm genetically identical to my sister, we would learn and grow at the same rate.  However, this was very much incorrect.  We had - and still have - different capabilities, likes, and preferences.  By adults making the assumption that, for us to be normal, we needed to be identical in everything we did, was inadequate and limited us.  It forced us into trying to adapt to these expectations and taking longer to grow into the individuals that we are.

My children aren't perfect, and I don't expect them to be.  I would never use this word to describe them or any other children.  But, from now on, I'm going to be extremely cautious in using normal as a synonym.

What's your normal?

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