This morning I poured my coffee and sat down to check emails and the first thing I saw in my inbox was a message with the subject line: “Who do You Say You Are?” It was ironic because I had just come up with today’s blog title in the middle of the night and I’m sure this isn’t the answer they were looking for! But that’s ok, because today I’m talking about NOT being normal, NOT fitting in, and why that is GOOD.
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time in thought about being different. As a new, young special needs mom, I think one of my biggest blind spots was that I deeply desired to be treated as normal. I wanted people to see me as a normal mom. Don’t pity me, don’t steer clear of me, don’t respond to me differently. Don’t ask me questions or do things for me that you wouldn’t do for any other mom. I don’t need anything different. I had been a normal mom for three years already, and it was really great to just be part of the club. I could immediately fit into any group of moms, simply with a joke about diapers, or nursing, or tantrums. We new moms were a cohesive unit who all understood each other and all did our normal together. Nick’s diagnosis came at the age of six months, and somewhere around 8 to 12 months I imagine other new moms could tell that he wasn’t developing typically. I suppose in some ways, trying my best to just be normal helped us keep it together as we grappled with this new season. But at the same time I look back now and realize that’s why I was always a little awkward. I was just trying to play the part of normal. But I wasn’t normal, or typical. I’m not talking about my child now, I’m talking about me.
Simultaneously, I began teaching my firstborn son, Ben, that he was never going to be “boring normal.” I preached over and over to my super smart, talented, gifted son that his brother being special, was making Ben special too! That he was MORE kind than other boys, MORE understanding, MORE compassionate, and MORE mature. I would intentionally saturate him with affirmations of his uniqueness. Since a very tender age he has known that he is set apart, not only because he’s a Christian, or because he’s a homeschooler, but because he has a special brother, like no one else. Not being normal, I taught him, was the best thing that would ever happen to him.
I have a dear friend who is a published author and speaker, and she is soon releasing a new book, where she reveals to parents of special kids: you have special needs. (Stay tuned to my blog over the next couple of months, I’ll be sharing excerpts and a link to the book). I had never thought of it that way and it has definitely refined my perspective once again. Why did I long to be normal? What is so great about normal? I think we fear that the opposite of normal is inadequate. But those two are not antonyms! Here are the words I found when I googled the opposite of “normal”: rare, fantastic, singular, unique, unprecedented, and extraordinary. That is what I foresaw for Ben. It has definitely what I now see in him as a young man. All of those adjectives truly define his character. They also describe what I see in Nicolas, within his specialness, and now, 14 years later, they are why I wouldn’t change one thing about my experience.
It took a really long time for me to acknowledge that I was not normal. I can’t explain why I could preach it to my kid but not accept it for myself, except to say I think us parents do that more than we realize. Sadly, it wasn’t until I embraced the fact that I have special needs, that I could address them, or begin growing into the unique, rare and fantastic elements of who God created me to be. It doesn’t make me weak to acknowledge a weakness. For goodness sake, Paul writes of his weakness as a powerful possession in his second letter to the Corinthians: But he [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
You don’t have to be a special needs parent to discover that you aren’t normal, of course. We all have a purpose and destiny within us that is beyond normal. But most people don’t have it forced upon them, so they can comfortably choose normal for the rest of their lives. Special needs parents have to confront it without a safety net of being able to choose normal if we prefer. That is one of the greatest blessings, I think, of being in any challenging situation. We all have the potential for “fantastic” inside us, it is deposited in every single soul on this planet by our creator. But if you look around, “normal” is the easier choice and is, in fact, chosen by most.
So I’m not normal. My prayer for you, whatever your situation, is that you aren’t normal either! Find a way to embrace your unique and exceptional destiny. Perhaps it is being forced on you – just give in. Perhaps it isn’t, and you can just keep flying under the radar as normal for the rest of your days – please don’t! There is more, there is greater, there is a fantastic life to live. If you’re young, then you can get this right from the beginning. If you’re not a kid anymore, you can start living your beyond-normal life today! I was a slow learner in this subject, but still I am astounded at the places my singularity has taken me, the blessing it has been to others, and the true joy it gives me to reflect back over the years and see all the extraordinary things that only God and I know about. It’s as if God and I have our own secret club now, and that membership is more precious to me than any other I could have possibly have coveted.
The fabulous friend I mentioned cam be found at the Special-Heart website link in the right-hand column. Also, if you’re curious about the email this morning, it wasn’t crazy or contrary to my ideas, by the way! It was a blog post for special needs parents about saying what the Word of God says about who you are, rather than letting your circumstances say who you are. You can find it in the archives of Special Needs Parenting which is also linked over on the right-hand column.
p.p.s. if you know a special needs mom and are wondering what HER special needs are, they probably include things like:
*pray for her, she spends all her prayer time on her child, and her family
*ask her how you can interact with her child and then do it, regularly
*recognize that she is exhausted (yes, I can make that a blanket statement! it’s exhausting, whether physically or mentally or emotionally)
*understand that she still wants to be part of the club.
*if she is a bit distant or withdrawn, please keep trying
*pray for God to show you how to be a good friend to her, she needs good friends