I’m about to share something that I really struggle with, but this is hard for me to write about. If you were to look at my son you would probably immediately think, “He looks normal to me.” From the outside, (unless you have a trained eye or just that mommy radar that many of us seem to develop over time) my son comes across as a neurotypical child. While my son has an autism diagnosis, his symptoms have always been mild. He has had years of traditional and alternative forms of therapy. Unless you sit and talk to him for a bit or try to teach him something, or observe him at home where he is comfortable and more himself, you may not notice he has a disability. For years, I’ve struggled with feeling like I’ve had to defend his diagnosis with friends and family. But I’ll save that for another blog post. But don’t you mind, we have our difficulties each and every day.
What I want to share about today is this internal struggle I have. I want him to be more “normal” and in my heart of hearts, I don’t feel I always accept him the way he is. Before I continue, let me say that I understand there are many types of disabilities that are much different than autism and even huge differences within the autism spectrum itself. I understand that some of you reading this are in a very different place – where your child’s diagnosis is different or there’s a physical handicap involved. So I do not write this to be insensitive to anyone’s circumstances. Again, this is my own personal struggle.
My son has made huge strides over the years. So why does it never seem to be enough for me? He can make progress in one area, but then I begin to focus on another area that could use improving. I confess I want him to fit in with his friends, to have an age-appropriate conversation with his peers, to be able to physically do things his other friends can do. I wrestle, however, with whether or not this is a healthy viewpoint for me to have. Why do I want him to just be like everyone else? Is that really a good thing? Is that truly what I want for him? I mean, is that what I really want for my neurotypical daughter as well? My motivations are not impure. As his mom, I just don’t want him to struggle. But that’s when I’m reminded that even the “normal” kids have their struggles. They get picked on (I did!), they are weaker in certain subjects, they all aren’t athletic superstars. I’m also reminded that the struggles in our lives are what make us stronger and develop our character. Sure, my son’s journey may end up looking different than my daughter’s, but it would have looked different with or without his special needs anyway.
I guess what I’m realizing more and more each day is that I need to do a better job of accepting my son the way he is. I thought that part was just a given when you have a child. But regrettingly I have struggled with this...a lot. And I hate that I have! So many times I’ve felt like a bad mom because I haven’t. There is a balance of getting your child the services he/she needs to help better their life and accepting your child the way they are no matter what. I’m sad to say this balance doesn’t come easy for me at times.
The dictionary defines normal as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”. In other words, average. Is this really what we want for our kids? Do we want them to be just average? No! We want them to be amazing! We want them to stand out from the crowd. We want them to make a difference in this world and for the world to see how special they are. We need (I’m speaking to the choir here!) to remember that our children are amazing just the way they are. Each one of our kids will make a difference in the world. They may, however, have a different way of doing it...and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- Trisha Bailey