Last Friday the girls were with my mom. She decided to bring them to town right before I got off work, so I met them all at Menards. My nephew was with them and so O and J were being little maniacs throughout the store. If you happened to be in the Angola, IN, Menards last Friday…I’m sorry for the crazy girl and boy who were running around.
Olivia was wearing a new shirt that Gram has given her. It had the minions on it and said something like, “Normal is boring.”
Later that evening, she sat beside me after we’d read our three books for the night and asked, “I’m not normal, am I?”
Let me assure you that she didn’t say this with any sadness in her voice. It was more a tone of resignation, which was still so hard to hear.
I hugged her tightly and told her, “You are amazing. You are so smart and sweet and you are funny. So many people love you and are so happy to know you. No one is normal, you know. Everyone is a little weird or different and that’s what makes everyone special.”
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what to tell her to make her feel better, to make her see how wonderful I think she is. She sees the kids at school running around, playing with each other, talking to each other, being ‘normal’ and she knows that’s not how she is.
How do you explain it all to a child who is just special-needs enough to know she has special needs?
She knows she different and most of the time, she’s fine with that but she’s getting older and noticing more and taking more in and seeing the differences magnified by the microscope of the public school setting. She wants to fit in just because she knows she’s supposed to want to. But it’s hard. It’s so hard and I know this is not the last time she’ll ask a question like that.
What is normal?
Someday, when she’s all grown up and doing amazing things, she’ll realize that normal is overrated and be grateful for how special she is. I mean, look at Ellen. She’s not normal and she’s brilliant at what she does.
But when you’re eight years old and heading into second grade, normal would be awesome. Normal would let you fit right in with the masses, it lets you disappear a little and be part of the organism that is second graders at recess.
When you’re not normal, you play at recess by yourself. You stand and look at your peers when they speak to you, unable to reply back to them. It makes you stand out and at eight, most of us don’t want to stand out.
Someday, my sweet Livie, you’ll embrace your specialness. You’ll see how great you are, how much you’ve overcome and how strong you are because of it.
Until then, I’ll be here, trying to be a buffer between you and what can be a very cruel world. I’ll be here for you to land on when things get hard, when ‘normal’ feels eons away, when life gets lonely and you need to know you’re appreciated because of your specialness, not despite it. I’ll be here to celebrate your unique sense of humor, your beauty, your charm. I’ll be here to listen to your stories, marveling in your imagination, your sense of adventure.
I’ll be here to wipe your tears and remind you that normal is overrated even as you strive to achieve just that.
I will always be your biggest cheerleader, your loudest fan. I will always be a place where you can rest your head when you’re tired and where you know your accomplishments will be celebrated.
Because, like your shirt said, normal is boring and you, my sweet girl, have never, ever been boring.