What is normal?
There is the thought that normal is just a setting on a washing machine or tumble drier, that no one has a normal life. Most of the time I subscribe to that thought. I can often be heard saying “but this is normal to us”, usually at the little things that really are the norm.
For example, J likes to spin, a lot, on the spot. Now as a family we have learned to accommodate this and he knows there are certain parts of the house where he can’t spin (in front of the cooker) and that there are certain parts of the house where spinning is only an option if others are not in the vicinity (in front of the fridge, tv or bang in the middle of the patio). He can spin for hours, very fast, without getting in the least bit dizzy. We have become so used to it, that we don’t notice it. I tend to just put my hand on top of his head as I walk past to get him to stop for a moment, or shout “hot drink coming through” which he knows means stop. I am frequently surprised when others come into our home and say “oh he’s making me sick, making me feel dizzy, how does he do that?” as I forget it’s actually not normal to have a spinning child in the room.
K has to have certain phrases said in certain ways or responded to in a certain manner and again, we just do this on autopilot now because it is normal for us. Again, we are surprised when others don’t see this as normal.
We were delighted when a local restaurant didn’t question K’s need to repeatedly tell them that he wanted “just a burger, no relish, no salad, no sauce, just a burger on a bun, please” until they repeated it back to him and he was confident they knew what he wanted. Obviously, this has fast become a popular hangout for us.
Generally, we’re like many families and we just get on with it. However, this past week has been one of those weeks when I had one or two reality checks when I realized that “normal” for me is not actually that normal.
To begin with, it was a week of appointments. One or two of the appointments were the usual “saw child, tick box” exercises but a few of them were appointments when you realize that all is not normal. That all is not going according to your plan – no matter how much we try to persuade ourselves that it is.
I have spent so much time accepting that this is our normal, I had started to believe my own hype. I have therefore really struggled this week when one or two new problems have shown up at the door. Problems I sort of knew were there, hovering in the background, but problems I thought were not too significant or were just part of who my kids were. However, here I am, just two appointments later and I now realize that I had no understanding of the real underlying issues of these problems nor did I realize what this meant for the road ahead of us.
I often refer to the first few years of our parenting experience as feeling like a Weeble. Constantly being knocked down with yet another label, diagnosis, operation but never quite hitting the floor. Then you gradually learn how to balance and stay upright and I had been in the “upright mode” for a year or two recently, with just a few short tumbles. However, this week has left me sat here, flat on my butt, feeling a little bit winded and a bit scared of getting up in case something else hits me. There is always that fear “will this next thing be the one that keeps me down?” or “can I do this?”
I know the answer is “yes I can do this” and “no, the next thing won’t keep me down”. I am just tired of having to get back up. I am tired of facing yet another challenge and having to speed learn a whole new subject in the shortest time possible.
I have already got the support in place that we need to address most of the problems so practically we are good to go but emotionally? That’s something else.
I deliver workshops to families about being resilient and how to bounce back so I know what I should be doing but that’s the same as knowing I should eat healthily and exercise regularly (it’s not always going to happen, or very infrequently).
Knowing what we need to do and actually doing it are two different things.
Change the plan, not the goal
So I am going to spend a day or two feeling sorry for myself; a day or two in “woe is me” mode but then I will get back up, dust myself off and start to venture down the new path that has suddenly appeared. I know that there will be a new language to learn, new catch phrases and more homework but I also know that the end of this new path comes out at the same place as the end of the old path we were on – happy healthy children – so we’re not changing the goal, we’re just changing the plan.
How do you do it?
How do you get back up? How do you cope with changed plans? What tips do you have?