Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Redefining Normal

I think that most of us, from the moment we find out we're expecting our first child, start thinking of goals and milestones...

At first, these milestones apply to us, the moms, and where we "should" be at in a pregnancy-- how we should be feeling, how big we should be getting, how early we should feel movement. There is this ridiculous part of human nature that tries to make everything, even bringing life into this world, a competition. I remember feeling like a failure when I didn't feel movement until AFTER my five month ultrasound...

Once the baby arrives, the focus is all about that bundle of joy. And the charts and comparisons begin. There are dozens of books and hundreds of articles all designed to tell us what's "normal". All established to provide us with a benchmark by which we can measure our own children's achievements ( or lack thereof).

Maybe it's just me, but I did not find this helpful. Never in my life did one of these books bring me comfort or joy. Instead, they caused unnecessary worry. They caused me to lose hundreds of hours of sleep over my son who didn't speak until he was almost three... and now, at nearly four, can count to 20 in five languages. And read. Chapters. We went from profoundly delayed to incredibly advanced.

And you know what?

He's the same kid. The. Same. Kid. Loving and snuggly and my biggest fan. The very most important, fundamental things about him never changed. Am I happy to hear his voice (finally)? Of course. Do I think it's wise to always be aware of what's "typical" so you can get help as needed? Absolutely.

But I think perhaps it's time we also consider redefining "normal". It's time we stop feeling like failures for not following the "book chart" month by month. By the same token, we should not feel triumphant just because we "met" that guideline. Rejoice with your children in all their discoveries and achievements. Be aware of situations where early intervention is appropriate.

And, above all, love that unique, wonderful gift who will forever be so much better than just... normal.

1 comment:

Ryann said...

Since my niece was born (full term) four days before Addyson (25 weeker), I expected a lot more milestone comparisons from family & friends. I've been pleasantly surprised to say that most have been extremely understanding of the age adjustment. Some things, we've been noticing, Addy reached the milestone before Grace. We try not to compare, but sometimes you can't help but to compare (what words is she saying now?). I tossed out the "What to Expect the First Year" after we brought Addy home, it just didn't fit her. Instead, I look for guidance from other preemie families who have had similar situations.