What is normal?

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

I had a conversation recently with a fellow Mom of a special needs child that really hit home. The conversation revolved around how our perceptions of what is “normal” have changed so drastically since having our kids.

It made me realize more than ever that “normal” is a relative term, and each person; each family has its own version of what is normal and what is not.

The fact is that every family has their challenges; some are just more obvious than others.

I came up with a list of things that we consider to be our version of normal. I’m sure you all have a list similar to this one. These things may be considered unusual, but they have become a way of life for us.

You mean it’s not “normal “:

To have toys lined up on the windowsill, TV stand, and floor. All the time.

For your garage to look like the medical version of the TV show “Hoarders.”

To think that 4 straight hours of sleep is refreshing

That our car looks like we packed for a vacation just to run a few errands

For your living room to resemble a mini-hospital

To be woken up by beeps from a pulse ox machine rather than an alarm clock

To forget what “spontaneous” looks like.

To have to drive more than two hours for doctors’ appointments because your child’s specialists are all out of the area.

To feel like it’s Christmas when you get approved for a new piece of adaptive equipment.

To have a hospital-ready bag packed at all times.

To have to constantly educate people about your child and their condition.

To have massive anxiety when cold and flu season rolls around.

To have to scout out unfamiliar places before attempting an outing to check for possible triggers that might cause a major meltdown.

To have a file drawer dedicated solely to your child’s medical records, IEPs, and other diagnosis-related paperwork.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to see other people’s “normal” and even sometimes be envious. One of my favorite quotes is from former US President Theodore Roosevelt; he said: “comparison is the thief of joy.”

I know that for many of us, our version of normal may not be what we planned for our lives or our kid’s lives, but I also think it’s one that we should embrace as best we can.



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