The whole concept of what is “normal” shifted dramatically when I discovered I was the parent of a child with a disability. I touched on it briefly before. It’s all a matter of perception and if what I experience has always been that way for me then it is “normal” for me. So when someone finally asked me how I coped it caught me by surprise.
When I stumbled into the arena of “parenting a disabled child” the word normal was the most infuriating word I ever experienced. It led to anger, resentment and pain. What a nasty group of feelings I had to deal with when my focus should’ve been on my child. The word normal had everything to do with MY world being turned upside down. It was the most selfish word I could’ve attached to myself. It was also the most destructive.
At first it sent me into a tailspin of depression. Then I guess I went through all the stages of grief. What got me out of this cycle was the fact that this was not a life sentence for me. It was a diagnosis for my child. This was not about me. This was all about how my child’s life and future were going to turn out.
So when you believe the word normal exists it means that you have the unending job of comparing yourself to every other family you ever come in contact with. It means constantly coming up with excuses for why you do what you do and why your child will never be like other children. It means you are never good enough and failed as a parent. It means that every time you come to a roadblock it is painful part of the journey.
What I found out is that there is no such word as “normal” only the following words: acceptance, learning, changing, adaptation, growth and progress.
Instead of an unending job of dealing with problems it became a belief of “How do I accept this gracefully”. It meant accept what needs to be done and deal with it because it is just a part of life. Instead of an endless experience of yet another thing to deal with it became an opportunity to learn something new, an exciting challenge and yes even an adventure. When I felt overwhelmed by yet another glitch in the journey of my life I reminded myself that here was a change to adapt and grow.
What also became apparent was that despite all the times it FELT like I was moving backwards there really was progress happening and that is where support comes in handy.
The first thing I did was look on the internet for a group who had a child with the same disability and I signed myself up. What I found in this group was not just an ordinary support group. I found a whole group of parents on the same journey as me, disabled as me and willing to learn as me. I found that it was my cheerleading squad when something good happened, my shoulder to cry on when something bad happened and a storehouse of suggestions when what I tried to do didn’t work.
So what is normal? Well like I said, there is no such word.