Normal is often tested on excursions with my three aspies. Never a dull moment, the main stress is usually trying not to lose one of them. Or making sure nobody gets injured. Other people that is. My boys bounce, they’ve had lots of practice. Other people, not so much.
Once I’m feeling satisfied that risks of drowning, getting hit by a car or wandering off with random strangers have been dealt with, the ugly stress of trying to get my kids to be “normal” raises it’s head.
Casey, stop touching people in the swimming pool line, Bailey, you can’t kiss random teenage girls, Archie, you can’t beat a kid twice your age at holding their breath under water, so stop trying! My boy’s unusual behaviours do stand out and on outings, I find myself spending most of my time trying to correct them. Trying to educate my boys as to what is “normal” and what isn’t.
Recently though I decided to take a step back and allow the boys to just be themselves, quirky or otherwise. Rather than jumping in and apologising every time they were inappropriate with others, I just watched and observed society’s reaction. And boy was it interesting.
Waiting for service at the pool café Bailey discovered his favourite structural building block. The one device he hasn’t managed to craft on Minecraft. The ever elusive, double hinge. You know the one; it allows a door to go two ways. It can open inwards and outwards and to my nine year old, it’s the most fascinating piece of moulded metal ever to be manufactured.
So as my son stood opening and closing the door, opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing, I took a back seat. The mystical door sat between the café register and the drinks fridge and while Bailey was mentally drawing a picture in his mind of how it worked and how he could recreate it, some poor staff member was trying to carry drinks through it to fill the fridge.
Being the helicopter, anxious, eager to please parent I am, I would have normally jumped in and pulled Bailey away. But not this time. What looked like a kid standing in the way and being annoying, with time, became obvious that this kid was different. Slowly the staff’s reaction went from frustration, why isn’t this kid getting out of the way, to interest. What is he so obsessed with?
Five minutes later I had to stand up to a couple of bullies who started picking on my son while waiting in a line for the three meter dive board. They were extremely fast at picking up the way he says “l” as ”y” and the colourful American twang to his Australian accent. They were teasing him about his accent, winding him up with the hope he would explode. Trust me, he definitely has the ability to explode and it’s not pretty.
I wanted to let this one go, to allow society to just deal with his difference. But it wasn’t fair on Bailey so I interjected. I’m sure the boys picking on my son were just being lads, and I’m sure they’ll make great speech therapists one day. Really, they will. But my son isn’t the test subject for their jokes, easy target or not.
These school holidays I’ve come to the realization that society needs to be more accepting of what is “normal”. It’s unrealistic to think that every kid in a restaurant can sit still. For some five year olds it can be normal for them to have a meltdown in the supermarket when their favourite food has been moved to a different aisle. After all, to a five year old if the gluten free choc chip cookies aren’t where they should be, they AREN’T ANYWHERE!!!
Two generations ago a “normal” kid could have bare feet and a dirty face and nobody noticed. Try that look today and see how long it takes to get a phone call from child services. The boundaries on what is considered “normal” for children are shifting. We’re all sitting somewhere on the spectrum between boring and fantastic, crowd following or groundbreaking. We’re all normal, in our own way, from our perspective.
The next time you see a child breaking your perspective on normality look again, you may just see something new and exceptional.