What Is Normal?

I told myself I wasn’t going to let it bother me.

People had been drinking cocktails, and we all know that sometimes people say and do things they don’t mean when cocktails are involved.

But… in vino veritas, right?

So here I sit with this, albeit brief, yet nagging encounter on a continuous loop in my head:

Recently, when talking about my son and how amazed (beaming with pride, actually) I am by how well he communicates (both verbally and with ASL) given that he’s profoundly deaf and wasn’t able to hear anything until his first cochlear implant was activated shortly after his first birthday, someone declared that “he’ll be fine, but he, you know, just won’t ever be normal.” And normal was emphasized with air quotes and an elongated enunciation of the word… norrrrrrmmmmallll.

That moment made my heart ache. Like, really and truly, I think I could feel it cracking and crumbling. NORMAL?!?! What does that mean, anyway?  I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream and throat-punch somebody. I wanted to run away. I wanted to puff up my chest and defend my son and my family. Instead, I just stood there, kind of stunned and feeling ashamed.

I try to be an open book at all times.  I realize that people have questions and they are curious.  I’m SO ok with that. You want to know something?  Ask me. I’m happy to share.  I feel like it’s better for me, and my son in the long run, to be open… proud… willing to educate…bridge the divide. I don’t ever want to give the impression to others, or to my son, that there’s something shameful, wrong, or secretive about who he is, because there’s not.  But to make such a derogatory statement.  Oh, man!  You just don’t mess with a mama grizzly’s cub!

But here are the facts… my son is, in no particular order, deaf, bi-racial, and adopted.  While that might make him “different” from you or your family members, it certainly doesn’t make him abnormal.  He is also, in no particular order, beautiful, healthy, smart as a whip, sneaky, hilarious, intuitive, caring, resilient, playful, curious, and on occasion an utter nightmare when he throws himself on the ground because he didn’t get his way or he’s been denied the ability to devour an entire pint of blueberries in one sitting. Oh, and he’s learning to speak two languages simultaneously — actually three, if you include the really awful, broken Spanish that his father often tries to habla around the household.  It is, in my humble opinion, no bueno.

Anyway, the point is, NO ONE IS NORMAL!!! It’s a fallacy!  We’ve been mind bent, thanks to the Belgian scientist Adolphe Quetelet (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/02/the-invention-of-the-normal-person/463365/) to believe in some notion that compiled mathematical averages of human behavior and physical characteristics define what makes a person <insert major air quotes here> norrrrrrmmmmallll. And now I’m pissed off at him, too, even though he’s been dead for 142 years. Unknown

It’s past the time to let it go–this rigid lie of normalcy.  We’re taught to gravitate towards some ridiculous vision of what is normal and value it as good, and we vilify and/or reject that which falls outside of those parameters.  What we fail to see and acknowledge is that, throughout history, that which in its time is distinguished as “different” generally has great influence in shifting societal beliefs and culture in the future.

It’s a bit oversimplified, but as an example…Look at Nyle DiMarco.  Do you know him?  He’s the latest winner of America’s Next Top Model and a current contestant on Dancing With The Stars.  He also happens to be deaf (and he really happens to be hot as hell). The general public might have previously looked at him and considered him disabled.  What makes him “different” might have been seen as a limitation to his success.  Instead, he is continuing to break barriers and demonstrate to the world just what he’s capable of accomplishing–what deaf people are capable of accomplishing.  Not only is he changing how the world sees and what they know of deaf people, but he’s empowering a generation of young deaf kids by being a public figure to whom they can relate. Selfishly, I just feel so fortunate that his star is on the rise at a time that is so meaningful for me because of my boy.  It opens my eyes, heart, and mind even wider to what my child might be able to accomplish, helps to quieten the worries that sometimes creep in, and boosts my determination to do all that I can to help my baby succeed.

So. That’s that. I embrace and celebrate that my child is isn’t like everyone else! I walk proud as a peacock knowing that I get to be this DIFFERENT and amazing child’s mother!  Our story– HIS story, is complex, rich, colorful, beautiful and imperfect. It is NOT NORMAL and Thank You, God!, because that’s what makes him so totally freakin’ special!

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