Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Normal"

Normal. A word we don't use around here. Ever. Here, there is just no such thing. It is a concept of a mold that we neither fit into or acknowledge as something we should fit into. We are who we are and for the most part we are OK with that so we are not bound by the demands and disappointments of "normal".
Unfortunately the world and the folks in it, still have a pretty firm grasp on their idea of "normal". Whatever that may mean to them. I understand it. I really do. I get "normal" as an idea that holds a community to a standard that brings together its members in a peaceful and functional way. In a way, part of our (mostly Ben's) problem is that our appearance fit's this idea of normal.
When Ben used his walker more regularly or when he wears shorts and others can see his knee high braces, he is given a bit of leeway. Don't get me wrong, this is often not a good thing. People see the hardware and jump to all sorts of conclusions; can he hear? (yelled in his face), can he see? (those are his feet you are looking at crazy lady, not his eyes), you been drinkin? (we get this a lot), not to mention all of the "sensitive" people who won't let their children get within 5 feet of the walker and assure their children that "he might not understand you" so "lets just give him some space". But it can be a buffer for the behavior that steps outside of this norm. If he bumps into folks, they accept the apology. If he trips, falls, runs over your toes, jerks his head or arms, takes a while to answer, is in the way, talks too loud, talks to slow, doesn't play "by the rules", won't eat the food, cries when he hears loud bursts of noise AND his is showing a bit of assistive equipment, people pause before they react. They just do. BUT if they react before they see the gear, then see the gear, red faces and back peddling are sure to clear them from our view in a wink.
In the absence of obvious assistance, we face anger. Anger, judgement, exasperation, fear, frustration, impatience, annoyance and invisibility. Words that should never be pressed on a child. As much as I don't like that I have to explain the bad behavior of children to Ben, I do it because it is what it is and we can pretend that children know how to deal but that won't make it true. I shouldn't have to explain the bad behavior of adults though. I shouldn't have to say things like "they didn't know you were losing your balance, try to reach out to me next time." A grown woman should know better than to yell "OUCH" at a 42 pound kid who tripped into her. Grown ups should take responsibility for the fact that they are the adult and have the ability to hurt or have compassion. It shouldn't make my heart rate rise to take my kids to Target for fear that some a$$ will provide me yet another opportunity to clean up a potential emotional scar. I shouldn't have to thicken my skin against the stares and the whispers. I shouldn't have to put on my cheerleader hat every time I leave the house so that Ben is protected by a playful approachable mom. But if I don't, at best (and worst) Ben is ignored. If I am not in the trenches paving the road with folks who understand a bit more then the average joe, I hear things like "Socially he is doing great this year. Such an improvement!" then watch as my happy playful boy goes to almost every child he passes on the playground only to be backed away from, run away from and excluded in play. And he keeps trying, with a smile, while my heart breaks at how hard he is working to be a part of things. Yeah, he is doing great. But "normal" gets in the way every time.

10 comments:

Jason R. Myers said...

You are a gifted writer.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that!!! I hope for the day that I don't have to get all defensive the minute we pull into the handicap spot at Target but if we aren't then who will be for our kids. I completely agree and understand everything you said and you are an awesome writer!!! Maybe someday people will stop being so ignorant!!

Kelly

Greta Myers Photography said...

Grat post Shannon, you made me cry. We get "normal" and "Average".:)

coolcapmom said...

Shannon,
This must be such a struggle. Why can't people just always give any kid the "benefit of the doubt" and be kind? Keep up the cheerleading though, I know from experience you are really good at it and I know Ben will grow up happier for it. He is a beautiful kiddo and your miracle boy...miss seeing you and hope things get better for Ben with his peers soon. We'd always be up for a playdate.

Anonymous said...

I've read your blog quite a bit over the last year and you seem to be really bitter over your sons condition. When other people pick up on your bitterness and your fear they see your son and it transfers to him . He's obviously intelligent and a good person Why not let him prove this to other people.

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shannon said...

Wow anonymous, way to hit below the belt. Must be nice to judge so bravely as "anonymous" the outlet of the quietly frustrated. I re-read the last year. I hope that you don't know me because you misunderstand us so gravely.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was below the belt. Anon. has obviously never met you. We all get down at times and that is when we write, to sort out our feelings. I feel the same way a lot of the time, when I'm still giving Connor baby food in a restaurant or I walk into daycare and he's playing alone. As parents, we do our best, then we worry.
-Shannon

Ellen said...

Shannon, this is such a powerful post. And Anonymous, you seemingly have no clue about what it's like to have a kid with special needs. What Shannon said is so true. Us moms have to pave the way for our kids constantly. Max, at first glance, seems "normal" but then you realize he can't talk and he drools and he can't use his hands that well, and that's when kids start staring and adults sometimes say the most stupid-assed things. It's not like our kids can't "prove" to other people they are intelligent and competent—it's that people don't give them the chance. Shannon is not bitter, she is honest and candid and brave enough to share her feelings with the world. Bravo, Shannon. For a wonderful post, and for doing all that you do for Ben.

Jen said...

I don't even feel right leaving a comment, since I only dealt with the stares and rude behavior for one year (with the helmet), but I just wanted to say that this made me sad for you and your son. I guess as parents all we can really do is to instill confidence and self esteem in our children so that the things strangers do doesn't affect them as much. Also, to surround them with as many positive, kind, caring individuals as possible.