I sat there in the play place at the mall, desperately wishing I was anywhere else. I was happy that my husband was off getting me a new computer charger at the apple store but I was in no mood for the mall.
I watched my kids play on the foam breakfast food and admired the whimsy of it all, my two beautiful little ones bouncing on a 5 foot square waffle, giggling as they tripped over the shiny, fake butter.
This is the life of West Michigan children, sometimes you go to Woodland Mall and bounce on the giant breakfast food.
As I sat there I turned my eyes off of my children and onto all the others, climbing over giant shredded wheat with blueberries and bouncing across sausage links, all in a row.
It was then that I started to engage in the awful practice of stacking my children up against those around them, Especially my 4 year old Noelle who was diagnosed with ADHD last fall.
My mind drifted back to earlier that morning when I sat in church, tense beyond measure as I watched her march up on stage alongside all the other VBS attenders. As they sang their song, motions and all, Noelle wandered a bit, checking out the speaker repeatedly.
The teachers were constantly redirecting her attention to the song at which point she’d grin and re-engage for a while before going back to the speaker again. She was fascinated by it.
I sat in my seat with my head in my hands, feeling all at once sorry and thankful for the teacher who kept bringing her back to the fold. Was her smile genuine or was she sick of redirecting my dear girl.
Were the other parents giggling at the classic whimsy of a child on stage or wondering what was wrong with my daughter that she couldn’t tow the party line for a few songs?
As we drove home she sang happily in the back seat, clueless to the worry that was swimming around in my head as I wondered what her behavior that morning meant for her future.
Ever the pessimist I projected it long term with the worst possible outcomes until I was in tears at the though of her going through school a completely rejected and lonely soul. Surely she would be the bane of her teacher’s existence, only every feeling love when she returned home.
Finally I managed to check myself a bit and tell myself that many four year olds are curious, that I didn’t know how many preschoolers were up on stage or how fair the comparison was.
And for that matter, why was I doing this? Comparing her? Reducing her to some standard that in no way accounts for the unique whimsy and love that she brings into the world.
Oh how the allure of the unreachable normal screws with us, doesn’t it? Just when we think we got over striving for normal in our own lives we have children and it starts all over again, only ten times worse.
Yes, I have a daughter with ADHD, but so do other parents and that’s okay because you know what? Every child has struggles and challenges and as parents we too often forget that it’s often our challenges that form us and give us character, perseverance and resolve.
We want so badly to protect our children from pain and struggle but we’re forgetting one very important thing. It’s not possible! Every child will have hurdles they must learn to jump, they will experience social pain, they will have to learn to rise above something.
And that’s. okay.
When you really step back and think about it, do you want to raise a child who has no idea how to handle conflict or manage struggles? Think about how unprepared they would be for the world.
And whatever you do, don’t forget that the perfect children and family that you think other families have doesn’t exist. They have meltdowns, focus issues and parenting challenges just like you.
So down with normal, screw you, off you go! I banish you from our house and I’m working on eviction notice for my thought life. We aren’t shooting for normal in any other area of our life: we’ve going to revolutionary, godly, extraordinary.
Down with the worry of normal and down to my knees as I ask God to make me mindful of his plans and tender grace for the daughter that was never mine to begin with.