Skip to main content

The Normality of Normal

To a child, everything is normal.

Who knows what is normal for an egg?

As a parent, this presents us with quite a responsibility.  Because we very quickly realise that whatever - whatever - we do will be regarded as the way things are.  From bedtime routines to parents arguing, from TV time to what we eat - everything is normal for our child.  They have nothing else to compare it to.

And even when they do get old enough to realise that not everyone lives like we do, it's still the other people that are different.  Not us.  Not for a long time.  Perhaps, for certain things, even for the rest of our lives, even when we know better.

No, this is normal.  Really.

The problem is, as adults, we are still, most of us, trying to work out what's normal.  Especially when we have children, and suddenly a whole host of things become normal that never were before.  Like feeding a baby five times in the night, or negotiating with a screaming toddler in the supermarket, or explaining all of our bodily functions to a curious four-year-old.  It's no wonder we find ourselves surreptitiously looking around: are we doing this right?  does everyone else have this problem?

Because normal, of course, is defined by those around us.  That's where normal gets weird.  For example, we walk to school almost every day.  In this place, at this time, that is not normal.  There are a handful of other families that do the same; most drive.  But in this place fifty years ago, that would be normal.  It would also be normal not to have a TV, a smartphone, or a computerThese days, worries about screen time notwithstanding, that would be a serious disadvantage.  You just would not fit in.

Of course, we don't always want to fit in.  By the time we reach adulthood, we have spent a certain amount of time considering how different we want to be.  We know that being comfortable is more important to us than wearing the same thing as everyone else, or that being vegetarian is more important to us than eating what everyone else does.  But then you have a child, and are forced to consider how much to impose those differences on another human being.

I don't think this is normal, though.

In the novel About a Boy, Marcus, the boy of the title, has a mother who is firm on her views about things like eating at McDonalds and buying fashionable footwear.  Will, the single, commitment-free guy who is unwillingly dragged into their family affairs, immediately diagnoses Marcus as needing a decent haircut and a pair of Adidas trainers.  Through his influence, both Marcus and his mum start to reassess each other's values and decide what is important to them.

We generally don't want our kids to be bullied because of our differences.  But also, we don't want to give up what is important to us in order to fit in with the ever-changing normal.  Engaging with other people provides useful checks and balances - yes, these temper tantrums are usual - but provide us with endless comparison worries (shouldn't he be talking by now?)  We're always questioning ourselves, always trying to find that perfect balance.

Don't worry.  It's normal.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Baby Language

For some reason baby equipment is an area in which American English differs markedly from British English. As well as learning how to care for a baby, we had to learn a whole new vocabulary! Fortunately we are now fluently bilingual, and I have compiled a handy US-UK baby dictionary for you. Diaper n. Nappy Mom says if you can read this change my diaper. The first time you change one of these you will be all thumbs and stick the little adhesive tabs to yourself, the baby and probably the changing mat before you get them where they ought to go. A few years later you will be able to lasso a running toddler and change them before they even know what's happened (yes, I have seen it done). You will also get through more diapers than you ever thought possible, creating scary amounts of expense and waste. Hence we are now mostly using: Cloth diaper n. Reusable nappy Cool baby. No longer those terry squares, the main drawback is that there are now so many types it can be qu

our new apartment

Moving was a slightly surreal experience given that our new place looks almost exactly the same as the old one, except for being a different layout. That's what you get for living in a throw-'em-up-and-pack-'em-in apartment complex I guess - albeit a very nice one. So, entering apartment 433: To your right is the master bedroom: with en-suite bathroom: and looking back, from your left, that's a walk-in closet, door to the hallway and door to the bathroom: Following the layout so far? OK, go back to the hallway and put your back to the front door again, and this time walk straight forwards into the sitting room: As you can see, ahead of you is the door to the balcony: for which I have grand plans for a herb garden and other plants. Leading off the living room is the dining area: and if you walk through that and round to your right you reach the kitchen: Go back through the living room again: and if you turn right (

Sand, slides and stepping stones

You will probably remember me blogging about Granbury and Dinosaur Valley State Park before - it's a favourite place of ours to take family when they come to visit, or just to hang out ourselves.  Normally we would just do a day trip down there, but this time we decided to make it a weekend. Maddy, Graham and Toby in Granbury Granbury town square was all dressed up for Christmas, with cowboy-hatted Christmas trees and wreaths in every window.  Anthony and Maddy picked up some Texas souvenirs in the stores and we ate lunch in our favourite 50's-themed diner, Rinky-Tinks, with a bit of Elvis on the juke box. In Rinky-Tinks Venturing outside the square for a change, we strolled along a pleasant street and found a park.  Standing in a playground for the afternoon would not previously have been high on our list of weekend-away activities, but having a one-year-old kinda changes your perspective on these things.  Toby discovered slides for the first time and went righ