Thanks to Deb Farnham
Why special needs parents need to connect with each other
Or who the heck is really normal out there anyway?
Before you start to raise your hand and say, hey, wait a gosh darned minute, I’m normal, take a look around you. You are probably normal based on your immediate social group – or those folks you choose to surround yourself with. You compare yourself based on seeing similarities, and ignoring those subtle differences that could make you appear strange or different in contrast to your peer group.
Yep, I said it. Peer group.
Although you’re probably not in high school, I’m talking about those folks you hang out with regularly, maybe friends and relations might be a better term than peers, but those folks are probably a lot like you in terms of income, ethnicity, political view, religion, and so on. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be hanging out with them, would you?
So the concept of normal is mostly statistically based, it describes a curve that summarizes data points on a graph, and yep, you got it, it can really only capture stuff you can measure. Like income, and physical traits like height, and some crazy quantifiable things like IQ scores. So you are probably hanging with folks who are as ‘bout as rich or poor as you are. If you were to plot your incomes, it’d be a nice, normal curve. (I’ve talked about this before over here.)
But what about the idea of being normal socially?
Well, go back to your group you’re comparing yourself to.
Is your peer group (or buds) primarily white, Christian, republican Trump supporters? If you are too (no shame, just saying), you are pretty ‘normal’ or to use the colloquial term loosely, ‘average’ for your group. Your social and societal norms and expectations are based on the folks you hang out with. They see the world pretty much the same way you do.
So let’s take that white, Christian, republican Trump supporter and drop them into a pit of liberal lesbian feminists. Or a biker gang. Or a gay disco. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter, because now all of a sudden, you’re the odd one out.
Your peer group, the one that formerly shaped your societal norms and expectations has dramatically changed. So either you change, or you find a new peer group.
Kinda like culture shock.
But, under it all – are you normal?
You no longer fit in with your peer group (I’m looking at you, Trump supporter now fending off libreral lesbian feminists) so technically, you’re not normal – you are in fact an outlier, and now not at all reflective of your group in the least.
So what the heck does all this have to do with special needs?
The land of special needs is two things at once – it’s a sudden immersion into a strange and baffling world that overwhelms you (aka culture shock). And it’s also a wedge that divides you from more prosaically ‘normal’ folks.
Like Hotel California, once you’re in this place, you can never leave.
What is it to sit and listen to another parent talk about benign childhood issues like homework or nighttime waking when you’re terrified your kid’s gonna have another seizure and you won’t be there. Or they might just stop breathing during the night. Or you know that no matter how hard they try, your child will never learn to read.
So although on the surface, this parent and you might seem very similar (same neighbourhood, school, similar income) – your realities are worlds apart. You implicitly understand this, the other parent (teacher, coach, grandparent, whatever) might never get it.
You have lost your normal – for good.
Welcome to it. Halfpastnormal is who we are, what about you?
How do you bring your normal back? You look for it, wherever the hell you can. Twitter, Facebook and the good ol’ web are great places to start. Find a Facebook group of similar (or not so) folks who face the same kind of issues you do. You’d be surprised at what a small place this world truly is.
And honestly, Trump supporters aside (or heck, maybe even including them), you’d be surprised at how sharing a common diagnosis truly does bring people together.
My friends and followers come from all kinds of places, geographically and politically – folks span from Christian (or not) right to liberal left, to an anarchist mixed up libertarian middle place. We might have different opinions on all kinds of things (and often see eye to eye in surprising ways); but, let me tell you, that if somebody’s kid is sick or having a rough time, folks come together to support each other.
And that’s as it should be.
Welcome to halfpastnormal, just one stop in the land of special needs.