One time JJ and I enjoyed a “date night” solo. Literally, solo. He went to the cinema* to enjoy popcorn and an action flick while I parked my overly pregnant self on the couch to watch the Fame remake. The oldest was still just a babe, asleep upstairs, and the entire movie made me think about the expectations we have on kids. The movie followed teenagers gifted in the arts – dance, music and the like – and the way in which they found an accepting community among other misfits. And once they did, they blossomed.
I wondered about our little one. Would he be the average bear, loving baseball, hating spelling bees and asking for Air Jordans? (Do kids still wear these? He’s been retired for 15 years now. Teenagers now wouldn’t have seen him play in full glory.) Yet, that wasn’t the real question. I was really asking myself, would I accept it if my kid wasn’t “normal” and do what was needed to help him thrive? Could I be okay with a “weird” kid?
In theory, I wanted a Fame kid. The idea of quirkiness and artistic gifts spoke well to me. How great to have a kid so comfortable in being different my Optimist Self thought. And then Realist Michele sat down to the table and pretty much killed the party. I know you, she said, and you won’t dig it. You’ll look around at the other kids who are normal and wish yours was that way. And she was so, so, so right. She was right, less in a statement of parenting, but rather my own desire to fit in with mainstream life. I constantly struggle in my desire to be normal. I worry that when I let all the crazy out, potential friends or even family will run for the hills.
I love our weirdish little way of life, I really do. Our way of eating local and whole, albeit breadless, has us feeling good on a regular basis. I’m gleefully happy with our Reggio preschool, which focuses on helping kids develop as a whole person, not just becoming the ideal 5-year-old with perfect letters, even when “he’s not reading yet”. The fact that I work just enough – which means we make just enough money and not a lot more – keeps us humble in such a healthy way.
Yet. And yet.
I hate that part of me striving toward normal: Wishing we had more. Wishing my kid could eat cake without me squinting. Laying to rest all the worries and apprehensions of sending our kids to public school. I want to stop scheduling and then rescheduling doctor’s appointments to continue delaying a vaccination because he has a rash.
Part of me craves to be normal. To take what is given and be happy. To accept a way of life that works for so many. Part of me really wants to give in and say “it’s fine!” in a way that clearly marks everything is all but fine.
I have several friends who live a very mainstream and very happy life. They are completely content and I am thrilled for them. I want them to be less like me and more happy and content. That’s the goal, right? Happy, content, fulfilled, living out your gifts and calling while surrounded with people you love. So I wish for them to be less like Michele.
I just need Michele to become more comfortable becoming Michele. In all her weird glory.
My eyes have been opened and now I cannot unsee. I taste for something from life that cannot be satisfied with fast food solutions to which our culture defaults. Easier, quicker, more and normal have left me frustrated, empty, disillusioned and lonely. The courage to live that out in the hard places, however, sometimes lags behind the valor I use in my words. “Normal” continues to tempt me toward settling, as if everyone else’s life will be my solution.
*You hear my Brittish accent there, right? The cinema?