When I took on this whole parenting thing, I didn’t want or expect children with autism. I knew very little about autism, disabilities, or my own neurological differences. I wasn’t an advocate. I didn’t even know that parents needed advocacy skills.
That being said, I didn’t want or expect “normal” children either. Both my husband and I are different from the norm. Part of that difference—part of what we’ve come to understand about ourselves through our efforts to raise our children—is that we’re neurologically divergent. Mostly, though, we’re just weird. And we actually like it that way!
“In the world, but not of the world” is a common Christian phrase used to describe the relationship Christians are expected to seek with their surroundings. The general idea is that Christians are called to live in and act upon the world—love your neighbor, do good unto them that hate you, etc.—but are not supposed to be of the world—seduced into worldly beliefs, worshipping idols, etc. It’s a delicate balance between maintaining our beliefs and acting on them.
When I think of “normal,” I think of people who are “of the world.” I think of how “business ethics” is accepted as an oxymoron. I think of how bullies are accepted in schools as part of the way things are and always will be. I think of how people think it’s unrealistic to expect us to end things like rape, molestation, and domestic abuse. I think of how it’s “normal” to cheat on your taxes or steal from your employers. It’s “normal” to use or manipulate others. These behaviors are perfectly normal, even expected, and yet there’s nothing admirable or praiseworthy about them. They are “of the world.”
Now, I’m not saying everyone who is consistent with the neurological or physical human norm do these things, nor am I claiming that people who are not consistent with the neurological or physical human norm don’t do these things. I’m just saying that when I hear “normal,” I think of the many unethical and irresponsible “normal” behaviors that permeate my society and the world.
I never wanted my kids to be normal!
I suppose that made it easier to accept my children as they are for who they are. Then again, I accept my step-son, who is neurologically normal, as he is for who is. I try to teach all of my children how to live good, responsible, ethical lives. I don’t want any of them to settle for being “of the world.” I don’t want any of my children to be normal.