I have a son who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy before he turned 1-year-old; he is 6 now. He has 3 younger brothers living at home with him as well as his mother and myself. I have 4 sisters, 1 brother, 1 brother-in-law, 2 nieces, and 2 nephews. My wife has 1 sister, 1 brother, and 1 sister-in-law. Counting my parents and my wife’s parents, we have 23 people in our “immediate family.” If that number is expanded to include aunts, uncles, and cousins we are talking about 50+ people. Caedmon is the only one with Cerebral Palsy.
We used to live in a small village in North Carolina called Highlands and he was the only person we knew of with Cerebral Palsy. He was the only one we were aware of at his elementary school with CP, and certainly the only child using a wheel chair. Does that make him abnormal? The idea that hs is not normal is inferred in most of the questions that we field about Caedmon. But I must ask, “What is normal anyway?”
I am the only member of my immediate family that is 6’5″ tall; am I abnormal?
My sister-in-law Lisa is the only masochist who volunteers for triathlons; is she abnormal?
My sister Gina is the only one who suffered a spinal cord injury and now uses a cane and a wheelchair; is she abnormal?
My brother Daniel is the only one whose metabolism is faster than his food consumption; is he abnormal?
I trust that my point is clear. Normal is very difficult to define. Eyes can be green, brown, blue, and hazel. Some people have fair skin, some darker, and still some peppered with freckles. You might be tall or short, skinny or muscular, bald or hairy, or any number of other variations within the human form. So why is someone with Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, or Autism abnormal? Why not you? Why not me?
Are we sure normal is even a good thing? Consider some of the word’s synonyms…
average, commonplace, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, typical, or unexceptional.
Do any of us want to be defined by those words? The opposite is actually true. We are infatuated with terms like…
Unique, exceptional, a-cut-above, out-of-the-box, extraordinary, or above average.
Yet, when you look at the classic antonyms of “normal” look what we find…
abnormal, irregular, odd, strange, and unusual.
They all have a negative connotation don’t they? Sadly, these are the words that float through most stranger’s minds when they see my son. Those that know him wouldn’t use those words, but many of us struggle in the depths of our souls with the public perception. Why are things this way?
When we see a child in a wheelchair, why don’t we think exceptional and extraordinary? Why do we drift toward the more negative ideas?
I have my ideas, but I will save them for another blog. Today, I just want us to reconsider “normal.” I want each of us to embrace our abnormality and call it beautiful. What makes me unique, makes me special. Caedmon has Cerebral Palsy, so he is said to have special needs. I have special needs too. To my wife, all of my needs are special 🙂
We all have an image of “normal” in our minds and it’s a bad thing. To a young girl with an eating disorder, the skewed idea of “normal” is destroying her body. To the athlete tempted by steroids, the skewed idea of normal is contaminating him. To the child in a wheelchair, the skewed idea of normal can rob him of hope.
This idea of “normal” leads to hate. This “normal” leads to genocide.
If you and I can truly accept that nobody’s normal, then we can begin to celebrate the majesty of our unique design.
I thank God that nobody’s normal. Not in my house anyway.