Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Normal? What is normal?

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Yesterday I found myself reading developmental FAQ's on one of my favorite websites,  I get weekly updates every Monday based on Sabrina's age and what typical milestones are for babies at this age.  The posts always end with this same phrase: "Remember, your baby is an individual".

As mothers, we LOVE to talk about our babies.  Their milestones, their tantrums, the adorable things they do on a regular basis.  But how often do we unintentionally affect another mother who may be listening or reading?  Who may be thinking to herself that her baby hasn't quite reached that milestone yet?  That starts us down the road that all mothers inevitably walk at some point (for me, daily!) in our child's life: Is my child "normal"?

The word normal used to be harmless.  Never really gave much thought to it.  In this day and age of being politically correct (and rightfully so, I'm not arguing against that!), we have to examine words like "normal" and "typical" and the effects they have on those around us.

So far, Sabrina has been a pretty "normal" baby.  We've had our shares of issues- jaundice, latching issues, slow weight gain (hah! makes me laugh now), acid reflux- but no issues outside what many parents of newborns and infants face.  We've had our share of issues with the S word- SLEEP- and read tirelessly to try to find the perfect solution to this "normal" problem.  

The thing about normal is, especially to someone experiencing something for the first time, how do they know what is normal if they've never experienced it themselves?  And what if my baby's reflux symptoms are not the same as someone else's baby's symptoms?  It is a slippery slope, to classify something as "normal" and potentially put it out of one's mind.  Every parent asks themself, what if it isn't normal?  What if my child has autism, or what if they have issues with their gross motor skills?  My child isn't really talking much- is that normal?  What should I do?

The only true advice I have to offer comes from my favorite TV show and favorite character, one Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS.  TRUST YOUR GUT.  I was talking to a dear friend of mine for a bit today, whose son was born 1 week to the day after Sabrina.  We were chatting via text, she congratulating me on my promotion, me saying that I was jealous of her, who quit her full time job in favor of a 2 day a week part time job.  I mentioned Sabrina crawling everywhere and tiring me out, to which my friend replied that her little one isn't crawling yet.  And you know what?  That's 100% normal.  Just like it's normal that her little one has had teeth for months now, whereas my Sabrina doesn't have one pearly white to show for the massive amounts of drool pouring from her mouth.  And that's normal too, although I joke that I may end up needing to get her dentures eventually.  We mothers (and fathers) have a natural instinct when it comes to our children.  We shouldn't compare our kids to each other, or let other kids' milestones take away from our own little one's milestones.  Each child, even within the same family, is an individual.  It's okay for them to do things on their own timetable, when they are ready.  But if your gut is telling you that something might need some attention, or that maybe something doesn't seem quite right, by all means trust that feeling and do something about it.  Early intervention can make a big difference if something does need the attention of a professional.  And if everything turns out to be "normal", you aren't any worse for the wear and have that peace of mind.

Normal is whatever you want it to be.  I have friends who have children with autism, and their normal is a heck of a lot different than my normal.  Everyone's version of normal is different and fits into their own life.  In that way, we're all normal and abnormal at the same time.  Let's love our children for who they are, and worry far less about what is or is not normal.

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