Nine months into Juan’s nursery journey, aged almost three years old his nursery teachers gleefully told me – with my son sitting crying hysterically on the floor – “He has been just like a normal two year old running outside today.”
And maybe nine years ago when I first launched into the world of Autism as a parent, I would have been pleased by that statement – seen it as progress – an ability to fit into the world. I know that’s how his teacher felt. She wasn’t being dismissive or rude, she was genuinely pleased.
But today all I saw was the boy crumpled on the floor in a sea of his own tears, the boy who came home and begged to go to bed – even though he hadn’t yet had lunch, the boy who within a minute of being in bed had fallen fast asleep. Today I saw the boy – my boy – who had given too much, who had paid too high a price for ‘normal’.
Because the truth is that normal is overrated. Really overrated.
Happy is what matters.
I want my boy to know he doesn’t have to be ‘normal’ – whatever that is anyway. I want him to know that it’s ok to be him – the extraordinary person he is. In fact it’s better than ok – it’s exactly who he should be. That I will never ask him to be anyone other than the wonderfully unique individual he is.
It’s days like today that I wonder if we are doing the right thing sending him to nursery and ultimately to school, or if indeed we are just sending him to a world which will never allow him the individuality he deserves.
Like everything in our world it is a balancing act.
I know that both my children given the choice would opt to say at home. For Laura, school is the only place outside of home she feels safe. And yet it wasn’t always that way. Just like with Juan the early years were tough.
If I thought accessing homeschooling groups, museums and activities would lessen their anxiety rather than add to it – my decision would be an easy one. It is not the academic teaching that worries me, it’s not balancing work around my children – it’s how I balance making some social interaction a part of their day – or even their week – in the least stressful way for them.
I often tell myself that as we embark on this journey a second time around that decisions should be easier, but the truth is they aren’t. They are every bit as difficult as they were the first time around, and in some ways perhaps even more so.
Because I now I know the impact of getting them wrong, but I also know how incredible things can be when we get them right.
I have no idea where we will end up on our journey, but I do know that I will always champion my son’s right to be extraordinary.
In our house happiness will always take precedence over normality.
And my children will always be loved for being exactly who they are.