Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Scariest Word

For most of my life, the worst word, the worst insult, the worst thing to be was normal. I hated normal. Normal was boring and sad and pedestrian. I didn't want to dress normal or talk normal or read normal or listen normal or care normal. I wanted to dress weird, talk weird, read weird things, listen to weird music and care about weird things. I fought to separate myself from normal.

I know now that my rebellion was still normal. And that even if it hadn't been. Even if I was rebelling when no one else was, I was rebelling in all the normal ways. I didn't dress like the "normal" kids, but I didn't dress like no one else, I dressed like the "weird" kids. I found cultural identity while trying to shed cultural identity.

Even now, I don't want to be called normal. When the doctor tells me my thyroid levels are "in the range of normal," I bristle. I don't want to be normal. I want to be excellent. Different. Better, smarter, crazier, prettier, better. I don't want to read best sellers because that's what normal people read. I don't want to listen to music on the radio because that's what normal people listen to. I still haven't outgrown my intense and overwhelming desire to be something else. Something spectacular. Something different. Something weird.

Being a mother gives me a new perspective on normal, though.

When Brynna had her hearing tested after her ear surgery and the doctor said it was back in the range of normal, I nearly cried with joy. When her teacher says that her stress over social interactions at school is normal I breathe a sigh of relief. When she struggles with something, I want to know if that's normal. When she fights something I want to know if that's normal.

I have looked up each and every milestone she has reached to make sure her timing was normal. I have queried on bulletin boards and asked, "Is this normal?" I have read stories of others' children and thought, "Brynna does/doesn't do that. Is she normal?"

I used to read a blog about a little girl who had SPD and I would think about all the things that this little girl and my little girl had in common and wonder if Brynna had SPD. Was she going to struggle? Would she be normal?

Today, I read a post on Girls Gone Child about siblings. I cried. And I cried. And then I cried some more. Not because I get it. I don't. I was 13 when my only sibling was born. But, because I read this story of a boy who loves his sister pushing her into a table and I felt, "Oh. It's normal. What Brynna does is normal. Their relationship is normal. It's all going to be okay, because thank God, they are normal."

I have worried for months about their relationship. About the jealousy (on both parts, Maren won't let me read to Brynna without pounding on her door), about the outbursts, the anger, the frustration, the hurt.

Last night, at the grocery, Maren bit Brynna. Hard. Left teeth marks. For a moment, I thought she had broken skin. Brynna cried, demanded a band-aid, extorted a chocolate bar. But she wasn't mad at Maren. "Her teeth probably hurt," she said, "She wouldn't have done it if she had her paci."

I underestimate Brynna. Time and time again, I think I know what she will do, how she will react. "I know my kid." I reassure myself. And time and time again, she surprises me. She acts with patience and forgiveness when I wait for revenge. She acts with kindness when I expect callousness. She is so much more than I expect her to be.

She is beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful. She is kind. Most of the time. She is smart. Worrisome smart. She is creative. More creative than I have ever been. She is a writer. An artist. A craftsman. An intellectual. A questioner. A fighter. A peacemaker. A warrior. A determined soul. A sponge. An elegant lady. A tree climber. A tom boy. A girly girl. An angel. A troublemaker.

Ask Brynna what she wants to be when she grows up and she will shrug and say, "Lots of things." The list includes, but is not limited to astronaut, singer, teacher, mother, dog groomer, vet, ballerina, princess, cowgirl, firegirl (the Brynna-ized female fireman). I want to tell her. I want to make sure she knows that she doesn't have to wait until she's grown up to be lots of things. She is lots of things now. She is so much. So much.

So much more than normal. So much better than normal. I look at her and I see the kind of abnormal I always wanted to be.


Suze said...

I loved this. I really, really loved reading this.

And I am on the other end of the spectrum with worrying about "normal" sibling relationships. My little bro and I fought like cat and dog when we were little - hair-pulling, biting, sitting on each other and farting, there was really no limit. And now we're the best of friends. So even if I worry about everything else with my kids, I never worry about that!

Your daughters are gorgeous.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Oh, wow. Such an awesome post! I, too, always strove to be not-normal in the most spectacular way I could... but only because I knew I could never BE normal (although I wanted to be, oh, how I wanted to be). I figured if I couldn't be normal like I wanted to be, I could then be the most spectacular abnormal I could - but only wound up being a pain in the a$$.

As far as sibling rivalry goes, my bro and I went through it to the nth degree. We literally tried to kill each other on several occassions - hands around each other's necks, squeezing as tight as we could until one of us (usually me) passed out from lack of oxygen to the brain; smacking the hell out of each other with 6' long cane poles while balancing on the ridge line of the roof (each of us secretly hoping the other would be hurtled off the side)... and all of this before I had even reached the age of 12! Yes, my family was completely dysfunctional, and we're lucky my brother and I survived. True, we grew out of this horrid phase once we both reached high school, but prior to that being around the two of us was a nightmare. My past relationship with my brother makes me oh, so glad that Jamie is an only child.

Okay, I'll stop hijacking your blog now. This comment was supposed to let you know how much I loved this post, and instead I rambled on about myself. Sorry, duckie!

Jessi said...

Thanks guys. *blush* The whole sibling thing is hard for me, because I just never had it. I mean, I have my baby brother and I love him more than life, but being 13 years older means that we never really had rivalry. The occasional annoyance was as bad as it got. Sometimes I just can't understand why they don't just get along they way I always figured I would if I had a closer sibling.

Ms. Chapi said...

Jessi, I just stumbled upon your blog and I am glad that I did. This is a beautiful post and I know Brynna will be all of those things and more.

Ms. Chapi said...

Does this qualify me for the scarf contest?

Ms. Chapi said...

sibling relationships are not always pretty...when my little brother was Brynna's age I kicked him and his face hit a table knocking four of his front teeth out but he still loves me.