Why Be Normal?

The world tries so hard to knock the edges off our children and make them fit into that smooth, round hole we call normal. I think normal is overrated. We have enough normal. We need different, exceptional, weird, and oppositional. Einstein said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." To think differently, you need to be different. I saw a t-shirt that read, "Why try to fit in when you were meant to stand out?" Exactly! Our children are not meant to fit in. If we do polish off those rough edges, they will lose an important piece of their authentic selves. The piece you shave away might just be the one that could have steered them toward greatness. They might blaze an erratic and frightening path at times, but we need to help them stay on that path, however tough it is on all of us.

As a parent of exceptional children, there are some days I would kill for normal. Just once I would like to have my instructions carried out without having to hold a debate. I would like to watch my son interact with friends and feel confident that nothing will hit the fan. I am jealous of parents who can drop their kids off at school and have the whole day to themselves. It would be fantastic to put my children to bed at 8:00 pm and have some adult time with my husband. Imagine not having to make the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I wonder what I might accomplish if so much of my time wasn't spent dealing with an abnormal kid?

Despite exhausting, unpredictable days, I wouldn't want my kids to feel they had to fit into a preconceived notion of who they should become. My daughter's spacey, dreamy, out-of-this-world time (lack of) management comes from the same well of creativity that drives her to write for hours at a time. My son's eccentric, all-night math sessions that use up reams of paper (and my energy) are part of what keeps him lit from within. I can't bring myself to rein in those behaviors which are driving them to explore their inner selves. I wish I could find a school environment staffed with knowledgeable people who could nurture those traits.

I often work with parents who are hoping to find that for their children too. A good match happens occasionally; but more often than not, no such place exists. It seems the more exceptional the child, the less likely the possibility of finding a school that meets their needs. Miracia Gross, a leading expert on profoundly gifted children, believes that children on the high end of the gifted spectrum waste virtually all of their time in a typical classroom. Even programs for gifted children don't usually go far enough to intellectually challenge our kids. There seems to be a scholastic glass ceiling which prevents them from rising to their full potential.

So what are we supposed to do? The key seems to be in really listening to your child and being open to their possibilities and ideas. You have to put your own hopes, dreams, and agendas to the side while you explore the options with your child. It might require you to give up your preconceived notions about the path to success. You may need to rethink your priorities. You may even need to rearrange your life. But it is worth it. You will protect their unique abilities and keep the world from making them normal.