My “Normal For Me” Story
Have you ever had a regular day that morphed into a terrible, soul-wrenching day capped off with a life-changing moment?
For me, it all began on a beautiful spring day in Arkansas, following a long, cold winter. After dinner, I glanced out the window and saw couples and families walking down the street enjoying the warmth and sunlight as it faded into evening. The end of a gorgeous day beckoned.
My husband, Justin, and I decided to follow suit and take the children on a walk. Getting the kids ready to go anywhere was a bit like herding grasshoppers.
My Wild and Crazy Children
Jordan was the leader of the pack at age seven and the only one of my four children who could verbally communicate with us at the time. We asked him to get his shoes . . . and if he didn’t get distracted, he might just come back with them without too many prompts.
Nathan, age six, was our “stealth bomber.” Quiet and sneaky, he preferred streaking through the house with as little clothing as possible. So going anywhere with him usually required some redressing. (Parenting tip: don’t put Nathan’s shoes on until you walk out the door, or he will take them off, and you will do it all over again.)
We called Jacob, age two and half, our escape artist. He climbed anything he shouldn’t climb, and got into everything! In the perspective of an old fable, Nathan would be our tortoise, and Jacob would be our hare—so wickedly fast, it’s a chore to catch him!
Still at the carry stage, Noelle, our baby girl was easy. No chasing required. Just plop her into one half of the double stroller, buckle her up, and she was good to go. Jacob got the seat of honor in the other side of the stroller so we don’t have to run after him every five seconds.
Thirty minutes AFTER deciding to take a walk, we exited the front door to breathe in the beautiful spring evening.
The Walk…or Lack Thereof
Our calm, successful excursion lasted less than five minutes. Half way down the street Nathan began a huge tantrum. He did the “leg drop” kids do when you’re holding their hand, forcing you to either drag them or carry them. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he brought chaos to the quiet evening. No words . . . just crying. He didn’t want to go on a walk and nothing we could do or say could convince him otherwise. We even tried bribery, but it is hard when your words don’t penetrate into understanding.
My husband scooped Nathan up and took him home, and I dutifully finished the walk with the other three children. As the sun commenced its descent, my heart sank with it. By the time I returned home, I felt overwhelmed and flooded with despair.
The Heartfelt Prayer & Answer
Once I had the children settled for the night, I fell on my knees, my heart aching. Questions spilled from my anguished, weeping soul: Why do we have two children with autism? Wasn’t one enough? Why is life so hard? Why can’t we just go on walks like a normal family? Why can’t we be a “normal” family?
Somewhere amidst all my blubbering came a firm, yet kind answer. God simply whispered, “Tamara, this IS normal for you.”
This simple truth surprised me as it resounded over and over within me.
The more I thought about it, I realized I had never known “normal” as other families experience it. I have two “typically-developing” children, and two little boys blessed, and challenged, with autism. That is my normal—what God gave me to love and cherish.
Once I saw myself in that light, asking all those “Why” questions I’d been so intensely anguished over became ludicrous. I had fallen into the unhappy trap of comparing my family, my children, and my life to others. I needed to free myself from those comparisons and embrace the gifts with which I’d been blessed. Tamara, this is your life! These are the challenges you have been given.
God pushed back my fog of despair and doubt and lifted me to a higher level of understanding. No, my life wasn’t what we would call “normal.” But, then again, whose life is “normal?”
Enjoy and Share my “normal for me” story!