A few months back we went to our daughter’s preschool for parent-teacher conferences. As most parents do, we walked in her classroom with the knowledge that our daughter was NOT, in fact, on any sort of normal trajectory, because we knew for sure that she was spectacular. The smartest kid who ever lived! Seriously, look at how brilliant our daughter is?! She is so emotionally advanced and her cognitive skills and abilities are WAY above other kids her age! This was not just our bias–it was a fact, right?
Our meeting started and we listened to her teacher tell us all the ways our daughter was “right on track,” what was “usual” for her age, how she was “adapting very well to her community of peers,” and how it was “all to be expected.”
In other words, our daughter was just normal.
Around the same time my husband got really sick. Not to delve into too many details, because as with most serious illnesses, the in’s and out’s are treacherous and confusing. We were really worried. He had to schedule an MRI of his brain so we could hopefully rule out tumors or some other unheard of disease that I’d convinced myself he absolutely had. One quick note on my husband’s brain: this dude is a genius. He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He has the uncanny ability to be relatable and compassionate, and logical and level-headed, all at the same time. It’s his super power. I expected his results to be extraordinary. One way or another, positive or negative, they would surely find some sort of magnificent peculiarity about his brain, because even without this sickness, his brain is advanced to say the least.
The test results came back with a quick note from the radiologist: “This brain is unremarkable.” No tumors. No sickness. No magical powers. In other words, my husband was just normal.
Also, I’m pregnant. I’m actually nearing the end of my pregnancy with our second child. A boy. As most of you reading probably know, pregnancy is basically just a time where you are consistently monitored and weighed and measured and watched and judged, because every move you make will determine whether or not your unborn baby will be a genius or a complete loser. And all of this speculation and judgement causes us to crave some proof that our unborn baby will be the smartest baby ever born, the healthiest baby to ever emerge from the womb, NO problems with anything at all!
I had this experience when I went in for my 20-week ultrasound and the results showed that my baby was measuring in the 97th percentile. In other words, I was going to have the BIGGEST BABY EVVVVERRRR! My doctor was worried. I was worried. My husband was probably worried, but just didn’t show it (you know, because of his unbelievably advanced brain power). I was scheduled to go back in for another ultrasound a month later that would surely show me I was on my way to the Guiness Book of World Records. The results of the second ultrasound came back and showed that my baby was measuring in the 30th percentile. In other words, I was going to have the SMALLEST BABY EVVVVERRR!
Moral of the story: my baby was somewhere in the middle of huge and tiny. So maybe he was huge at one point. Maybe he’s tiny right now. Maybe the ultrasound tech just got it all wrong. Or maybe, he is just normal.
As human beings we search for things that set us apart from each other. And as mothers, this pressure is even greater. Every child we produce is a direct reflection of our self-worth. Our children must be the best, the brightest, the nicest. However, we often forget about the parents who really do have a child that is totally one-of-a-kind, extraordinary, remarkable. Some of those kids are born with rare genetic mutations or develop life-threatening illnesses or go through nightmares that no parent would ever wish on their worst enemy…
This reminds me that my child does not need to be remarkable.
She is normal and that is enough. In fact, it is more than enough. It is knowing that she is going to be ok, that my husband is just what he should be, that my body knows how to grow a baby. It is looking at our stretch marks and sagging breasts and scars and knowing that this remarkable thing, to create a life, happens thousands of times every day, all around the world. This miracle is actually just normal. And, in fact, there is nothing more remarkable than that simple truth.