"I just want to be a 'normal' kid!"
When my son said this to me, I wanted to answer with this:
"Normal is a setting on a washing machine."
Because he is bigger, faster, and stronger than me.
But, that doesn't change the fact that my answer would have been correct. And still. . . he aches for it. I've ached for it. We all have pined after this elusive utopia called normality. The problem?
It doesn't exist.
There just isn't a normal. Noone has normal figured out. Noone really has anything figured out. And the "normal" of teenagehood in America--I don't really want my kids anywhere near that normal. The "norms" of underage drinking, pre-marital sex, anxiety, self-harm, depression, and addiction are real and I'm really hoping my kids can stay in the abnormal category as often as possible. And the adult American definitions of "normal" aren't much better. We are an anxious people; sleeping less, spending more, and comparing often. If that is the "norm," I'd like to stay as far away from that as possible myself.
There is an important conversation that happens shortly after you are married. It is fundamental for the future success of the union. It's the Christmas conversation. This is the moment when you look each other in the eye and list the Christmas traditions of your childhood and come to the shocking realization that the human you love more than any human in the entire world was raised the wrong way. Oatmeal for breakfast before stockings?? How did this marriage even happen??
We survived this conversation by compromise. Fine, I agreed to breakfast BEFORE stockings, but it had to be an actual breakfast--we are talking whipped cream and waffles. I mean, were we living in Alcatraz? Sheesh. Now, we have a new Christmas. We made the unforgiveable blunder a few years ago of trying to mess with the normal (there's that word again) order of things for what we thought would be a fun skiing Christmas.
Nope. Won't do that again.
But, our "normal" Christmas looks nothing like yours. And yours barely resembles someone elses. Because, let me say this again,
THERE IS NO NORMAL.
There just isn't. There is happiness and unhappiness. There is what works and what doesn't work. There are years when you have energy to hide an elf daily and create elaborate posed scenarios for him and there are years when it's a win to remember the kids' names and have enough leftover newspaper to wrap the present you bought on Christmas Eve. And those two ends of the spectrum as well as the shades of rainbow between them can each produce delightful memories. . . even if they are memories that invoke laughter at the all around pathetic nature of our efforts. We just hold on to them and laugh. Because being pathetic from time to time is part of the joy of being human. And that's what we all are. None of us are "normal." But we are all human. We are messy, hopeful, hurting, loving, falling, flailing, brilliant humans, all spinning around trying to stay as clean as possible.
Let's drop the chase for normality. Buck the trend. Embrace the peculiar and follow the happiness that comes from lifting each other up in our own medicocre and unique ways. We are all we've got and we will squander years and years away if we cling to this idea that the only way we can fit in and be happy is if we fit in some box of normal. I don't believe God created us to be box fitters. I believe He created us to be box builders, connecting and shaping and revising over and over and over as we each help each other get back to Him having learned lessons that only life can teach us.
I don't think God sent me here to be normal. I think He sent me here to be anything but. So, I'll use the washing machine for my clothes. But, I'm going to dig a little deeper when it comes to my soul.