Normalcy?

What is normal? The Oxford dictionary defines it as such:

normal

• adjective 1 conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. 2 technical intersecting a given line or surface at right angles.

• noun 1 the normal state or condition. 2 technical a line at right angles to a given line or surface.

— DERIVATIVES normalcy noun (chiefly N. Amer.) normality noun normally adverb.

Since my encounter with Sharon, I’ve been thinking a LOT about how one constitutes what a “normal” family is… We’ve all got our preconceived ideas of what “normal” is, but I don’t actually believe that there is really such a thing as a “normal” family.

For some a “normal” family was one where there is a mommy and a daddy and two kids who live in a nice house and probably have a dog (or two) or cat (or goldfish, hamsters, rabbits etc) to go along with it. They all smile all the time and love each other dearly. The kids hold each others hands when crossing the road cos they are super close and “normal”. They play happily in the garden throwing balls for the dog that never snaps or yelps cos they’re “normal”. But to me, one should always consider what goes on behind the façade. Behind the exterior picture that we all get to see. Cos sometimes, sometimes not all is as “normal” as we like to think. Mom might get smacked around by Dad every now and then when he’s had too much to drink. Dad might call Mom a whore in front of her kids. Maybe the dog steals food off the kid’s plates. And the kids, well they don’t actually really like each other all that much.

Ok maybe it’s not like that, maybe they do all love each other and Mom and Dad are fine. But Mom has a body image issue and because of that she pushes it onto her young daughter – always reminding her to take care of her figure, to watch what she eats, to exercise regularly, to stay slim and nubile. Dad might not have gone to university and because of that pushes his children to the limit to always produce *the* best grades at school so that they can go where he never did. He kills himself to make sure that he provides for this eventuality – but never gets to spend time with them just shooting the breeze and getting to know them. He missed out on all the “good” stuff.

I’m not knocking any specific family here, but all I’m trying to say is that to me, in my mind, no family is ever “normal”. There will always be *something* that tarnishes the brand of “normal”. Even if sometimes that tarnish is the pressure on the family to look like it is “normal” to everyone else. Talking from personal experience its damn hard work making sure everyone thinks your family is so “normal”.

I know that parents in general do the best they know how.

And I don’t think that most parents do what they do to their kids deliberately. I know many parents who so desperately want to stop the cycle they found themselves in as children so they tend to do everything total opposite to the way they were brought up. But surely there is always going to be *something* that we do to mess our kids up? Some small insecurity that we will place in their hearts or minds without even knowing we’ve done it to them? Some small (or large) action that breaks their hearts? Snapping at them in anger when they don’t really deserve it cos we’re bone tired and frustrated?

Its cos of what I’ve outlined above that I don’t believe there is such thing as a “normal” family.  Also because we each perceive normal in our own way. I recently read a book about a boy who was so severely abused by his mother – she burned him, stabbed him, starved him and worse. It made me sick to my stomach. That is not normal, but while this man was a boy he thought it was normal to be treated like this. Some children think it normal to have parents who shout and swear at each other. Some think that touching and being touched in private places is normal.

The definition of “normal” above does not cut it for me. Cos if one believes that definition it means that there is a litmus test that one should be able to do and compare your “normal” family against the standard. And families and the dynamics that they weave often do not have a standard. What works for one does not necessarily work for another.

What do you consider normal in terms of family? I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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10 thoughts on “Normalcy?

  1. Lets see…. Today, Abby spent the better half of the afternoon doing the “Electric Slide” buck naked. Hubs tried to program some Bible verse look-up thingie onto his blog, I showered my mom, made lunch and tried to stay awake after getting home at 3am last night b/c I took the 14 yr old to see Harry Potter at 12:01. We played Candyland and Abby beat us all, let her gloat for an hour or so… she stubbed her toe and muttered “shit” under her breath.

    That’s my normal. We are not perfect… but love is in the house.. and at the end of the day? I think that counts.

    Great thought provoking post, beautiful!

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  2. hmmm Well since I came from a family that was totally screwed up.. I guess I always wanted that “normal” family that you described. My family was so full of every kind of horrible abuse you could imagine. And honestly, it showed. So, when I looked at that happy family, I thought that they couldn’t possibly have the problems that we did and look that wonderful.

    But, as I grow older I am realizing that it’s simply not true. There was a family of three that I was acquainted with. I was so jealous of the thier wonderful life that I wanted to puke. Well, the husband was just found dead in his car, from suicide. So yeah… I am starting to realize that maybe when you see that perfect family that they are just trying to cover up thier imperfections. My family did an awful job of covering up.

    No body and no family is totally normal and honestly, I think that’s a pretty unfair thing for anyone to compare themselves to. It just isn’t realistic. Everyone has thier problems.

    It’s weird.. I can rattle off a list of things that I consider “abnormal” but, I can’t come up with a good definition of “normal”. hmm.. You made me think, Sam.

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  3. I have to agree! Each one of us has our own private definition of what is “normal” and our own definition of “normal” is largely made up of what we experience growing up. As an adult I believe that I come from a largely disfunctional family! I never realized it growing up, my parents don’t drink, smoke, abuse us or each other. I grew up in a loving family, in what most people would consider a “normal” family. But we still have our issues!
    So what is “normal” I don’t believe “normal” even exists!

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  4. This is a tough one, I think you’re right tho. We do all define what’s normal differently and what we define as normal is normally the total opposite of what our family life was like.

    It’s really hard to find the balance and let’s face it, we don’t know what it’s like to be parents, I am sure that all parents try their best and altho the things that they do don’t always makes sense to us, it must have made some kind of sense to them at that point in time. It’s too easy to try and compare and to point fingers….

    We can only hope that what we do with our children oneday is the best that we can do. We can hope that they think of their family as “normal” and that they feel loved.

    We all have our own crosses to bear chicken, our own fights to fight but that doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve children to love…

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  5. To me, normal is relative. Everyone has thier own definition of family. I have believed that forever because I REALLY don’t think that I have a normal family.
    In fact I’m not sure ‘normal’ can have a main stream definition. Normal is what you are comfortable with.

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  6. For us normal has become visits to the hospital, for my 6 year old to take lots of medicines and actually enjoying trips to the hospital and the woozy feeling she gets when she goes to theatre and given medicine to make her fall asleep. Normal for her is having a port and she can’t imagine life without it. Normal has become being separated by hospital stays. But we don’t complain about our normal because we are blessed in many ways. We have lots to be thankful for.

    I have come to accept that normal is merely something you are used to. Just after my daughter was diagnosed with cancer I craved to have normality again, to do normal things, but soon learned that this became our new normal, our new way of living. We do the best we can with our new normal.

    I agree that there are some situations that people might perceive as normal which most definitely is not right like child abuse. It is wrong despite it being “normal” to that child.

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  7. Well…I would say my family is normal. Meaning my parents are together (still!) had two daughters and eventually we had a dog and 2 cats. Of course, I couldn’t wait to go solo! So why would I wanted to leave my normal family? Probably to start up my own first disfunctional one where I married someone who was 13 years older than me and completely different from me! I thought it was cool, then. Now I long for a normal family, and although Mike and I are pretty “normal” we are incomplete…

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  8. I can’t really comment on normalcy since I’ve always challenged the norm and I gravitate towards others that do the same.

    With the plethora of possible lives out there to live, one needs to accept that one way or the other, in someone’s eyes we’re going to be abnormal.

    In terms of family life to me the most normal thing for a parent to do is to know their child, accept them for who they are and encourage them to become more of who they are and challenge them to excel in what they are naturally talented in.

    Not all parents are equally successful in acheiving this, and this is where the proverbial popo hits the fan.

    Families I think are a little bit like art. What I perceive as perfect might look like squiggles to someone else.

    I suppose normalcy begins with ‘first doing no harm’ and the rest is just winging it.

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  9. I think “normal” changes as our perspective changes. Normal to me as a child was a severely disabled parent and neither parent working outside the home. It was hard to see that this wasn’t normal to most until I was much older. The not normal feelings were there, but I really didn’t get it all until much later.

    Today normal to me is a jumbled mess. LOL. I confuse “normal” with “traditional” way too easily and seem to stray a bit too easily with just wanting what I think “normal” is.

    Blah. This isn’t making much sense, huh? (-;

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