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