Normal Love

A few months back, a mom in one of my Parent/Child classes confided to me that her child was born with a section of brain missing. I'll give you a moment to reread and absorb. Yes, she was born with a piece of brain missing. I've taught nearly 1000 toddlers over the last decade. I thought I'd heard it all. But I was surprised. And not just because this diagnosis was unfamiliar to me. I was more surprised to hear that anything was wrong with this particular child, let alone something so serious sounding. 

In my interactions with the child in class, it never entered my mind she might have any serious developmental delays. I saw a curious, attentive, well-adjusted, happy, beautiful toddler. And she is all of those things. She is also missing a Corpus Callosum. A fact that her mom keeps a guarded secret. She doesn't want anyone to treat her differently.  

So while I respect and admire her mom's decision to keep the diagnosis private, I was inspired by this amazing child and asked if I could share her story anonymously on this blog. My first thought was that I wanted to write a story about how incredible the human brain is. Emphasize the ability the brain has to grow new connections and expand. Tell you all that in addition to bringing her to The Little Gym, they take her strawberry picking, and to museums, and to parks, and they do Pinterest Projects, and play in water and sand and paint. I wanted to point out that by exposing her to rich and varied environments and experiences, her brain is building connections and expanding its capacity everyday. I wanted to say that no one should assume someone can't or shouldn't do something because of a diagnosis, or because of a test score, or because of their gender, or because of the opinions of others. I wanted to say, feed your child's brain and your child will learn and grow. Because the brain is elastic.  

But the more I watched the family, and the more I talked to her mom, I realized that as amazing as the capacity of the human brain is, the more amazing part of this story is the capacity of a parent to love a child in a normal, healthy way. This mom did not let a diagnosis or doctors define her child. She is letting her child define herself. At the same time, she is not unrealistic or unprepared to help her in any way she needs. Sometimes she'll ask me in class, "do you think she is doing this because of what I told you?" And so far, I've been able to honestly answer, no. I don't. Every issue her mom has identified to me, I've seen many times in other toddlers with no brain defects. This is not to say that this child will never exhibit delays due to her condition. But when and if she does, her mom is ready to handle them and support her. In the meantime, she treats her like she is completely normal and healthy. 

The result of her family treating her like she is normal and healthy, is that she is normal and healthy. Her mom says she wants her to have a normal life, whatever that means for her. She made a conscious decision to not be frightened by the doctor's list of scary possible outcomes. She told me she decided to treat her like she was able to do anything until proven otherwise. She wrote, "To me it's the same if you were told you're not smart. Then you are not going to try your best. I think you get a better outcome if you feel supported from the very beginning." The same as if you were told you were not smart. While I agree with her, I also want to point out how remarkable this mom is. Her child was born without a piece of her brain. If anyone deserves to feel sorry for themselves or be over protective of their child, it certainly would be her. But she chose not to feel sorry and not to hide her daughter away. She chose to parent and love her child in a normal, healthy way. 

And I believe that when or if any developmental delays manifest, this incredible little girl will still be normal and healthy. That just might look different in her. As it does in many people. Healthy doesn't have to mean perfect. Normal doesn't have to mean identical to everyone else. Maybe being healthy and normal should mean being loved in a healthy, normal way. 

Our children deserve to be defined by who they are and what they have to offer the world. To be supported when they need it but expected to do great things. And we all deserve to be loved in a healthy, normal way.