It was a busy afternoon. I picked up both kids from school and made what seemed like my daily run to Whole Foods. I frantically filled up my cart with all the "right" foods, ran up and down the aisles like a race-car driver, attempting to keep my kids from throwing every sugary treat into the cart and finally made it to the check-out line. I wanted to get home quickly, as it was tutoring night for my oldest daughter, we had to have something to eat and I had a conference call at 8:30, so to say I felt rushed would be an understatement.
As my older daughter and I piled the groceries onto the belt, my 4 year old wandered a little bit down the line and stopped to stare at the woman checking out our things. The woman was scanning this thing and that, making that little "beep" noise that can literally drive some of us to insanity, including the woman doing the scanning when suddenly my daughter decided to speak. "Do you like your job?" she said to the woman. Cause if I could scan stuff all day, I would love it!"
The woman had a look of surprise and annoyance on her face, thinking that perhaps my daughter was being fresh, and gave her a quick, "it's alright." My daughter just stood there, totally mesmerized that this woman was allowed to scan stuff and could make that beeping noise every time. She wanted to try it herself, but knew it was something reserved for the few fortunate adults who had the job. I heard my older daughter whisper "she's so weird, under her breath" and I have to admit I was thinking that a little bit myself. When we left the store, I thought to myself, that was weird, but I guess she just liked the sounds of it.
Later that month we took the kids to Disney for the holiday break. It was right before the presidential election and we are standing on that horrific security line that never seems to end and always seems longest when you are running late for a flight. People were on top of one another, crammed together, pushing up slowing, moving their cases one inch at a time, when all of a sudden my 6 year old says to the older gentleman in front of him. So, are you voting for Obama, cause I'm voting for John McCain and I'm going to marry him too. "What the heck just happened here, I thought. I was totally mortified for so many reasons. Why was she talking to a stranger, first of all and second of all, what made her feel that it was ok to just share her thoughts with him. He was nice and laughed, saying he was still thinking about it, but I was dying of embarrassment inside.
My older daughter was so quiet, so shy and unassuming. She was calm and well behaved...what I thought was Normal. She would never even think to talk to a stranger and was even quiet around people she knew well. Then from out of left field comes my second daughter, who I am now referring to as David Frost. She wanted to interview everyone she came in contact with, had no issues just sharing anything and everything with anyone, and saw absolutely nothing wrong with bursting into a song and dance routine in the middle of a restaurant or shopping mall. How could too totally different kids, both be normal?
When my youngest daughter turned 5, I opened a preschool and finally got the answer I was looking for. I realized after working with hundreds of children that there wasn't such a thing as a "Normal" child. There were expected milestones based on age that helped us as parents and educators keep our kids on track academically, however, personality... now that was an entirely different thing.
Kids are human beings and if you put ten humans in a room, baring something really odd, you would most likely label them all as normal. Still, some will be introverted, some will be extroverted, some will be extremely inquisitive, while others prefer to share rather than ask questions. We have to stop comparing our own kids and also stop comparing them to others.
We have to make sure they are on track academically based on the "normal" ranges of expectation, but that should never be applied to personality. Varying personalities, quirkiness, shyness, boldness, being funny or artistic, those are what make us unique and that is what makes us "Normal."