I have decided that my child is ordinary. Gloriously ordinary. And that’s worth celebrating.
Like most parents, when my child was born, I was keen to observe and boast about all his “special” traits. How was he exceptional? What awesome genes did he win in the great Chuck Darwin sweepstakes? And, above all, how was my exceptional parenting bringing out the best in him?
Not that I had much confidence in my parenting. Quite the opposite, as is often the case when someone has something to prove. I just knew that I didn’t want to do what my parents had done, leaving me at the mercy of parenting advice books and the judgmental looks of women in the grocery store.
Parenting is hard. But we’d chosen what could be the most exhausting and masochistic approach to it possible. It nearly destroyed my health and marriage. My baby crying for a nanosecond was proof of my failure as a mother. Any infant stimulation that wasn’t one-on-one (such as an ExerSaucer, glorious thing that it is) was substandard. At six months, I was still holding myself in the same position for an hour to avoid the risk of disturbing his nap, lest his brain development be slowed. And I didn’t dare leave our son with a sitter, which meant my husband and I did not have a real evening out until our child was more than a year old.
Eventually we put our kid in a private daycare that we couldn’t actually afford. Institutions like that extract a lot of money from parents who want something “special” for their special kids.
I didn’t bat an eye when other parents chose a less intensive (read: balanced) approach to parenting. I just quietly looked down on them, and went about my special treatment for my special little boy.
But do we really want a kid who is special? The word can mean many things. There’s special as in special needs. Then there’s special due to some amazing talent or quality, which often translates into “my kid’s special because he gets it from me.”
I don’t believe that “Every kid is special in their own way.” That’s cheating. The word “special” has then lost its meaning. I noticed this the day I looked at a collection of photos on the wall at my son’s daycare, with the title “You’re Special” placed over top. I tried looking at each one while thinking, “… and you’re special too.” By the 20th kid, I couldn’t keep fooling myself.
My child is special to me, of course. But how could he possibly be special in the vastness of life? Why should he be better than any other little one? Unique, yes. But special?
And why would I even want him to be? If I really love him, shouldn’t I want him to be surrounded by a crop of amazing kids, all excellent in their own way? Shouldn’t I want excellence, in whatever form, to be abundant?