I have spent a considerable amount of time lately on both dictionary.com and thesaurus.com. I realize this makes me incredibly interesting and cool but it can become slightly addicting, this research on the meaning of various words and the defining of something. This recent research was a result of my search for the name of this blog – trying to come up with a name that best represented my experience while at the same time not repeating the name of so many other helpful parenting blogs I have followed for some time.
My 3 year old son Charlie is a bit of a mystery when it comes to the various doctors, therapists, counselors and teachers we have worked with for the last year and half. There have been many evaluations and tests to determine exactly how to categorize his challenges and needs yet no clear answer on exactly how to define them. Here is what we know: Charlie is diagnosed with a global developmental delay, speech and language delay, impulsivity and hyperactivity and “mild atypicality.” We have no formal autism spectrum diagnosis and for now we are in a “wait and see what happens” existence. He continues to receive therapy and assistance through his special needs preschool and we work together as a family to assist him at home and in social settings to help him grow and learn. This lack of a formal diagnosis is somewhat comforting, it gives us hope that in a few years we will forget all about his delays and challenges. On the other hand, living in the unknown is a challenge and leaves us wondering how to “define him.”
I think about this a lot (probably too much) and here is what I keep asking myself – can we ever really be defined? Any of us? For the past 13 years I have defined myself as a successful, overworked, stressed career woman. My career defined me – it was who I was, how I introduced myself to people, the reason I could or could not do or be certain things ( I am too busy to see friends, meet for coffee, relax, enjoy life because of my busy career). It enabled me to buy things, live a certain lifestyle and in essence gave me a false sense of self-worth. Transition to the last 6 months as a stay at home mom and well quite frankly I feel lost. Who am I now? How am I defined? Without my title to fall back on how do I introduce myself and my life to others? This transition has forced me to re-evaluate who I am, how I define myself and more importantly how I define happiness and success for me. I continue to work on this daily and realize this is a blessing and a much needed wake-up call for me personally as I come to realize there is so much more to life than one singular definition of who we are.
Which leads me to Charlie……
As I researched words for the title of this blog, I came across the definition of ATYPICAL as follows: not conforming to the type. Further research on thesaurus.com provided these synonyms…..abnormal, different, uncommon, odd, divergent. I have to be be honest, these words hurt. Charlie is amazing, loving, affectionate, smart, funny and a bit crazy (in a good way). So many of these words seem negative and make it seem like he is wrong and I refuse to let any of them be his definition. Instead, I choose the following:
ATYPICAL :synonym – EXCEPTIONAL
ATYPICAL: antonyms – NORMAL, TYPICAL, ORDINARY
As I guide Charlie and watch him grow, more than anything I want him to know that he can be whatever he chooses to be and no one can define him except himself. We are all growing, learning, changing and becoming something new and different every day and if we aren’t doing those things, than perhaps we are not really living. I never want to be considered typical or ordinary so go ahead and call me offbeat, weird, crazy or all of the above. And as for my need to have Charlie and his issues defined well shame on me for trying to do to him exactly what I have being doing to myself. It’s okay not to be defined by one thing and that is just one lesson this “atypical endeavor” has taught me.
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.