I struggled with that headline. I struggled with this article. It’s a work in progress, as we all are.
I'm Laura Hackle, and I help parents navigate the unexpected adventure that is raising a child who is different from what doctors, teachers, and other parents expect.
There are lots of ways people differ from one another. The whole concept of "normal" is flawed. It's useful for research, because if we know how much variation to expect in a large group of people, we can make plans to benefit most of them.
But "normal" isn't something a person should strive to be.
You are who you are. Something that fascinates me as an occupational therapist is this dual nature of a person's identity. You have a fundamental nature that is always you, and yet you are also a dynamic, organic being that changes each day with your experiences.
I’ve been the version of me that surfed every day and never wanted to leave California. The version of me who drew comic books in math class, even though I was good at math. The version of me who was painfully shy, believed I “hated people,” and wished I could be an animal instead. The version of me who was a cheerleader.
Sometimes I joke that I’ve “always been” an occupational therapist. After all, when I was told I needed to learn a backbend from standing to join the gymnastics class I wanted, I adapted the task. While my mom signed paperwork, I practiced backbends in the ditch outside the gym, gradually reducing the incline until I could do it on flat ground. I got into the class.
Why am I telling you this?
In my work as an OT, I’ve become aware that not everyone thinks this way about themselves. I’m not just talking about a belief, like “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” I’m talking about the fundamental knowledge that who I am now will change, and is changing every day.
I’ve observed my body go through changes like injury, pregnancy, and changes in strength or coordination that fit the activities I practice. I’ve observed myself learning new skills - some I’ve maintained, like typing and Spanish, and some that have faded, like reading music and doing back handsprings.
Secure in the knowledge that the things I do each day make up the person I become, I have both great power and great responsibility. I cannot hide behind what I’ve always done and what I’m “good at”. I will not avoid that which does not come naturally for me.
If you’re reading this blog, it is likely that you’re raising a child. The stakes are higher now. As parents, the things you do each day not only shape the person you’re becoming, but also shape the physical and social environment a young child is growing up into.
Let’s not get hung up on those things we cannot control; there are many. We cannot control illness, injury, or genetics. We cannot go back and change past events.
I only ask that you check your assumptions:
Are there things you’ve told yourself your child won’t do, is not good at, or does not like? Are you certain that those things cannot change? What would it take to change it?
Are there things you’ve told yourself that you can’t do, are no good at, or don’t like? Adults often come up against “limiting beliefs” as we try to grow. If you could free yourself of some limiting beliefs, how might that feel? Which beliefs would you shed?
I look forward to discovering the next phase with you.