There’s a running theme that’s popping up throughout my life right now. I’ve seen it with my writing, with my parenting, and now with my journey for Kate and her late-talking. Part of me is amazed at the correlation, and part of me is like, “Well. Duh.”
It’s simple, and yet, such a struggle to understand, especially in this American culture. But, here it is.
You ready? You sure?
You see, so many areas in our lives are pushing us to be the same. To be like everyone else. To be ‘normal.’ To stand in line and patiently wait for our name to be called. To clock in and follow the directions we’re given. To be, for all intents and purposes, a cog in a factory line. But that’s not who we are, certainly not as individuals. It’s not what gets us up in the morning and puts a spring in our step. It’s not what makes our life feel fulfilled.
It’s not what makes us happy.
But being original? Being ourselves?
Truthfully, it was being a parent… being Kate’s parent, that has really caused this to hit home. It’s something I get to see just by living our daily lives. It’s something I can see when I look back at this past year, from the moment we realized there was a concern with her language, and then, looking back over the past six months when we dropped our therapist and worked exclusively with her ourselves.
I learned a lot during that time, heck, I’m still learning. But, I am starting to get the message, and as I said, I’m seeing the same message repeated, again and again, in all areas of my life… especially the ones that make me happy.
I’ll say it upfront, and maybe it’ll help you shed some of your own critical voices, the ones that say you must to do this or you must do it this way or you must listen to this person because they are experts and know more than you.
It’s okay to be different.
In fact, you should be different because that’s what makes you, you. That’s what makes you unique and special. From a writing standpoint, as a storyteller, it’s the reason why readers will pick up your books. They stand out. They’re not the boring same-as-everyone-else’s. Think all those Hunger Games and Harry Potter clone-books that bombed. Can’t remember them? That’s cause they weren’t memorable.
I’m currently taking two workshops with WMG Publishing, one on Author Voice and the other on Originality (you can get the Originality one on YouTube here for free, for those of you interested). In both of those workshops I’m just constantly hearing, again and again, the same thing: be different.
Like I said, it’s a message I’m not just hearing in these workshops either. Every season of The Voice that I watch (and take notes on), I routinely hear these superstar coaches say: you’re unique, you’re different, you don’t sound like anybody else. Those who go far into the competition are the ones who’ve embraced who they are. They’re putting their own spin on songs, they’re tapping into their own emotions and their own journey. When you hear them sing, especially those that get into the finals, you hear people who aren’t like anybody else.
And one of the best quotes by Pharrell Williams (very much paraphrased here):
Same is boring.
So, that’s all great and good. We should be ourselves. Don’t be afraid to be different, in parenting, in raising a child who doesn’t talk. No problem. Easy, right?
I find myself with my local homeschoolers at park day and heard story and after story about their kids being different. How each of the kids’ learning styles is different, how they respond to different situations, and how they, as parents, had to find a new way, a new path for their kids to succeed. I even heard about a type of therapy that’s all about riding horses and how some kids who can’t talk, will say their first words while on a horse. I was amazed. Fascinated. Never once during my journey to understand Kate and her language disorder was this ever mentioned to me. Not by her pediatrician. Not by the early intervention unhappy lady at our regional center. Not the neurologist. And yet… here was a story and a path that helped some kids.
That’s not to say it would have helped Kate. In fact, I honestly have no idea if it would, but the point is that choice is there. It’s an option. And, it’s a different one. It may not even be right for Kate but it was right for someone else.
Differences. But, also more than that. It’s courage too.
It’s having the courage to write a story from your heart and not what everyone else is writing or what the latest-bestseller-clone-was. It’s about discovering your child’s learning style and going outside the traditional education system when everyone around you maybe say you otherwise. It’s about all those medical professionals and experts, who refuse to listen to you and your concerns, and then, telling them to screw off. Because guess what, you, and only you, are the expert on your child.
Not their expensive degrees gathering dust in the wall frames.
Our children are different… even the ‘normal’ ones.
So much of my journey with Kate is asking the question: who is she? How can I help her best? It’s not the way that I think is best, and she is very quick to correct me when I try. But of course I have goals for her. I mean, I’d really like her to talk, and there are things and steps we can do to help her get to that point. But she’s still in the driver seat, and for Kate in particular, that control is very, very important. Not all kids are like that. Kate will flinch and pull away and close up tight if a stranger touches her. Or, her grandfather she hasn’t seen in awhile. Meanwhile, there’s my little guy Eric who will go up to a random person and asked to be picked up so he can see the empty cup he threw into the trash, and then marvel at his accomplishment.
And that’s okay.
And really, that’s all this post is about, telling you it’s okay to be different. That, being more than okay, it’s something we should all embrace. It’s the part that makes us unique and exciting. And, if your child’s interests leads you on a different path, trust in them. Trust that they know their own wants and desires, trust that they know what they’re doing.
Just… have the courage to go with it.
Kate’s early assessors insisted that her problems were more than just speech related. They felt her fine motor controls were behind and we should sign her up for occupational therapy.
We said no.
So what if she didn’t draw a circle for them? Or, for us? On demand?
We let her be.
We loved her.
We followed her interests at home.
And, she likes video games. Can you blame her? She sees daddy playing all the time (he’s a video game designer) and wanted a part of that action. And you know what came before Kate ever started drawing circles (which yes, she does do now)?
Playing Yoshi’s Wooly World.
That’s right. Kate was 3 1/2 and already learning and mastering the controls, which she did, in just a few short weeks. That includes those hard-to-reach buttons on the ‘bumpers,’ a place that is not natural for kids to use. And now? Now she’s playing Mario’s Super 3D World. Seriously. And she’s seriously good at it. She’ll even play in matches of Splatoon against other people and win some battles. Not kidding.
But she wouldn’t draw a circle on demand, therefore it was decided she needed therapy.
Kate’s fine motor controls were just fine, but they came about in a different way. They came about in her way, when she was ready, and doing what she wanted to do (which was apparently not coloring but in eating small little Koopas with a long, sticky tongue).
So, Kate and I have our special play time sessions, where I get on the floor and play with her and help her become comfortable with words using play. Sometimes she talks (usually when I forget that I’m supposed to be ‘working’ with ‘her’) and sometimes she doesn’t. But… I’ll hear those same words in other places. Like when Mario walks through a door and she waves and says, “bye-bye.” Or, when she was playing Super Smash Brothers and the screen says, “Ready, set… GO!” And I hear her saying, “Go!” right along with it.
Or like just yesterday at the pool, while I was telling Eric to “kick” or to “step” down (instead of belly-flopping onto the concrete steps), I hear her say those words. They sound fun. They sound like play. And so, Kate decides to say them.
All on her own.
All at her pace.
So again, my question is who are you? Deep down? What makes you happy? What makes you shine bright?
Go with it. Go for it.
Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to step out of line and be unlike anybody else. Don’t be afraid to let your kids be different.
All of us, our kids included, will be happier if we do. And I’m telling you, the results will surprise you.