If you are reading this, perhaps you have a child that seems to be, in some way or another, out of the range of ‘normal.’
But what is normal?, I often ask myself. And is it necessarily a bad thing, to be out of the box?
I bet each of us, with our unique little quirks and preferences, could be considered ‘out of the box,’ out of the realm of normal, in some way.
But let’s be honest. Those out of the box tendencies that we are often quick to identify in others but slow to see in ourselves can create tension, a real relational rub.
My sweet husband is married to someone who cycles through intense highs and lows (I was diagnosed with bipolar II a few years back, considered to be a less extreme version of bipolar I). All that means is that my emotional dips and peaks are more intense than what the average person experiences. But it took me awhile to accept that diagnosis. I fought it. Hard. That’s because it sounded weird. Abnormal. Different. And therefore, weak.
But my therapist encouraged me by saying the following:
“Amanda, every single one of us falls somewhere on the spectrum for each and every mental, physical and psychological diagnosis. Depression, bipolar, anxiety, OCD, ADD, narcissism, you name it. We are all on the spectrum, somewhere. It is those outliers, those tendencies that fall outside the ‘average’ that manifest most clearly in our lives.”
That meant a lot to me. Here’s how I internalized her words:
You don’t have to let a diagnosis define you. Sure, it’s something to be aware of, something you have to manage, something that may affect the way you do life. But there is often a hidden beauty, a unique quality, that is born from those out-of-the-box tendencies. Some of the most talented painters, sculptors, scientists, actors, poets and writers were considered ‘different’ from the norm.
As I learn to embrace my out-of-the-boxness, I am trying to do the same with my children.
But it’s hard. I struggle with knowing how to allow them to be who God made them to be, when often times, I see that they are very different from me. And each of them, in their own way, has outlying tendencies that admittedly, sometimes concern me, even make me wonder if ‘something’s wrong with them.’
But in the midst of my doubts, I often hear God whisper to my heart: You have all that you need. I made you the mother of these children. They are beautiful and precious in my site. Lean on me and I will show you how to parent them.
Sometimes I wonder, is this parenting thing more about me? Teaching me to grow in grace and patience and love and perseverance. Teaching me to set appropriate boundaries, learning not to own what’s not my responsibility.
Yes, I think so. I wonder if God made marriage and child-rearing to be tools of sanctification and growth for us.
Because man, I am constantly humbled. Weary. Exhausted.
Yet my hope is in the Lord. He is my Rock and my Refuge. In Him, I find strength.
Mommas, if you relate to any of this, I encourage you to join with me and persevere as we parent our ‘out of the box’ children.
Join me in praying:
Father, thank you for the unique ways You’ve designed us and our children. Thank You for bringing our family together, creating something lovely and sacred, something that reflects Your very self – the Trinity. I know that You’ve created my family with clear intention and purpose. Help me, Lord. Help me, my husband and my children learn how to honor You with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength. Show us how to be parents who love You and teach our kids to love You. Remind us that it’s not about good behavior, but about hearts that are surrendered to Your will, that trust in Your goodness, that long to be in Your presence, that hope in a future where all things will be restored, both in heaven and on earth. We bow before You today, asking You to guide our steps, direct our paths, and seek You as our Refuge and Strength. Equip us, Lord, this very day, with the tools and energy and wisdom to be the loving and faithful parents You’ve called us to be, to be the tender and forgiving spouses You’ve called us to be, to be the divine image-bearers of Your grace, truth and love. We love You, Amen.