Have you ever heard the song “Kooks” by the now late David Bowie? It’s the parental anthem of my husband Andy and I.
When people found out that Andy and I were going to have our first child, we heard the laughter in some voices. We even heard that some were saying…
“Those two are having a kid?”
Even though Andy and I had been trying for a child, I have to admit that when I found out I was carrying our son, the reality of the two of us raising a child was a bit of a stunner for me too. Could we do this?
I looked back at photos of myself with a pink mohawk and pictures of Andy performing the character “Hornhead” in our sketch comedy troupe. A character clad only in leaf pants, cloven feet and horns. Yup… that’s right.
having a child… and then TWO! Teaching those children about the world and getting them to adulthood. Mind boggling isn’t it?
This isn’t what parents look like? These people are the ones society says have “never grown up” and would probably be the last people you would trust to raise the next generation.
But there we were, pregnant and excited.
Our son was born in September of 2012 and being new parents was hard at first as it is for many, but we began to feel like we needed to change who we were to be parents. I grew my hair out and tried desperately to look more feminine. Andy grew a long beard to look more masculine. This strange little Sam the Eagle voice in our heads saying:
You’re parents now. This is very serious business. These children need role models. Consistency. Conformity.
Six months in I loved being a mom, but hated looking in the mirror. Who was this woman? Maybe the outside saw me as a mother with my long hair, but I just saw someone desperate to fit in. A feeling I had in high school and loathed! A feeling I would never want my children to feel, especially in their own home. So, I shaved my head. As those false locks fell to the floor, I felt nothing but relief and joy. I was back and the wonderful island of misfit toys was born.
My son grew and right around the age of one and a half we started noticing something a little different in our sweet boy. He had taught himself to read. He was beginning to recognize titles from his favorite books, written out on paper. Other words quickly followed and by the time he was two he was sitting and reading whole books out loud to himself. Books he had never seen. As happy as we were as parents thinking our child was extremely advanced, something felt amiss. He had strange rituals and things that needed to be said. He would repeat entire chunks of conversations he had heard weeks before.
The island of misfit toys grew another member the day before his third birthday when he was diagnosed with autism.
Suddenly this boy, who by societies rules, wasn’t conforming, conformed perfectly with our family. I instantly became upset with anyone who would give me suggestions of how to “cure” him. He is perfect the way he is as I am with my shaved head and tattoos. He is a member of a very exclusive club, “The Gordon Island of Misfit Toys.” Our only rule. We accept you the way you come into the world.
My daughter was born March of 2015. I instantly fell head over heels and couldn’t wait to bring her to “the island”. She was born a member. As I was laying in my hospital bed, recovering, watching her first pediatrician exam, I watched as the doctor kept looking at her little ear. Over and over. Flipping it back and forth. What the hell was she doing? Looking for a Made in the USA stamp? She looked up and said,
Do you or your husband have an ear like this? I instantly began to think…
An ear like what? What is she looking at? Did her ear change over night? In my over tired stupor did it transform into an elephant ear without me noticing?
I leaned over and looked. My little three-day old daughter squirmed and revealed one ear that was a little bigger and stuck out a little further than the other.
Without me even saying a word, she added that there was a procedure that could be done that would make it look more like the other. Cosmetic surgery on my three day old. I pursed my lips and said,
“I think she’s fine the way she is. Thanks.” I silently seethed. Now it might have been the post natal hormones raging, but right then and there I wanted to stand up on that hospital bed and scream,
MY CHILDREN ARE FINE! THEY DON”T NEED TO BE OPERATED ON OR MEDICATED!
They don’t need to look like the greater population or think like the greater population. I don’t need to have hair to be a woman or to define myself as a parent. I am and my children are perfect exactly the way they are.
One night, while surfing on Facebook, I saw a video of a family that I have always admired. They were sitting around the kitchen table, listening to heavy metal, head banging, even the ten-year-old. All I could think of is, what a beautiful family.
Looking and thinking differently than those sailing their boats of life around you may make you feel lost… adrift. Where do I fit in? How come I just want my boat to be comfortable and not fast and streamlined? Is there something wrong with my boat because it doesn’t seem to want to take on enormous waves like the others? It can be horrible. I’ve been in those torrid waters my whole life… until I had my family.