The Mythology Of Normal

Updated: Jun 29, 2018

As I type this, we have no hot water in our house and haven't been able to take a shower at home since last Wednesday.

While we were repairing our hot water heater, we found an unrelated gas leak that had be dealt with immediately. The day after having our gas shut off until it got fixed, my husband left for a six week work trip.

The week before the gas/hot water heater debacle, a rock hit our windshield and we had to replace the whole thing.

Before our ill-fated windshield, we found a rotted spot in our roof and had to replace that.

While the roof was being replaced, my son slipped on our hardwood stairs and busted his chin, requiring five stitches.

The stitches happened while my husband was working on a project for his job that required a lot of extra hours, so he only had two days off in twenty days. He was also trying to finish the final two weeks of a Masters level class at the same time.

I think I could keep tracing back a direct line of craziness, but I'll skip back to buying a new van in February, because I slid on ice and totaled our old van in January.

Did I mention we have four kids?

I'll stop at this point, but I mention this to demonstrate that my life has had an OH COME ON LEVEL of chaos lately. And this is just the highlights. I could trace this chaos back at least six years, when I moved from South Dakota to Illinois - with a six week old baby. But the highlights include two more moves that I had to manage alone because my husband had to go to the next station ahead of us.

In all, I think we had about three days of "normal" two Decembers ago.

However, in the past few months of craziness, I had an epiphany - why am I expecting "normal" when chaos has been our lifestyle for at least the past six years? If our typical routine involves stuff breaking around the house, trips to the Urgent Care or ER for various injuries, bursts of activity with work and school, all on top of the typical routines and antics of a family of six, doesn't that classify "normal" for us? Why did I get the idea I ought to expect anything different?

This has gotten me thinking that maybe my ideal of a "normal" family life is no better than a mythology. It's a land somewhere over the rainbow, or through the looking glass, not accessible unless I'm dreaming. I have this idea that on a "normal" day, I wouldn't have felt like I needed an entire quart of tea, my house would be clean, my yard wouldn't look like Jurassic Park, dinner will be simmering in the crockpot and I'd have a plan for a healthy side dish, then my husband would come home in time for us all to sit down for dinner as a family. Then we'd clean the kitchen, tidy up the house a bit, put the kids to bed, and my husband and I would sit up for a little bit and watch a show or play cards or whatever. We'd go to bed, and repeat this routine for a series of days. Things like stitches and leaks in things like the gas line or the roof would be few and far between, and resolved quickly and neatly so we could get back to this "normal" routine.

I'm reminded of a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Almost Famous -

If there is a day where a) the house gets completely clean, b) none of the children have an urgent need that requires attention that takes my attention away from the daily household chores, c) David and I both have our home, school, and work responsibilities resolved at the end of the day, and d) no one eats a handful of tortilla chips and calls it a meal, then that's NOT a normal day around here by any means!

In fact, that's pretty much a fairy tale. I could dream about my mythology of what my "normal" life would look like, but that's not what actually happens. So in all this, it hit me that maybe's it's time to just accept my normal, which requires lots of caffeine, the help of friends, and the ability to laugh.

For example, in the past week, I've had several friends offer showers. We've been to three different homes, and enjoyed tea, pizza, playdates, and good company while my crew rotated through their bathrooms. For the day when our water was completely off, our neighbor graciously allowed my children in and out of her house to use bathroom and unfettered access to her kitchen sink and hose. My normal may involve a little chaos, but it's also nice that my normal involves generous friends and neighbors.

I think, as we go through life, we all come to a point where we have to give up a fairy tale of what we expected our lives to look like. It's not bad to have hopes and dreams, but I think it's important not to let the mythologies of our ideal lives take away from handling, and appreciating, what we have.

Have you given up any fairy tales?

(UPDATE: We did get a new water heater, but as soon as the water heater was delivered, I broke the garage door.)


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