On Sunday afternoon I discovered that our family is not normal.
A few days earlier a college freshman contacted us on the recommendation of her professor, who knows our family, to ask whether she could stop by to ask us a few questions and take some photos. She told us that her journalism project focused on families in their different forms. “Sure,” we said, “come on by.”
Eliot was in a chatty mood when she arrived so Maggie distracted him while our guest began asking me questions. We mostly talked about adoption, including how we arrived at the decision to adopt. She asked thoughtful questions, not just about the facts of the adoption but how we experienced those facts.
At some point I asked about the scope of her project. We were the last family she was going to interview; previous interviews included a classmate who grew up “with two mothers” and lots of friends who grew up in single-parent homes. She had chosen to focus on families that weren’t considered normal.
At that moment I realized, She thinks our family is abnormal.
The rest of the student’s visit was very pleasant; she took a bunch of photos of Eliot playing with blocks and promised to send a few once her work was finished.
This interaction has been turning itself over in my mind over the past couple of days. I’ve been wondering: What so pestered me about the ‘not normal’ category our little family has been placed in?
Most obvious is the word itself. After all, does anyone consider their family normal? As a pastor I’ve talked with many people who appear normal to me, but whose story is anything but. I doubt our family would seem normal to me even if Maggie and I had biological children. Normal is what other people are. Right?
That there are categories for abnormal families has also been interesting to consider. This student considers adoptive families, single-parent families, and same-sex parented families as outside the norm. Depending on one’s perspective this list could be very different. But for most of us there are categories and we know where different types of families fall.
But perhaps it is because I grew up in the family perceived as most normal in America- a mother and father who remain married, one biological sister, white -that I’m now struck with the idea of falling outside the norm. There’s a bit of fear in this realization, knowing that our family will be learning as we go.
Is your family normal? Are there types of families you consider more or less normal? These are the questions on my mind these days and I’m curious what ideas, questions, and perspectives you could contribute.