Pepper came home to us when she was three weeks old. She was our first baby– perfect in every way. Since she was our one and only, we could adapt to her quirks and foibles; any issue I chalked up to my imperfect parenting. So it came as quite a shock to me when she was 2 and my social worker friend pointed out that she thought our daughter might have sensory integration issues or be on the autism spectrum.

I remember my stunned realization– this is actually a normal child, a child who will have issues and illnesses, a child who will, throughout her life, need help and intervention. Pepper is a teen now. She has had sensory integration theory, glasses, skinned knees, foot surgery, orthodontics, cavities, a sprained ankle and suffered from depression. She has some type of hormonal issue now– we are still sleuthing that one out. When you look at that list you may think, “well a skinned knee is ‘normal.'” What I have come to realize is that it is all “normal.”

I have friends — and I bet you do too — who are so stunned when their teens get into “trouble” at school. They blame other kids when their child starts cutting or has an eating disorder. Even more tragic, I know adoptive parents who blame adoption or the birth family for their child’s issues.

In truth, we all have issues. “Normal” is a fallacy. That said, when you form your family through adoption, your definition of “normal” has to broaden. I grew up in a culture with rampant alcoholism. As clearly unhealthy as that seems to you and me, in our community, it was normal. Adults going to AA was applauded, not hidden. In my family, it is normal to be near-sighted and to have cataracts, so young mothers in my family are on the watch for that in their kids. By knowing our family norm, we are able to provide kids with early intervention that, while maybe not critical, certainly paves the way for their future successes.

With adoption, we don’t know what we don’t know. So it is wise to have our eyes wide open, to investigate things that seem a little on the edge, and to do our best to find appropriate interventions, helps, and therapies for our kids.

In order to give our children the brightest possible future, it helps to stay out of denial.