Last night I was re-reading some of the emails that have come in over the last week and one word really jumped out at me – QUIRKY. Not being used in the ‘brilliant’, ‘fabulous’, ‘amazing’ way but in the ‘odd’, ‘different’, ‘peculiar’ way.
Several of the fantastic parents who have joined our little forum group mentioned that their initial concerns about their daughters had been dismissed by teachers, health professionals and friends – there was nothing wrong, she was just ‘quirky’. Other irritating descriptors included ‘highly-strung’, ’emotional’, ‘immature’, ‘sensitive’ or ‘insecure’. Never have words been so hurtful and in hindsight so damaging. Damaging to the child as their particular needs are ignored but to the parents who love, adore and support their children in the long years of ‘pre-diagnosis’.
The same story keeps appearing – the mother (or father) knew there was something wrong, knew that their child was ‘different’ and yet they were not listened to, sent on parenting courses (that really makes my blood boil) or simply told to ‘stop worrying’. My mum recently reminded me about when we took out daughter to the GP when she was late smiling (her usual facial expression was stony-faced like that of a tough audience member at a comedy show). The GP looked at our wee bundle, did the usual tests and looked me in the eye and said ‘Don’t worry, it isn’t what you think it is’. Well, turns out that it probably is exactly what we thought it was and had the GP added this initial appointment with the many that followed about behaviour, aches and pains, emotional issues (hers and mine), perhaps we would have been saved some of the heartache, the years of feeling inadequate, useless parents etc etc.
I’m not saying that ‘quirky’ is bad, it has just been tarnished by people using it to refer to someone who isn’t ‘normal’, ‘neurotypical’ or whatever term you prefer! Quirky should be celebrated, unique is brilliant, free-thinkers, magical minds, beautiful imaginations and a view on the world that others can only dream of. It we could harness ‘quirky’ if we could make it a fabulous word that denotes brilliance and eccentricity and wonder, I think we could go some way to making this world more accepting, more tolerant and in turn incredible. So, let’s bring quirky back from the brink, embrace it and let our kids wear that badge with pride.
p.s. always trust a mother’s intuition!