phoebonica: A drawing of Matilda from the book by Roald Dahl. Text: 'strange little girl'. (strange little girl)
(So I guess I should actually update this thing some time. Here goes, my first proper entry.)

An expression I hate: 'letting children be children', and all its variants. It gets used a lot of different ways. I remember my mother and some of her friends talking about how parents these days dress their children, and somebody brought up a girl they'd seen in a playground or somewhere wearing a strapless top which didn't have anything to hold it up, so she had to keep pulling it up and couldn't run around and play with the other kids as easily. This was described with the words 'she wasn't able to just be a child'.

Being a child is running around.
Being a child is playing with the other children.

And then it's used about children who are considered prodigies in some area, who have a skill and devote large amounts of their life to it. Sometimes they do this because their parents pressure them to, or people looking in from outside suspect their parents pressure them. In which case you hear 'yes, she's a world-class violinist/mathematician/fencer/whatever, but when does she get to be a child?'

Being a child is playing with the other children. Again.
Being a child is being like the other children, who are presumably being children themselves.
Being a child is valuing social activity above intellectual, or physical.

And you hear it about disabled kids. Of course you do. The children who will spend most of their lives having blood tests and operations and hooked up to machines, and the ones who just don't understand how to play with the other children (there it is already), and the ones who have fits or can't run around (yay repetition) or can't eat peanuts or be near someone who has - I'm being simplistic on purpose here. You get the idea. They need your help, so that they can finally be children. Won't you please donate now?

Being a child is running around.
Being a child is playing with the other children.
Being a child is being like the other children, who are presumably being children themselves.
Being a child is being an ideal, not having to deal with unpleasant things like pain or frustration or mortality.
Being a child is being happy and carefree in the way you're expected to be.
Being a child is being the way you're expected to be.
Being a child is being normal.

It's certainly nothing as simple as just not having reached puberty yet.

I'm not going to go into how 'stolen childhood' is also used for kids who've survived abuse, because it's a delicate topic and the line tends to be applied to children who've been abused by adults, which I haven't been. But if I were a survivor of that kind of abuse and someone described it as my not having a childhood, I suspect I'd hate it the same way I do now.

Because being a child is growing up to be an adult. Being a child is being alive. Being a child is being human.

And if you can't be a child for reasons you can't help, then what are you?

And if you don't want to be a child - if you really do like the violin or maths or fencing better, if you're not running around and playing with the other children because you don't feel like it, not because of your badly-fitting top -

- what kind of freak, what kind of monster, would choose not to be a child? How can you not want to be real?

So anyway. That's why I can't stand that phrase.

No offence, Mum and her friends. I know that's not how you meant it.

It's just what I hear.
phoebonica: Animation of two "siamese cherries" (joined by the stem). One complains they're freaks, the other says they're special. (freak/special)
posted by [personal profile] phoebonica at 03:18pm on 20/05/2009 under ,
Well, it's also the title of my regular blog over on LJ, and the title of a superpower-themed novel/collection of short stories that I still want to write at some point. But I thought it would make a good title for my Official Disablity Blog, so I've brought it over here.

The point being, it's meaningless.

The idea came from a letter that was published a few years ago in my local paper, responding to someone complaining about speed cameras who'd written something along the lines that the police shouldn't waste their time with 'otherwise law-abiding citizens' who'd been caught speeding when there were 'real' crimes to deal with. As letter-writer pointed out, every criminal, up to and including serial killers, could call themselves 'otherwise law-abiding', because there'd have to be some laws they hadn't broken.

Hence my title. Everyone probably conforms to the average in some way, after all. Except where they don't. Nobody's entirely 'normal', but everyone's otherwise normal. Of course, some of us get a whole lot more otherwise than others.

My reading list is 'Further Anomalies' on LJ too, just because it fits with the theme. There's not so much deep meaning behind that one.

And my subtitle here is a deliberate inversion of a line from the song 'Girl Anachronism', by The Dresden Dolls. The original line goes 'It's not the way I'm meant to be/It's just the way the operation made me'. Flipped to make the point - this is the way I'm meant to be.

And if you're wondering about my icon, I didn't make that one, and yes, I know they prefer to be called conjoined cherries. ;)


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