Mommy, She Doesn’t Look Normal…


Normal. What is normal anyway?

As a former Special Education teacher and Behavior Analyst, I am no stranger to the typical stares that often accompany a person when they look ‘different’. My previous jobs often included having the privilege of working with kiddos with pretty significant disabilities, and it was my passion. But when I officially entered mommyhood, my heart changed. I don’t think I could ever explain it, but something happens to your soul and you just see the world differently.

You see people differently and in a whole new light.


I was blessed with two beautiful little girls in 2015. Weighing in at just over 3lbs. at birth, my two little preemies fought harder for their life than most should have, but to me, they were absolutely flawless. They overcame obstacles that we weren’t sure they would live through and really, for the most part, came out of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit without a sign they were ever there.

August 19, 2016. A day I will forever remember because it was a day that one of my most perfect, beautiful little girls visibly became, ‘not normal’. The day I put my teeniest of littles in bracing for her legs to help her walk.

Truth be told, both of my girls have been in various therapies and seeing a variety of specialists since around the time they were 6 months old. While I talk very openly about their strengths and struggles, I have never looked at them and thought they were anything short of perfect. Until the day we were standing in line and I overheard a little girl ‘whisper’ to her mom:

[quote]Mommy, she doesn’t look normal. Her legs don’t look right.[/quote]

My. Heart. Broke. I looked down at my little ‘Ducky’ who had been standing, very shyly attached to my leg but had lost her balance and fallen to the ground. My normal reaction and what I wanted to come out of my mouth was to turn around and ask the little girl if she wanted to know what ‘they’ were, referring to the lime green and purple bracing on my little ‘Ducky’… but honestly, I was too busy gritting my teeth holding back tears.

I’ve seen people look, and really, I’ve never tried to pretend that it was ‘normal‘ for a 16-month-old to have braces on her legs. It helps her walk, it helps her to be steady, and really, they have given her the confidence to explore the world. To me, they are a God-send. To strangers though, they are just ‘different’.

I have seen and supported movements to redefine what normal means. There are absolute norms and especially when we look at the development of children, it is so important to identify what is and isn’t ‘normal’ so that kids can access the support they need.

Am I upset that my baby isn’t normal? No, not really. To me, though, it was the first time I looked at her and thought that she might not be accepted because of something so superficial. Someone might not want to play with her because her braces look scary. She might have to experience the pain of exclusion because of an unknown. Did ‘Ducky’ know any different? No, she hopped up and in her adorable little way, tried to walk as fast as she could to catch her sis.


It got me thinking though: Just how difficult is it to teach our kiddos to just love one another? Love our similarities. Our differences. What makes us special. Unique.

I’m sure not everyone feels this way, but next time you see us and your little one asks why she looks different? Tell them to come ask. Ask to touch her braces. Ask why she has them. Ask what they do. I, for one, would never be upset at the curiosity. I welcome the opportunity to help destigmatize ‘different‘. I know my babes will someday say something hurtful that was simply out of curiosity, but I promise to do my best to redefine what ‘normal‘ really is.



  1. Normal means we’re like everybody else…standard, average, sameness, similar. But the “Real Normal”” is an individual thing and she’s better than normal! She’s perfect! Great blog and very eye opening! Having children opens our eyes to a whole new world!

    • Thanks for reading, Laurie! You’re absolutely right, having children opens our eyes to a whole new world… I wouldn’t change a thing about her 🙂

  2. This was such a brave and honest post. Thank you for sharing. I have twin girls myself and one of them spent almost 6 months in a helmet. I actually had people ask me if I was ok with one of my twins being “normal” and the other one being “special”. And that was from an adult who had their own children. We MUST teach our children to love others without judgment. You keep loving those precious girls and blessing the world with how you raise them!

    • Thank you so much for reading, Katy.. I love hearing from other twin mamas! It’s so hard when people don’t mean to be hurtful with their comments, yet they are… I appreciate your support and openness to share as well!

  3. As the mother of a little angel who also wore braces, I can understand where your head and heart are at in moments like those. My daughter was diagnosed as an idopathic toe walker, she stays on her toes constantly, it creates an imbalance and she’s prone to tripping and as I describe it, wandering, you can’t stand in one place very long when your busy balancing on your toes. She was diagnosed when she was 4 and we began physical therapy and the wearing of braces well into the age of 5. Unfortunately, the braces weren’t helping. They forced her off her toes, but they weren’t helping to stretch the tendons and muscles in her feet, heels, and calves. We’re still battling the toe walking, which children and adults point out often, but it was the moment another child pointed out her braces that shook my world. Innocent of course, but being new to those situations my daughter instantly wept. Later my husband and I had a talk with her about how it doesn’t mater what others say, she was excited about those braces, she picked the design out, they were an outter space design with stars and beautiful colors, we called them her super hero shoes and eventually she loved showing them off. In moments where others aren’t understanding, you said it perfectly, it’s better to ask than to assume and different doesn’t always turn out to be what other think and it’s a learning experience. This has also taught both my girls that when we see someone who may not look like them or even wearing something to help them that’s not typical, if interested enough, ask, but never point it out and make a rude comment, we don’t know their story just like no one else knew ours.

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Ashley. You’re so right and I love that you called them her superhero shoes. It does help to teach others and I hope as they grow older it will help them to be more open to other’s differences. I appreciate you reading and being so open to share your story!

  4. aww that would break my heart too! My daughter has special needs (language development issues) and have heard other kids say “why does she talk weird” or correct how she says a word. It’s always hurtful especially knowing how much harder she has to work to listen and learn to speak. I only see mountains of progress!

    This past summer she broke her leg and at kindergarten orientation she saw a girl who I would guess has CP. She had leg braces and a walker and dd shouted “SHE HAS A BROKEN LEG LIKE ME!!!” My initial reaction was embarrassment because I didn’t want this girl or her parents to feel bad. But I decided tthere was no reason to be embaressed because there was nothing bad about her fo rhaving braces on her leg and there was no reason not to explain. So I explained what a brace was and that it was similar to a cast and it helped her walk. Then I pointed out that they were really cool colors like her cast. Then I smiled and waved at her parents. No idea if I handled it well or how her parents felt, but like you I just want to teach my kid to be loving toward all children!

    • Alyssa, it’s amazing how your view changes as ‘mama.’ My other daughter has a speech delay too and it’s interesting how they compliment each other in that regard! I think it’s great you took the time to explain to her how her braces help her walk and acknowledged her parents as well. I’m sure they appreciated your openness and willingness to teach!

  5. My 6 yr old
    Son fight cancer since 20mo old. Now cancer free he has Intractable Epilepsy from his chemo treatments that makes him fall suddenly. He uses a wheelchair and wears a helmet in case he falls, and also had braces on his legs from muscle problems. He is u I que and special! A lot of people do stare..whisper ect..but I welcome the chance to proudly tell them is his a Cancer Survivor and Epilepsy warrior! People fear the unknown, I feel is it my job as his mommy to help educate people
    To see that he IS is our normal, and we are lroud of it! God bless I
    Also have identical twin girls who are seniors in college!! Twins are great!

    • Jeni, such a story of courage, thank you so much for sharing! You’re an inspiration and what a great reminder… it’s totally an opportunity to share all of those things he’s overcome. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment… twins are great 🙂

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