NY Times book review about children with unique issues:
Andrew Solomon’s enormous new book, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity,” is about children who are born or who grow up in ways their parents never expected.
Mr. Solomon explained that “Far from the Tree” took 11 years. It stemmed from a 1994 article about deafness he wrote for The New York Times Magazine. In the course of reporting it, he said, he realized that many issues confronting the deaf are not unlike those he faced as someone who was gay.
A few years later, watching a documentary about dwarfism, he saw the same pattern again. Eventually the book grew to also include chapters on Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, transgender identity, children who are conceived during a rape and those who become criminals.
Mr. Solomon said he included criminal children after deciding that society’s thinking on the subject hadn’t really advanced very much, even while it has on autism and schizophrenia. “We still think it’s the parents’ fault if a child becomes a criminal or that something creepy must have gone on in that household,” he said. He included the children of rape because he discovered that their mothers shared a lot with all the other mothers in the book. “They feel alienated, disaffected, angry — a lot of the things a mother feels about a child with a disability.”
This kind of commonality, he went on, was something he discovered only while writing. “Each of the conditions I describe is very isolating,” he said. “There aren’t that many dwarfs, there aren’t that many schizophrenics. There aren’t that many families dealing with a criminal kid — not so few but not so many. But if you recognize that there is a lot in common in all these experiences, they imply a world in which not only is your condition not so isolating but the fact of your difference unites you with other people.”
“Forewarned is forearmed,” he said. “Some things, on some scale, go wrong in everyone’s life. I think I have perfectionist tendencies, but I know you can’t go into parenthood thinking, ‘I’m going to love my child as long as he’s perfect.’ Rather, it should be, ‘I’m going to love my child whoever he is, and let’s see how he turns out.’ ”
I wonder how many parents can say that about criminal or sociopathic children -- that they appreciate the experience of raising a child with those unique difficulties and that they love their child no matter what. Still, it is a nice, aspirational thought.