Monday, 10 June 2013

What if you were offered other, better children?

What is it like to raise a child who's different from you in some fundamental way (like a prodigy, or a differently abled kid, or a criminal)? In this TED talk, writer Andrew Solomon shares what he learned from talking to dozens of parents – asking them: What's the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance? 

I was struck by this bit:

I thought it was surprising how all of these families had all of these children with all of these problems, problems that they mostly would have done anything to avoid, and that they had all found so much meaning in that experience of parenting. And then I thought, all of us who have children love the children we have, with their flaws. If some glorious angel suddenly descended through my living room ceiling and offered to take away the children I have and give me other, better children – more polite, funnier, nicer, smarter – I would cling to the children I have and pray away that atrocious spectacle. And ultimately I feel that in the same way that we test flame-retardant pajamas in an inferno to ensure they won't catch fire when our child reaches across the stove, so these stories of families negotiating these extreme differences reflect on the universal experience of parenting, which is always that sometimes you look at your child and you think, where did you come from?

It turns out that while each of these individual differences is siloed – there are only so many families dealing with schizophrenia, there are only so many families of children who are transgender, there are only so many families of prodigies – who also face similar challenges in many ways -- there are only so many families in each of those categories -- but if you start to think that the experience of negotiating difference within your family is what people are addressing, then you discover that it's a nearly universal phenomenon. Ironically, it turns out, that it's our differences, and our negotiation of difference, that unite us.


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