In the Globe and Mail Saturday (“Canada’s National Newspaper”) there was an article called “Love’s Outer Reaches”, by Ian Brown. In it he reviews a book by Andrew Solomon about children who don’t meet ‘normal’ expectations (Far From the Tree). This is the graphic to go with the article that has the types of children the author obviously feels are not normal. They include: teen criminals, disabled, deaf, lesbian, autistic, my son, children of rape, prodigy, schizophrenic, down syndrome, transgendered. The point of the book is that these children are difficult and isn’t it great, they often get more love than a normal child.
I just about exploded upon seeing the graphic and the story was worse. Honestly, classifying these children as abnormal is so offensive I can barely stop spitting long enough to type. And, to be frank, no child is ‘normal’ really – they are all different from us, aren’t they, and because of that they don’t fit our inner description of normal, whatever that foolishness might be. In other times it meant they were hippies, in these times, maybe they’re the tattooed ones, the living off the land ones. To them, we are the non-normal ones. In my view, we are merely part of the colourful diversity of our species, no type better than the other. Heck, I’m abnormal myself, at my towering height of 4’113/4″.
Well, okay, murderers and rapists are maybe not quite as good as the other. I truly feel sorry for these parents, who have to cope with such evil coming from their loins. The feelings of guilt must be profound, the wish to have done something differently if only they knew what it was. And if there was any way to save their child and the world from such things. But I imagine they still find a corner of love for this child, the one they saw wearing sweet costumes on Halloween or cuddled to their heart.
I know I feel guilt, and always will, that I wasn’t able to protect my children from harm as much as I wished. But we aren’t omnipotent, and things happen outside out reach or sight or cognition. I am sorry I didn’t protect them more, but I tried my best, and really that’s all we can do.
In any case, I feel washes of anger at the thought that we are still classifying people as normal or not, and that we talk about gradations of love as if we deal it out in measuring cups. Parenting is parenting – sometimes easier and sometimes harder, even with the same child. Normal is a moving target and merely a way of classifying people as “other”. It’s prejudice, pure and simple.
The most annoying thing about this article and the book is that it is phrased in how the child affects us, how it’s really all about us. And it isn’t. It’s about them. It’s about the world we create, whether it is safe for “different ” folks. It’s about stopping the categorizing of love.
And a bit whether we force women to have babies after rape, babies that look like their rapist. Some women may be strong enough to love the face of their abuser. I don’t know that I would be – and raising a child without loving them, no matter what they are like, is a recipe for disaster for everyone.
But that’s more about my lacks, and not the child’s fault at all.
Read the article. It’s worth some thought.