Last December Isaac and I went into Manhattan to meet up with the fine folks at Parents Magazine for a special needs photo shoot they were doing. They put him in flashy clothes, sprayed his red curls into order and lotioned his winter-dry face. They plunked him down into a play scene they had set up and asked me to stand back. He was silly and playful and sometimes even looked at the camera! ;)
They told me he was a contender for the cover of the magazine, but called me in late February to say that they had chosen someone else for the cover. However, Isaac would be in a small photo inside. I was a little disappointed, but still glad that my cutie made it in at all…and I was glad for the experience of going down there and checking out their studio. I think I had hoped that by participating, we could show others that it’s not so bad having kids on the spectrum. Kids on the spectrum are cute and their parents love them!
I’m not sure that that’s what will actually happen though. Looking at that inside cover with all kinds of kiddos on the spectrum, even with their unmistakable cuteness, I think parents will still hope for typically developing kids. And I don’t blame them, really.
Right now I am reading Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon. It’s about parents that are raising children that are in some way VERY different from themselves: parents of kids with deafness, dwarfism, schizophrenia, down syndrome, autism and parents of prodigies. Solomon talks about the many, many ways that parents approach parenting kids so different from themselves. I’m really enjoying this book. I love hearing stories of people’s experiences with this kind of thing. The author is so honest about the complexity these families face…and he really honors the varying approaches taken. It’s so interesting to sit back and see the wide range of experience: some parents are bitter, some are fighters, some are at peace with the whole thing. It’s like the opposite of a how-to book, which outlines a narrow path you should take. Instead it details the wide range of paths taken. I find that kind of outlook really refreshing. (He has a GREAT Ted Talk on the topic here, if you want to hear more.)
One theme that seems to stand out in his findings is that in many cases the parents wish that for their child, they could give them an easier life…one without whatever factor makes them so different. But that for themselves…the experience of parenting an atypical child, although quite challenging, changes the parents in ways that they are grateful for. That isn’t everyone’s experience, of course…but if definitely comes up a lot. :)
I have a friend that tells me that with all my boys throw my way, that at the end of it, I could be a zen monk. Once she said this on a particularly challenging day and I said “I don’t want to be a zen monk!! I want it to just be easier!!” And she said “I don’t think any zen monk ever wants that path.” Meaning…it’s hard. No one choses hard. The path of personal growth isn’t without pain. But the challenges aren’t without reward either. :)