Down deep, we all expect our kids to be a chip off the old block, an expectation most parents will have sufficient time to give up gracefully. The word reproduction is “at best a euphemism,” as Andrew Solomon says in his new book, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.” A euphemism intended “to comfort prospective parents before they get in over their heads.”
The trouble with being the parents of a child profoundly different is that you’re in over your head before you know it. Difference is suddenly a way of life, and not the one you expected. “If you have a child with a disability,” Solomon writes, “you are forever the parent of a disabled child.”
There will be plenty of reminders of this fact, too. A decade ago, after Jonah’s diagnosis, I was bombarded with book recommendations from friends and strangers alike. (An autism diagnosis should come with a library card.) So I bought or borrowed everything I could on the subject; then went years actively not reading any of it. The unperused memoirs and self-help manuals on my night table grew into a stack of unmet obligations. Meanwhile, I fell asleep watching TV.