Andrew Solomon’s Love, No Matter What is his talk about writing the book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. This book is about children who are different from their parents through disability, extreme intellect, or gender identity.
I hesitated to watch this talk even though the book had intrigued me. The subject of parenting a child with a disability is too raw and personal to read a critique of – especially when written by someone who does not have a child with a disability. I don’t think it’s something you can really understand unless you have lived it. Being a teacher, healthcare worker or therapist probably comes close, but it’s not the same as being responsible for someone with unique and sometimes demanding needs. It’s not even the needs and responsibilities – it’s the love you have for your child and that way the love is vulnerable.
I remember that one of Tom’s ophthalmologists told me that she understands so much more after her young son had eye surgery. It was not as in-depth as any of the types of surgery that Tom had, I think it was the muscles of her child’s eyes that were operated on, but it changed her perspective. I still don’t think you can explain to someone what it is like to hand your child off for surgery. It can only be experienced.
Naturally, I understand that a bit of detachment is probably healthy for doctors and therapists in their profession. We can’t have them breaking down all the time in their line of work! I have been lucky enough to come across some very kind and empathetic professionals over the years. The few bad apples make the rest of the good ones really stand out.
Solomon talks about acceptance in his speech and I feel that is a really important concept. It took me a while to accept Tom’s blindness because I didn’t understand what it would mean for his future. I was frightened by it. It was only once I started learning about the lives of people who are blind that I began to feel more comfortable and positive about blindness.
I have seen the many accomplishments achieved by people who are blind and I have such hope for Tom’s future. I do worry that all the success stories I see are lawyers and academics. What about other options? Owning a business maybe? I guess those stories seem less stellar so they don’t get the same press.
Tom has delays but I don’t want that to force him into work that is less than his potential merits. I hate seeing these sheltered workplaces where people with disabilities are paid pennies for their work. I hate even more that it is accepted because they must only earn a pittance or risk not qualifying for their benefits. I think we could raise the standards so that people could earn a more reasonable wage and not lose their healthcare.
Now that I’ve seen Andrew Solomon’s TED talk I am ready to read the whole book. Parents of children with special needs can feel like they are often being evaluated. There are always more doctor visits, therapies, and other opportunities to evaluate your child’s health and development. It can be hard to have so much under the microscope. But even in watching the TED talk I could see that Mr. Solomon was focused on the people and who they were, not just about their differences and disabilities.
He asks a parent if they would take away their child’s disability if they could. Tom is who he is, in part, because of the way he lives and experiences the world. It has shaped him and I love him for who he is right now. I don’t want any other child, but I do wish things could be easier for him.
You can also find Love, No Matter What on Neftlix. There are seven talks in this compliation and Mr. Solomon’s is the 2nd talk.