Hard Realizations

I have not been a parent, obviously, but I have been a child. And this perspective, together with recent experiences, has taught me something: when a child is born, its parents will look down on it, and imagine all sorts of hopes and dreams that they have for its future. And all of that is fine, healthy and natural…so long as parents remember that, in the long run, their hopes, dreams, and expectations for what the child will do in the years to come are not worth an oyster; in the long run, only the child gets to decide who they are and what they will be, and the parents’ job then is to support them. I have, lately, complained about my own parents in this regard, but he truth is that they are actually very good in this regard– and I should expect at least some degree of tension to emerge from having their expectations derailed from reality.

That’s not to say, mind you, that parents should not encourage their children to excel; just that they should encourage them to excel at what they actually end-up wanting to do, rather than what their parents want them to become. Thus, you should not berate” your son, the doctor” if he decides that he would rather be an artist. Neither, incidentally, should you berate “your son, the theoretical physicist” if she decides she would rather be “your daughter, the theoretical physicist.”

This actually overlaps, in my opinion, with the all-too-common behaviour of parents of autistic children. Most of the obsession with finding a “cure” comes from existential despair that parents feel when they realize that their child is not the person that they think that they are. Their solution, then, is to treat the child’s actual personality as a disease to be overwritten. They do not love their children, not really; they love the imaginary children that they think live inside them.

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About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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One Response to Hard Realizations

  1. When my sister’s baby was born, my sister said, ‘I know that parents are supposed to have all sorts of hopes and dreams for their kid. But, to be honest, I just want two things for my child: that she be happy and healthy. Nothing else matters to me. I don’t care if she sees happiness in a way that differs from mine. But if she comes to me and says, ‘Mom, this is what makes me happy,” I will accept it and be ecstatically happy for my kid.”

    I cried when I heard that.

    “Neither, incidentally, should you berate “your son, the theoretical physicist” if she decides she would rather be “your daughter, the theoretical physicist.””

    – A son, a daughter – as long as she is happy. That’s my position.

    “This actually overlaps, in my opinion, with the all-too-common behaviour of parents of autistic children. Most of the obsession with finding a “cure” comes from existential despair that parents feel when they realize that their child is not the person that they think that they are. ”

    – Oh yes. Strangely enough, my non-autistic mother has finally accepted and embraced my autism while my autistic father refuses even to hear the word. “Stop being silly,” he says. “You are perfectly normal.”

    “Yes,” I respond. “I’m perfectly normal and autistic.”

    It hasn’t worked yet but I’m hopeful.

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