“Far from the Tree” by Andrew Solomon

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“FAR FROM THE TREE IS A BOOK WRITTEN BY ANDREW SOLOMON WHO EXPLORES HOW PARENTS RESPOND TO CHILDREN WHO ARE DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THEM.”

The Colbert Report 24 June 2013

Saw this episode today and I can’t wait to get my hands on the book!

What caught my attention was in the interview, he spoke about Emily Kingsley and her essay “Welcome to Holland”. This is an excerpt from WIKIPEDIA about the essay:

“Welcome to Holland” is an essay, written in 1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley, about having a child with a disability. The piece is given by many organizations to new parents of children with special-needs.

The essay, written in the second person, employs a metaphor of excitement for a vacation to Italy that becomes a disappointment when the plane lands instead in Holland.

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

The metaphor is that the trip to Italy is a typical birth and child-raising experience, and that the trip to Holland is the experiencing of having and raising a child with special-needs.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

In the end, however, the reader sees that the “trip” is still well worth it:

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

My sons don’t have disabilities but I want to believe that they will be exceptional adults when they grow up. Whether they grow close from the tree or far away I will be a proud parent either way. I want them to be their own self and not what society tells them what they SHOULD be.

Let me read the book first and I will share more of his insights soon. (I hope it’s available here)

“When I was a kid and we went to a shoe store, the salesman said that my brother and I could each have a balloon. My brother wanted a red balloon and I wanted a pink balloon. My mother said, ‘I think you’d really rather have a blue balloon.’ And I said no, I really wanted a pink balloon and she said that my favorite color was blue. Now, my favorite color is blue, and I’m still gay.” —Andrew Solomon

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