Sep 17 2014
Ian Brown is the author of The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand his Extraordinary Son. It’s going to be put on as theatre, and that’s a play I’d like to see.
Ian Brown in this interview expressly says what so many of us feel about people with illness or disability of one kind or another (I’d argue that includes every single last one of us, but that is an idea to explore later). He says his son enhances his sense of happiness, and teaches him that fragility is not weakness, rather that it is at the core of being human.
Basically, as he describes it, he is saying his son is a gift, because having him in his life has taught him things he might not otherwise know.
And yet, he entirely balks at the notion that children with disability are a gift from God.
People say, “Oh, I would never trade my disabled child. They’re gifts from God.” I hate that sentimentalizing. If Walker is God’s idea of a gift, then God really needs to read the instruction manual because not only is he not a gift, but he knows he’s not a gift. I would not change him for my sake, but for his own life – it could be easier and less painful, and I would change that in a second if I could. But if you are not sentimental about him and just look at who he is, he’s kind of revealing.
This made me think about how sentimentality, cliches, they can really turn people off, even when they are thinking the same ideas as someone else. It reminded me, to be frank, of a sometimes tendency of the pro-life movement to sentimentalize. I, for example, don’t do pro-life work “for the babies.” I do it because I value our shared humanity and I think killing children in the womb detracts from that and makes us, the living, more callous. It’s two ways of saying the same thing. But I am guessing there’s many a pragmatic pro-lifer who felt he/she couldn’t join the broader movement for the sheer sentimentalism of it all.
I certainly believe all children are gifts, yes, from God. We don’t choose when the gift comes, or the wrapping. (In fact, I believe everything is a gift, so the fact that I’d like to have children, but have none, also some form of unwanted gift–but this we are not allowed to mention.) Everything I own is merely on loan to me, from God. But something about the Oprah Winfrey age of constant talk diminishes the deep significance of these things. I don’t need happy pictures of babies to enhance my desire to want them to be treated as the gifts they are. And so I share, perhaps, some of Ian Brown’s frustration at the sentimentality of it all.