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November 30, 2012

Loving a child on the fringe

(Continued)

PARIS —

Am I "cheerily generalizing" as Solomon says of other Down syndrome parents, "from a few accomplishments" of my child? Perhaps I am. But one thing I've learned these last four years that possibly Solomon has not: All of our accomplishments are few. All of our accomplishments are minor: my scribblings, his book, the best lines of the best living poets. We embroider away at our tiny tatters of insight as though the world hung on them, when it is chiefly we ourselves who hang on them. Often a dog or cat with none of our advanced skills can offer more comfort to our neighbor than we can. (Think: Would you rather live with Shakespeare or a cute puppy?) Each of us has the ability to give only a little bit of joy to those around us. I would wager Eurydice gives as much as any person alive.

As I write these words, it is not clear to me that Solomon has learned all he might have from his 10-year investigation into diverse parenting. He has reached several convincing conclusions, to be sure: "Hard love is in no way inferior to easy love," he writes, and "Diversity is what unites us all." While not risky, these observations are well-articulated and abundantly corroborated. I embrace especially his point on struggle: "The happy ending of tragedies," he notes, "have a dignity beyond the happy endings of comedies." Warriors at heart, we cherish what we've gone to battle for far more than what's been handed to us with a lifetime warranty and a lollipop.

It's when Solomon turns to his own life after hundreds of pages of publicizing the diverse, disabled and combative lives of others that his unreconstructed conventionality emerges most obviously — and his cowardice. When all is said and done, Solomon mainly wants to bank an A-1 baby. While quickly regretting the "economic privilege" required for the engineering of his perfect offspring, he becomes "extremely deliberate about the egg selection." Having prepared the ground for his reproductive missions by marrying his partner in a "shot-gun wedding" at the ancestral estate of the late Diana, princess of Wales, Solomon sifts donor profiles, consults attorneys and flies around the globe to negotiate optimal parenting conditions.

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