The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy by Priscilla Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: A gifted new voice limns the territory of disappointment and shows how we can find unexpected joy in this exquisitely written, emotionally resonant work reminiscent of "A Year of Magical Thinking."
My thoughts: Although I didn't share Gilman's understanding of Wordsworth, the poet gave a great deal of comfort to Gilman as she embarked on her journey into mothering a child different "normal." I found a great deal of guidance in the way she handled doctors, educators, and family.
Gilman's son has a developmental disorder I'd not heard of yet her struggles resonated with my own. The difference between us (apart from the diagnosis) was her incredible articulation of her feelings, ideas, thoughts, and lack of blame. Far too often when writing a memoir, the author feels the need to unload unnecessary negative feelings toward a particular person in their life. Priscilla had many opportunities to do so, as many of those we deal with when advocating for our child do not understand nor help, but she refrained.
Besides Priscilla's articulation and lack of denial, she recalled with perfect clarity, the feelings of each step and acceptance that parenting of Benj was not going to be a quick fix. I loved her early acceptance of that. It would be a life long journey of understanding, accommodating, and accepting. Her reframing Benj's disability into his personality and perceptions was beautifully done. Of course, in order to relate to others, her son needed to acquire certain skills and she and her husband fastidiously sought the best way for him to learn and use them. At the same time, her son didn't need to change on a fundamental level. He was beautiful and wonderful just the way he was. He didn't need to fit into a mold of what society deemed as "normal." Normal is subjective in every sense.
Rather than share my own journey of parenting and feelings of exhaustion and inadequacy, I will simply state that the author's book is not only beautifully written but validating. It touched a cerebral and emotional part of me. Not all children are as high maintenance as others and will meet the societal demands more easily than others. However, the best and most validating example of quirky kids equals normal is the television show "The Middle." Watch it, look for the hidden cameras in your house for their story ideas, read this book, and feel validated that the children you are raising came pre-programmed, quirky, and they will rise to the occasion, too.
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*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.