Love, no matter what!

Parenting is no sport for perfectionists

I’m writing a piece on art and motherhood. It will not be an exclusively positive portrait. Being a mother for 23 years have displayed a multifaceted picture, I’m trying to capture some of this complexity in my text.

Today my research led me to two fantastic findings, to Andrew Solomon and Irene Lusztig

FAR FROM THE TREE Parents, Children And The Search For Identity

Andrew Solomon spent 10 years interviewing more than 300 families with “exceptional” children. That is, children with “horizontal identities,” a term he uses to encompass all the “recessive genes, random mutations, prenatal influences or values and preferences that a child does not share with his progenitors.”

Solomon got to know families of individuals affected by a spectrum of cognitive, physical or psychological differences: “They are deaf or dwarfs; they have Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia or multiple severe disabilities; they are prodigies; they are people conceived in rape or who commit crimes; they are transgender.”

Tolsty said: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Solomon says: “The unhappy families who reject their variant children have much in common, while the happy ones who strive to accept them are happy in a multitude of ways.”

Two projects by Irene Lusztig has caught my attention, they are called The Motherhood Archives and The Worry Box Project . Both projects have to do with maternal anxieties and worries. They thematize common, universal worries of giving birth to a child with special needs, just like any of those Solomon have been talking to.

In The Worry Box Project, Lusztig invites visitors to her web-page to add their own worries to a wonderful Worry Box. It’s a beautiful way include the audience. By sharing our worries anonymously we become part of a collective of worried parents. But we also get to see the beauty of caring, to see all the love that floats from parents to children. Seeing our personal worries and troubles being mirrored in a larger group can, I believe, also have a kind of consoling effect for some of us.

The link between Solomon & Lusztig has to do with parenting. Being a parent, aware of any- and everything that can go wrong, is so frightening that it is a miracle that we dare to become parents at all.

Still some of us do.

Just to discover that some things are just as hard, even harder, than imagined. We can never be fully prepared for every eventuality.

We have to let go, to follow in the steps of Theodore Roethke:

I learn by going where I have to go

My piece on art and motherhood is planned as an essay in a book. I’m collecting material, and Lusztig and Solomon are jewels from my treasure hunt.  (Did anyone mention synchronicity). Feel free to comment on the text above, responses much appreciated! 

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Note: she is reading terms ( “the maternal body as a site of institutional control, ideological surveillance, medical knowledge, and nationalist state intervention” ) onto the body just as much as the interventions she is documenting, yet the statement takes the rhetorical space of a measured judgement above the fray. This gap suggests that a key link is still missing, and that things aren’t quite as this list suggests. Given your distrust of deconstructionism, this might be a really good example for taking another step forward into a new post-deconstructionist space. Just thinking out loud here. Blessings, Harold

    1. Sigrun says:

      more body – less mind!

  2. So amazing. Thank you for linking to this site–I know many women who will find Lusztig’s project as moving and beautiful and, in some ways, consoling, as I do.

    1. Sigrun says:

      I really like the interactivity of the Lusztig’s project, how she invite us all in.

  3. lostandfoundbooksandfoundbooks says:

    I am a huge fan of Solomon, and he has given me great solace over the years. I agree with his findings that if you parent a child with any of these “exceptionalities”, you (hopefully) find great happiness in loving them for who they are (although the “system” would have you think otherwise). There is great release in this, and there is no point in struggling against it anyway. It just doesn’t work that way. All parents need to learn to accept their children, and maybe one of the blessing for these parents is that they figure it out earlier than other parents do. I am happy to discover Lusztig here…what a wonderful project. Thanks and good luck with your paper. I hope you let us know how it progresses!

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you!
      I have read parts of Solomon’s book on depression several years ago, and am looking forward to reading Far from the tree. As for now I have only read about this last work of his.
      I discovered the beautiful work of Lusztig via the The Photographers’ Gallery’s web-page:

      ps: I’m going to London to see the Home Truths exhibition in two weeks time, so just keep visiting – there will be more!


  4. Great topic! Good luck with the essay. Another poet who has written about motherhood is Rachel Zucker. It’s a hot topic right now – to gather all these disparate bits of who we are, becoming more vital in the process.

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