I read Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity several years ago as I was struggling with how to be a better parent to a child whose worldview seemed so different from my own.
In my subsequent musings about the uneasy awareness of mortality that seems to afflict our species, I have thought about how that awareness infiltrates the peculiarly human experience of parenthood. We sapiens seem to have a focus not so much on an instinctive goal of survival of the species but rather a drive for the survival of a particular individual: ourselves. I returned for another dip into Solomon’s book and found this:
There is no such thing as reproduction…In the subconscious fantasies that make conception look so alluring, it is often ourselves that would like to see live forever, not someone with a personality of his own.
Revisiting Solomon’s tome dovetailed with seeing an extraordinary image of the gymnast Simone Biles in an unimaginable mid-air feat. I was reminded of the chapter in Far From the Tree on prodigies. However much these individuals may be admired by others, even supportive parents must feel some uneasiness about having such “different” children. And helping a child achieve greatness can hijack a parent’s own identity and life plans. There are indications in the Bible that even Christ, that supernal prodigy, gave his mother fits.
What are your views on the connection between parenthood and immortality? In your own experience of the parent-child relationship, how much difference has been comfortable and how do differences impact your identity?