A lot of the time parents are profoundly unprepared for the differences that their children will manifest and they experience those differences almost as some kind of an assault on them and on the integrity of their household.  And then they need to make the leap to thinking, “If my child is different in this way, not only does my child have an identity as a deaf person or a dwarf, I have an identity as the parent of a deaf person or as the parent of a dwarf.” 

The parents have to go well outside of their comfort zone.  This wasn’t an identity that they sought. This wasn’t an identity that they wanted but it is fundamental to their identity.  

I always remember the parent of Dylan Klebold who was one of the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre saying to me that she was on a train talking to someone and he started to ask her about herself and she said, “And I had to tell him who I am and who I am forever now is the mother of Dylan Klebold.” 

There’s a sense that there’s a real shift into that difference.  To some degree the children will lead the parents but to some degree the parents have to lead the children.  They have to decide how they’re going to construct that child’s identity.  They have to engage. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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