Rock Center | November 08, 2012
>>> the political analysis has been that tuesday's election results broke the way they did because among other things the republican party underestimated how much the nation has changed in just the space of the last few years. we are a different people. we have changed demographically. we have changed a lot of our views. definitions of things like the family. though perhaps for you, not quite as much as the family kate snow is going to introduce us to tonight.
>> i don't know, my dad screwed me up pretty good? what do you think two dad would do to a kid.
>> reporter: a new sitcom on nbc featuring a decidedly modern definition of the ever-changing american family "the new normal" tells the story of a single mom from the midwest who becomes the surrogate mother for a gay couple in los angeles .
>> you have no problem doing this for two men?
>> oh, no, i requested a gay couple.
>> reporter: that's just television. but this is the real life version of the new normal.
>> what does coffee have in it?
>> reporter: they live in a new york city townhouse that just got its power back this past weekend after hour cane sandy. author andrew solomon , his husband, john solomon , and their 3-year-old son george .
>> he knows the word gay. he knows that he has gay dads. i mean to the extent that somebody of his age can know that. he knows that.
>> reporter: and george knows about his other family members as well. but it is complicated. six adults. four children, living in three states. we had to make a chart to explain just who is parent to whom. start with friends of andrew and johns, a lesbian couple, laura and tammy.
>> i was a donor and therefore the biological father of oliver. then, they asked me to do it again.
>> reporter: so john is also the biological father of lucy, but there is more. a close friend of andrews from college blaine who was single at the time had always dreamed of having kids.
>> i said, well if you ever decided that you wanted to be a mother i can think of nothing i would feel more honored about than to be the father of your child . so, blaine is the mother of little blaine .
>> reporter: with all of this going on, andrew still wanted to be a full time parent. he lobbied john for a child of their own.
>> he convinced me. so then we used, may i have george , the red, for just a minute?
>> reporter: their old friend laura volunteered to carry george .
>> the four kids all call us daddy and papa. and even though these kids live in minneapolis . and these kids live in the southwest. we're all consider ourselves family and the kids all consider themselves siblings.
>> the tough thing is when we are at a party and somebody says how many children do you have? it is a tough question.
>> reporter: john and andrew know that not everyone thinks their family arrangement is so wonderful.
>> some people will find it offensive. and one of the birth announcements was returned by somebody who said that our lifestyle didn't agree with their christian values . i respect that.
>> reporter: families can be tough to navigate. growing up, andrew 's parents struggled to cope with his dyslex dyslexia. they were told he would never read. you still have dyslexia?
>> i still have dyslexia. i can't write by hand. i write letters out of order, reversed. put the date down backward, it is a mess.
>> reporter: his parents helped him deal with his dyslexia, but when they learned he was gay, that was another story.
>> they embraced me and loved me despite a lot of differences and then my being gay was sort of the bridge too far.
>> reporter: years later as a young aadult, andrew began a battle with depression which he chronicled in "the noonday demon ." andrew says during the worst of it he dent want to live. it sound awful.
>> it was. but i came out of it. partly was just getting on the right medication. partly it was meeting my husband and having kids. the things i most wanted and thought might never happen, happened.
>> reporter: andrew and john got married in 2007 . his father gave a beautiful toast. by then, andrew had started writing his new book, andrew says the book began as a quest to understand his own parents. to make sense of his life. did you write this book to foregive your parents?
>> i wrote the book and in the course of writing it i did forgive my parents. my parents didn't always accept me for who i was. but they actually always did love me. and that's really the central thing.
>> reporter: the central question of andrew 's new book, far from the tree, is how do parents love children who are different than they are? andrew talked to 300 families over 11 years, about deafness, schizophrenia, even child prodigies . in the hundreds of case he's examined and documented on tape, life doesn't always turn out the way it is planned. one chapter deals with children who are on the autism spectrum .
>> he has a mentor that helps him. no biting, chris.
>> with an autistic children you have to learn a different emotional language.
>> reporter: another chapters, he titles dwarf. doctors told clinton brown any mother he probably wouldn't survive.
>> when i was born my mom refused to see me for three days. she was scared. she thought and said that is my child and i want to take my child home.
>> reporter: another chapter, downs syndrome . dierdre says she takes life with katherine one day at a time.
>> i am lucky to have her in this period of time too.
>> i'm lucky too.
>> thank you.
>> a long way in at exceptor 10, the book by this yale educated author takes an unexpected turn.
>> why did you include crime in the book?
>> i wanted to look at how parents love children who by some external standard seem like children who would be unlovable or whom they couldn't embrace. who would be the hardest to love? i thought, okay, how do you go on loving your own child when your own child has proved to be a brutal murderer?
>> how do you love this child , dillon kleibold, one of the two teens responsible for the columbine massacre .
>> can you say when was the last time that you spoke with tom and sue?
>> i had dinner with sue last night.
>> reporter: for the past six years writing his book, andrew has been talking with dylan 's parents, tom and sue, who have never spoken publicly. he had unprecedented access to the family's private thoughts.
>> you know, when i went out to meet them, i thought if i got to know them i would understand why this had happened and i would detect whatever was off in their household. i spent ape l lot of time there. i stayed in their house. they seem very all american. they seem gentle. they seem intelligent. they seem kind.
>> let's talk about the terrible day, april, 1999 , this school here. that morning, dylan says bye to his mom.
>> yes, the last word sue ever heard from him. the door closed. he set off for school.
>> reporter: like so many americans, the kleibolds watched the scene play out on live tv , dylan and eric harris killed 12 students and one teacher and then turned their guns on themselves.
>> it is an unspeakable, cat catastrophic loss to lose a child , to lose your child and everything you believe to be true about that child in the same instant. it is a terrible thing. sue said once i understood it was actually dylan who was doing this i had to pray that he got killed before he hurt any more people. if he goes down i want to know it was his choice. so i hope he will kill himself. and he did it. i was probably right, it probably was the best thing for him. but to have made that prayer and had that happen, it is a terrible thing to have to live with.
>> reporter: after all these years, people still ask what did dylan 's parents know and why didn't they know about his diaries and tapes that were discovered later?
>> dylan had this piece of him that was evil. it was not visible to his parents. that's because he was secretive.
>> reporter: some people will say why didn't they break into his room?
>> because at the time he was growing up, there was no evidence that there was any reason to break into his room. i'll tell you one thing for sure, i know them well enough, so that i can tell you, 100%, if they had had the slightest idea that such a thing could ever possibly happen, they would have tried to stop it and prevent it.
>> reporter: andrew wants to be clear he is not an apologist for what happened at columbine, neither are the kleibolds. but -- they still love him?
>> very much. she said while i recognize that it would have been better for the world if dylan had never been born, i believe it would not have been better for me.
>> reporter: as andrew solomon has learned firsthand, the love of parents can at times heal and redeem.
>> when i was growing up my mother always said to me, there is no other love like the love you have for your children. if you didn't have children, you will never know what i am talking about. and at the time it made me very angry. i thought i'm gay, i'm not going to have kids. stop saying that. but it was her saying that that partly motivated me to go ahead and fight to have children when it begin to look like a possibility. and it is part of the reason that i did. and as it turns out she was right.
>> kate snow , granted that a lot of what is in there isn't for everybody. what would you say is the central thesis in here?
>> a lot of it is not for everybody. but i want to say there is also some beautiful, moving stories in here. it is not all bad news. the central theme, about unconditional love of your children. it's about coping with news and differences and having to deal with that. all parents pretty much say they were lonely at first. they thought they were all alone. and then they sort of discovered there is an identity to some of these situations. if you are deaf, it is an identity. it's not just a condition. and so they find the groups, find the community out there of deaf people and they're able to, to attach to that.
>> en that way this is intended to be for everybody. kate snow , thank you very