Meet the Tom family. Susan Tom, the matriarch, has 13 children. Two are biological and the rest are adopted. When the word adopted is used the mental picture is of a 'normal' child, probably with some emotional or psychological issues but still with all of their fingers and toes in place. However, Susan Tom, a single mother, has adopted what most would consider the 'throwaways', the rejects: children with special needs, disabilities, and fatal illnesses.
It takes a person with true strength of character to assume such a responsibility. Even more so when you realize how grounded most of her brood are. That they know they are 'different' is a given. Yet think about it. If you are born blind you learn that others can see but what does that really mean? Not seeing is 'normal' for you. Certainly, Susan Tom gives her children the unconditional support and love they need to thrive and have the same dreams and hopes that we all expect to. What better definition of normal is there? It is a true testament of just how big her heart really is to see that these children, with all of their various problems, are basically the just same as you or I.
That is not to say life is easy. Joe, battling cystic fibrosis, along with a host of mental issues, has violent mood swings and everyone at some time becomes the focus of these. They suffer the typical ups and downs of most families, especially those with teenagers. Many times patience is worn paper thin. And there is the constant knowledge that some will not survive to adulthood. Yet through it all they manage. Why? The answer is simple. They all know in the core of their beings that they are loved. That they are unique and valuable as individuals: that they have worth. And that is the most important gift any parent can give to his or her child, biological or otherwise. They have that confidence to thrive. And they do so, with humor.
If you are expecting some starry eyed, rose colored, watered down version of life with the Toms, you will be disappointed. Director Jonathan Karsh depicts their lives as they really are; their triumphs and sorrows, warts and all. It is easy to see why this film was nominated for and won many of the awards that it has. You may come away emotionally drained after seeing this important documentary but you will not regret the experience of life with the Toms, a truly unique family.