All right, it’s getting to me.
I didn’t think it would – I mean, everybody knows they’re not talking about MY kid when they say the “R-word.”
They’re just using it without thinking, and it’s pretty unreasonable to think everybody is going to take it out of their vocabulary just because I happen to have a son with Down syndrome.
I mean, if he’s not with me when they say the word, they don’t even know he exists.
So it’s totally illogical to get upset when I hear the word tossed around as an insult, as in, “You are such a retard.”
There. I said it.
I feel like I need to go take a shower now.
I heard a little boy, probably about 10-years old or so, say that over the weekend. I didn’t even have to think about what to say, it came flying out of my mouth. Noah wasn’t with me, and I had never met this boy before, so there’s no way he could have known this Mama Bear was fixing to come alive.
I looked him square in the eye, smiled and started in on him.
“You know, I have a 6-year-old son who IS retarded, and it hurts my feelings to hear you use that word like that. See, if you could meet him, you would think he was pretty amazing too.”
(Okay, forgive me for the “it hurts my feelings” – next time I’ll say it hurts my heart.)
That was all it took.
The boy looked down at the ground sheepishly and went back to chasing his friend who was smirking at the reprimand.
I didn’t dare look behind me at the parents who must have overheard what I had to say.
There are people out there who don’t like the “R” word at all, and for that reason, I usually don’t use it. Part of me facing the truth about Noah’s diagnosis was accepting the reality of mental retardation; so in certain contexts I’ll use the term. But all I ask is, first, if you’re going to use the word, use it right. It’s a fact, a heartbreaking fact, not an insult to be thrown around with friends. As for me, knowing how hurtful that word is to a lot of parents with children with intellectual disabilities or differences, I’ll try not to use it either – that is unless I need to explain to some punk how hurtful it is to hear that word used as an insult.
Remember parents, more is caught than taught.
- It’s Way Past Time to Stop Saying Things Are “Retarded” (wired.com)
- Joking about disabilities isn’t funny: commentary (pennlive.com)
- Op-Ed: Stop Using ‘Retard’ As An Insult (pattidudek.typepad.com)
- Man with Down syndrome responds to Ann Coulter’s ‘retard’ insult (macleans.ca)