GO READ THIS POST FIRST...REDNECK MOMMY
Ok, did you read it? I grew up in a time and a very isolated place where the word "retarded" wasn't scary or mean or bad. There was a girl (woman) that lived next to my grandmother who was retarded. As a child I needed to know why she was the way she was. I was told that she had temper tantrums and threw things and pulled her hair and talked funny and dressed different and looked different because she was retarded. I played with her when she had good days and went home when she had bad ones. She was my friend. Simply that, not my retarded friend, just a friend who happened to be retarded. My mother grew up playing with her too and I imagine was given the same explanation. It never crossed my mind to call her anything but her name. Her name was Cheryl. I was never allowed to make fun of people with disabilites, if I had been caught by mama or my grandmother saying anything bad about a disabled person, I might have become disabled myself. It was NOT permitted.
When I was a teenager, a girl in my class had a brother with cerebral palsy. She hated the word "retarded". I didn't understand because in my world "retarded" had never been used as a bad word. It was an explanation, like you can't eat any more 'cause your full, or you can't sleep 'cause you're not tired. I just didn't get what the big deal was. I even began to use the word myself in the place of something stupid or ridiculous.
Tonight I realize how wrong that is. I have had to label my children so that they could get the services they need. According to the level of need, the money available, the ridiculousness of the bureaucracy involved, we have had to get them different diagnoses. Autism, developmentally delayed, blind, MR, cognitive delayed. I have to admit that until I read Tannis' post, I was at a point where I really didn't care if they called my kid ANYTHING as long as he got to go to school and eat lunch with the other kids. As for the other people in the world, the ones who cringe at drool, shake their head at a 7 year old in diapers, the friends and family who don't call because they don't want to "bother" us, well I don't even see them anymore. Their consequence means nothing to me. It's the people, the kids that come up and call them by their names that matter. The ones who ask them how they're doing when they know that they can't answer.
I think we softly walk through this life hoping no one sees our weaknesses. It's so easy to laugh at people who are so blatantly different on the outside when we are all, below the surface, different, because just maybe your laughter will drown out the person who is laughing at you.
So to hammer home Tannis' point...the next time you start to use the R word, please remember that you are telling the world that these children don't matter; that my child and all disabled people are stupid, boring, ridiculous, worthless, junk. And man, go ahead and ask me if that's true. Or better yet, ask him.