Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oh no - not you, too!

I wrote the following post over a month ago. I've gone back and forth about publishing it.

Something I realized yesterday, though, is that I'm still bothered by what happened. I'm still very hurt when people use the word "retarded" or "TARD" or whatever version they choose that inadvertently hurts people that cannot control their cognitive abilities and the many people that love them.

I'm even more hurt when it's people that I like or admire. And what is the appropriate response when it's a special education preschool teacher that does it?

Oh, God, this fight. Today, and days when I feel like this, which are much fewer and farther between, I wonder if I'm cut out for it, if I'm strong enough.

So on this day, the one set aside to attempt to get people to think more about their word choices, I'm publishing.

And sighing.


The "brief" IEP meeting went well, overall. We were rolling around KeepItQuickVille, making a slight detour onto OhIMeantToAsk Lane, just about to easy into the driveway of Maison de NoSurprises when it happened.

She said it.

I cringe even before writing it out because I know what it is.

Lemme fist tell you this. I know some people want to go all "get a thicker skin" on me and I have to say...somewhere along the way, I have.

I had a friend in high school who called me an Agressive Cottonball. He said that I could dish it with the best of them but I couldn't take it.

I probably pouted when he said that.

Because I'm sensitive.

In case that wasn't clear.

He was right though. When I was coming up, (and forgive me for not knowing the new terminology that surely exists amongst the whippersnappers) jonin' (uh, who knows how to spell that anyway?) was huge. We made fun of each other for fun. Someone noticed that you were wearing your friend's jeans? Having a bad hair day? Sporting ugly glasses past their prime?

All easy targets.

But let someone say something about me. I may have put on a semi-tough exterior (i.e. not burst out crying on the spot), but it festered internally for...well, forever.

Obviously. Because all of those things were said about me and I still remember them vividly. Plus a whole lot more.

I would love that brain space back, thankyouverymuch.

The truth is, though, that I'm ok about a lot of things now that I just plain wouldn't have been years ago, whether we're taking 15 years or just the few since Playette has been in my life.

I still strongly believe that you shouldn't hurt people by using words that are painful to them. But I don't have the same reaction that I used to and I'm not sure how to feel about that.

I don't get as sad as I used to. It's not even anger, really. It's more like disappointment. Deep disappointment that I feel the need to shake off as quickly as possible. I can't wallow in it...forever. I refuse to.

You know why? And I think this is sad, too.

I won't do it because, MY GOD, she's three.

It's not stopping.

So, yeah, I'll still stand up for my rights and those of others. I maintain to fight the good fight, but I'm putting a protective coating on this here cottonball personality of mine, little by little, for the sake of my own sanity.

That said, I got disappointed yesterday.

It was in that very IEP meeting.

Right at the end.

I may have even begun to gather my belongings.

We were pulling into the driveway, after all. There had been no surprises, no arguements, no losses of control or emergence of expletives. What more could you ask for?

Well, I could have asked for my daughter's very kind and considerate and generally likeable teacher not to use the "r" word.

Stab me in the gut, why don'tcha.

And, like I said, it wasn't the same kind of pain I've felt before. It was different this time.

It was more of a "Dammit, not you, too. I thought I was safe with you. I didn't have my defenses up because we're supposed to be -->here<--. This is a safe zone. I want to like you. I don't want us to have a barrier between us because, ugh, I have no choice now but to address this."

Unfortunately, it's not something I can ignore.

Especially in a situation like this one.

The old me, trust, would have grabbed my kid (who was in the room by this point), ran out crying, vowing to never have her cross such an oppressive threshold as long as there was breath in my body.

You may think that's extra-dramatic, but I'm telling you, I can see myself starring in that scene as clear as if it had actually happened.


And that's where I stopped writing that day.

I can't take myself back to that exact place, so I feel like I'd be doing a disservice to the person I was that day if I just tacked on how I feel today.

In short, I did stop the teacher that day. She was mid-sentence about something totally different. When she had used the word that offends me so much, what she said was, "I don't know why they have this on the form here. It's so retarded."

I called her on it. Very nicely, but I couldn't let it slide. I mean of all things, she's at work, with a parent, in an IEP meeting. You'd think that at least one of those things would have told her to initiate filter usage.

Her reply was a story about how her dad was in a wheelchair when she was growing up and that other kids used to ask her if he was retarded. So, you know, she gets a pass.

Oh. Ok.

We spoke a couple of days later about an unrelated issue. She used that time to apologize. She said that it had been bothering her and she felt really bad. I elaborated as to why some people find that word offensive.

I have no way of knowing if she got it or not. I'm still bothered. Obviously.

Another reality is that I cried last week. I screamed. I cursed. About this very topic. Not the teacher, but other people I looked at as friends.

They got me.

I'm not as tough as I thought.


Not a Perfect Mom said...

ugh...that's like the last person you would think...and her excuse, and then later apology, prob wouldn't fly with me...

Lisa said...

Oh man. I know so well what you're talking about - from being an "aggressive cottonball" (man, I love that, that describes me to a T!), to assuming you're safe with certain people and having them pull the rug out from under you with the use of the R-terminology. Since Finn has been born, I have had some of the most unlikely people use the R-word to me: a long-time babysitter whom we ADORE, our marriage counselor, and yes, even one of Finn's early intervention therapists. And it seems that it's a very rare person who can just be humble, acknowledge the harm their language has caused, and feel remorse for it without resorting to justifications and excuses. (In our case, our babysitter felt horrible and sent a long, tear-stained, heartfelt note apologizing; the marriage counselor and Finn's OT both justified and excused themselves.)

And yes, sometimes it feels like a total losing battle. Are we asking for so much? Just a little respect. A little kindness. A little compassion. It's so painful when you realize how difficult it can be to eke those simple things out of people, out of society. The society that our kids have to grow up in.

Hugs, my friend.

Ruby's Mom said...

How awful! My husband's sister has used the "R" word around me several times.I always feel like she just punched me in the stomach.I can't imagine how I will react when Ruby is able to understand what is being said.I'm such a momma-bear when it comes to my children being hurt.

krlr said...

No one gets a pass. Not if your dad's in a wheelchair, & not if your niece/granddaughter has DS... That's my child & I won't have the adults in her life...

Sorry. Getting all riled up. BAD special ed teacher!