Prior to Ethan, I was a kind person. I was caring and understanding. (So I thought) I don’t ever remember making fun of individuals with disabilities, intentionally.
I do however, remember in my way younger years impersonating people with a disability, I do remember making jokes…I also remember saying the R word ( A LOT) and referring to people, objects, myself as the R word. I never thought twice. NEVER. Never did it occur to me the relationship between the R word and those with actual disabilities. Though I do know I used the word to insult, because somehow subconsciously I knew being one of those people with a disability would be a negative thing.
NOW, as a mother of a child with Down syndrome my eyes have been widely opened. As most of you, I am disgusted with myself for who I was then. I am sure that most of us can look back and shake our heads at who we were then.
I am also disgusted by how society makes it ok to make fun of those individuals such as my son. Nowhere along my life journey did anyone stop me and say “Erika, your language is disrespectful”, “Erika, making fun of those with special needs is inappropriate.” Nope. No one.
Not the school system, not my parents, not my role models, not the media, not one book I ever opened up. NO ONE. Instead, everyone laughed and came up with more jokes. Instead more TV shows aired with the R word being used every 5 seconds.
I have become confused in it all. They try to teach respect at school. Parents tell their kids “treat others the way you want to be treated...” but it seems like our kids are the exception. Don’t make fun of the kids who have less than you, don’t make fun of the overweight ones, or that kid or this kid.. but what about our kids? Our kids seem to be the group of kids (individuals) that is ok to make fun of.
It seems that as a society, we are deeming children like my son as less. We try to diminish their value and presence on this earth. When they are in fact humans! Just like YOU and ME. They once grew in the womb of a woman who rubbed her belly all day long as she joyfully sang to them. They have a mother and a father, who proudly love them. They might even have brothers and sisters who eagerly play with them! They have a heart that beats, a heart that loves.
My son, who struggled to nurse and breathe at the same time, who struggled to sit up, to crawl, to walk. The little boy whose little heart is not completely healed, yet he looks at me everyday with the biggest smile on his face and determination glaring out of his eyes. The little boy who cannot yet speak, who becomes overwhelmed with frustration because he cannot tell me what he wants.
If you do not have a child like Ethan, you have no idea of the things in life you have taken for granted. My son has fought harder than most other kids, harder than his own sisters to get to where he is at in life; my son has to overcome an obstacle each and every single day. My son is the target of mockery and he will forever always be a target.
Yet, the whole wide world wants to ridicule him, when in reality he has proven himself more worthy than most of us. I have learned more from my son in the past 16 months, than I have ever learned anywhere else in the 27years prior to him.
He has been the best life lesson I have ever been provided with. I am honored to be his mother. I am honored to call him my son. I am blessed. No money, no car..no house, no gadgets… no trip around the world, no trip around the universe could ever compare to what this little boy brings to my heart –and to my soul.
…Take a good look at my son. He is amazing and if you just give him a chance, you will be in complete awe. And your eyes will be left wide open with the truth.
(nothing more motivating than Goldfish)