Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Lighten up..." (The R- Word )

I am infuriated today… Gabby informed that today her band teacher used the R-word (retarded) today.

I am not infuriated at the fact that he used the word, rather that he disregarded my daughter’s feelings.

The fact that he cut her off as she tried to explain how her little brother, the little boy that has her wrapped around that stinky little finger, has Down syndrome, and how that word is degrading to people like her brother and insulting to those that love them.

Instead he told her to “lighten up, people call me ‘Baldy” all the time…” well Baldy, I assure you that being bald is not degrading your existence (per society) nor those the word “baldy” have a negative connotation and implies stupidity.

And like I mentioned, I am not completely infuriated that he used the word. Truth is at one point of my life, before I even knew what Down syndrome was, before one of my greatest blessings was ever born, I used the word often.

I didn’t mean to insult people with disabilities, although in some way I was. In some knowing way, I was.

When my phone (or some other object) started to act up, I would refer to it as a “retarded” phone… because it was stupid and dumb and worthless…  because the word retarded came from “mentally retarded”… and somehow, those people were dumb. Hence the usage of the word seemed appropriate.

Stab me in my heart, why don’t you. That is exactly how I felt when Ethan was born. Heartbroken.

So retarded doesn’t imply stupidity, I’ve learned. Sadly society has twisted the word.

Back to my point – I understand if he doesn’t understand  what the word means. I understand if he doesn’t see how hurtful the word can be.

But DO NOT dismiss my child’s feelings. Do not make her feel like less for standing up for what she believes in. DO NOT make her feel little in a room full of students. DO NOT shatter my daughter’s confidence. DO NOT teach her to hold in her feelings in matters that DO MATTER.

And middle school is tough! TOUGH! Not academically, but socially. This is where kids who don’t know who they are, fall in with the “wrong” crowd. This is a time of a child’s life where we need to direct them and feed them how amazing they are and how they CAN make a difference in this world. Lets empower these children not bring them down.

Thanks for the advice you gave my daughter, but I assure you that neither she nor I will “lighten up”.

By the way, did you know a man with Down syndrome, Sujeet Desai, plays 7 instruments… impressive.



  1. It is frustrating to see so much ignorance and how that word is used! You are a great mom & as long as you teach your daughter what's right that is what matters! I grew up hating that word & defended my brother from ignorant people who did not know how to respect and treat him like a person.

  2. It makes me so angry that a Teacher of all people, would have the nerve to brush off your daughters feelings like that. To take a stand on something like the R word in front of her peers would have taken a lot of courage and he should have respected her for that, not down played it or given the response that he did.

    I'm proud of Gabby!

  3. Also, it made me excited to see a new post from you! I miss your blog and reading your thoughts :)


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