Spread the Word.

There are two sides to the “being a parent to a child with Down Syndrome” coin.
There’s the side wherein you don’t want people to view your child as “the kid with Down Syndrome,” “the Down Syndrome kid,” or, worst of all, “the Down’s baby.”
And then there’s the side where you want to shout it from the rooftops, to normalize Down Syndrome, to make people ‘see the ability’ and know that Down Syndrome is common, it’s out there, it’s not scary, and that our kids are capable of anything.
I toe this line, and which side I’m on depends on the day.
Today, I’m shouting it from the rooftops.
Today, I’m letting everyone know. Because of one word. The R-word.
Yup, the R-word AGAIN.

Now, I’ll be 100% honest. When I was a teenager, my aunt worked with people with disabilities. She would tell me time and time again not to use the R-word. And I didn’t listen. Yeah, I tried. But it wasn’t important to me. She just told me it was offensive to people with disabilities, and I didn’t really get why.

Well, that damn word came up again today, and it won’t go away, and I feel the need to explain again why it’s offensive.

So, here’s what happened. I was in a professional setting, where I was a client, and I was talking to the person working there. She was asking me about Thatcher. I said he was growing up way too fast, and her response was, “I know! It’s retarded how fast time flies!” I stopped her right there. I told her that yes, time flies, and that is many things, but it is certainly not retarded. I told her that the R-word is a word that we no longer use in our household, because of my son, who has a disability. Her answer? “Oh right, he’s Down Syndrome.”

Actually, he is NOT Down Syndrome. But yes, he has Down Syndrome. Two totally different things. Down Syndrome does not define him. It’s not who he is. It’s a part of him, yes. But he’s Thatcher, thank you very much.

Fast forward my story, I posted about this professional to a group on social media, and while most people were also appalled at what had happened, one person told me I was being a hypocrite for being offended and for educating this professional. About a month ago, I had referred to Michelle Duggar as an idiot. Yup, a celebrity who willingly puts her life in the spotlight is apparently not allowed to receive criticism on a public forum. A celebrity whose claim to fame is spitting out J-named offspring, and petitioning against the rights of transgendered people. Let’s see. I’m standing up for people with disabilities, but that’s hypocritical because I hate homophobic celebrities? I can 100% see the logic here, can’t you?

Anyway, this got me all riled up, and let to yet another Facebook broo-ha-ha. A lot of friends of mine stood up for me. There are probably some people out there that were pretty angry with me. A lot of stupid things were said from all sides of the argument. And the point? Totally lost.

So what was the point? Why was I so upset by this situation? Because even when the R-word isn’t used to describe Thatcher, it’s demeaning him. Let me explain:
The word “retarded,” at the very root of things, means “slow” and “delayed.” It’s a medical term, albeit an antiquated one. It was used to describe people who were developmentally delayed. So if you were to call Thatcher retarded, and you were a doctor, you would be from the middle ages, perhaps, but you wouldn’t be wrong.
Here’s where it goes wrong. Nowadays, we use the word “retarded” to describe things that are stupid, or ridiculous. So for example, the professional I saw today used it to describe how ridiculously fast time is moving.
So, what’s the problem with that? Simple. You’re taking a word that describes my son, and you’re making it a bad thing. You’re making it something stupid, something ridiculous, something crazy. You’re making the word mean something else, something bad. So now that word that describes my son, that word is a bad thing. By association, my son’s delays are now a bad thing.

Do you get it yet? If not, I’ll use another example. Take the word “gay.” It’s used to describe someone who is homosexual. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? But you take that word, and you use it to describe things that are lame. Maybe you are homophobic. Maybe you’re not. The misuse of the word “gay” certainly started out with homophobes and spread from there. So you take the word “gay” and you use it to describe things you think are lame, and things you don’t like. You don’t like that movie? “That movie was SO gay!” …. see what you just did? You just took the word “gay” and made it something bad. By association, if a person is gay, they are now bad, too. You don’t have to call a person “gay” to make it offensive, you just have to use the word in an offensive context to basically insult every homosexual person on earth.

The R-word is the same. You’re taking a word that describes my son, and you’re making it bad, making it wrong. It might have started out as a slur by people hating on people with special needs, but even if you know or love someone with special needs, your hateful use of the R-word is them. That’s why we need to Spread the Word to End the Word. We need to stop using this word, period. You’re never using it “in a non-offensive way.” It’s always being hurtful, whether it’s intentional or not. Maybe you think I’m a hypocrite. Maybe you don’t. I don’t care. I just care that you think about your words before you speak, and you think about what those words mean and who they might hurt, intentional or not. I’m doing my best to, as well.

And if I correct you, or point out your use of the R-word? I’m not trying to offend you. I don’t judge you. I know it just slips out, because it used to slip out of my mouth, too. I’m just telling you because the more we can spread the word and educate people on why the word hurts, the faster we can eradicate it. The faster we can eradicate antiquated ideas on what kids like mine are, what they can do, and what defines them. The faster we can make people realize what people like Thatcher can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t.

That’s what side of the coin I will always be on. Thatcher’s side.

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Haters gonna hate.

So I sit here with so much to say and not enough time in the world to voice it all. Thatcher is FINALLY in bed after a horrible, exhausting day and I’m spent, mentally and physically. Thinking about going upstairs to bed physically hurts. It was the kind of day where Thatcher literally WOULD NOT nap, and screamed for half an hour when I tried to get him to sleep. Pulled my hair. Screamed at me when he was hungry. People think my kid is a perfect angel, but I assure you, he is not. He will tell you when he’s not happy, and today that was all freakin’ day.

I can’t blame him. I’ve been pretty miserable to be around lately, too. I am just frustrated with humanity, basically. Allow me to explain; for the last few weeks I’ve really felt harassed on Facebook. I generally speak my mind, and social media is no exception. But ever since the car seat incidents, I really feel targeted. Sure, things I say aren’t always flowery and happy. If something isn’t nice but I’ve been thinking it a lot lately, it gets a mention. Is that appropriate for Facebook? Probably not. But since my attempt to stay off my phone, I’ve quit Twitter, where I would normally vent my frustrations. On Twitter, people appreciate your honesty. You don’t tweet to interact with people you know IRL, you tweet to make your little internet family that you have a lot of things in common with.

I keep forgetting that Facebook is different. Facebook is a group of people you know IRL, but you only like 60% of them. You add them or they add you for the simple fact that you know each other. That’s it. Some are friends, some are coworkers, some are family. Some, you might have even met at the bar when you were 21 or on a vacation for spring break. But all of them know you on some level.

The problem with Facebook is that you can never delete people. Delete your family members? Get the evil eye and get talked about at family functions. Delete coworkers? Everybody talks about you in the break room. You can’t even delete a friend of a friend of a friend because it will get back to them. So what are you supposed to do, then?

I guess you could avoid all posts that people might find offensive. So, what could those be? Firstly, people hated my chalk board pregnancy photos. So I guess none of those. Then I hear people complain about baby pics. So no posting Thatcher pictures, then. Not to mention that everyone tells me I shouldn’t compare Thatch to other kids, especially typical kids. So I guess posting updates on what he’s doing developmentally is out. Oh, and how about posting an OPINION on something?! How would that go over? HA!

So the other day, I posted a pure opinion on Facebook. For no reason other than the fact that something was bothering me. Like any normal human being, I have likes and dislikes (go figure!). I decided to state my immense dislike for a certain name. And I stated it in a Facebook status. Someone asked me why I hated that name and anyone who names their child this, and I stated that it’s because I see it as a stripper name. It’s got a trashy ring to it, one of those names people think are cute and princessy but in reality they belong in Hustler magazine, like Destiny, or Charity, or Harmony. So I post about how much I hate this name, and I get all kinds of nasty comments. Comments about how I need to be nicer, or more positive, or that I’m “stirring the pot”… even that I need a hobby. I need a hobby?! I haven’t been out of my house for more than half an hour in a week, and when I do go out I’m carting around 20lb of baby, 10lb of diaper bag, 10lb of carseat… I’m sure I have time and energy for a hobby!

So the gist of what people were saying is… don’t voice my opinions. Apparently everyone who commented on my status is allowed to have an opinion, but I’m not. Yep. That seems totally fair. Now to be honest, yes, I do stir the pot every so often. 99% of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. And so I get why people don’t like me. But to gang up on me on my own Facebook status and tell me what a horrible person I am?

It really took me back to high school. I got bullied in high school, taunted and tormented, called names… I got singled out of my group and hated. I actually had to file a police report because a bunch of girls told me that I should kill myself because the world would be a better place without me; one of the girls told the principal what happened and he called police; she later denied it and said that I snitched. When I tried to switch schools, the public school wouldn’t take me. They said they didn’t want my problems. So I was stuck. I was insanely depressed and at times I contemplated suicide. It was a horrible time in my life, and I think people who tell you high school was the best time of their life are crazy. Honestly, nothing good happened to me in high school, and I regularly speak to approximately one person that I went to school with. In high school, was there a reason people didn’t like me? Probably. My likes, dislikes, and values probably didn’t align with them. And yes, I probably ran my mouth a little bit too much. Did I deserve to be alienated, made fun of, and made to feel like a pile of trash? Probably not.

I feel like society is so unaccepting of differing opinions. And yes, I’m guilty too. I’ve said things that were offensive because they didn’t align with my thoughts and ideas. And I know it was wrong. And it’s something I’m working on. It’s part of my whole positivity/ignoring the negative thing. There are people on Facebook that I don’t like, but I can’t delete because then it will become a whole load of drama that I’m not interested in. So I unfollow them, and their posts never show up on my feed. But what am I supposed to do when those people still get my posts, and they start commenting on them and picking them apart? Refuse to defend myself, lest I be labelled a pot-stirrer?! Delete them and have them talk behind my back about how I backed down and didn’t defend my point? There is no way of winning.

So here’s what I propose: We all need to take a step back and realize everyone is different. Everyone has different likes and dislikes, different hobbies, religions, etc. And we accept that. I might hate that you named your kid Destiny. But I’m not going to say it to your face. And I’m not going to say it behind your back. I might tell my husband I hate it, and that’s as far as it goes (husbands don’t count as talking behind your back because they are like a phantom limb or something). I’m allowed to dislike things you say, and you’re allowed to dislike things I say, and it only makes us bad people when we argue about it or talk behind each other’s backs. I am a good person. I’m a nurse, I care about my patients. I buy lunch for homeless people sometimes. I tip 20% most of the time. I hold the door open, not just for the elderly, but for everyone. And I love my family, my friends, and my little bird fiercely. I am not a bad person. Until you tempt me. Until you comment on something and you push my buttons. Then, I’m a bitch. But let me tell you something, button pusher. That makes you a bitch too. So if I post something that you dislike, be it an opinion, a thought, an action, and you don’t like it, scroll on by. Or better yet, go to my page and hit “delete” or “unfollow.” Whatever you need to do. I know I have a lot of unpopular opinions, and I’m not well-liked. Life isn’t a popularity contest. At least I’m not sweet and nice to peoples’ faces and rude behind their back just so everyone will like me. If I like you, you know. If I don’t, you know. And if you don’t like me, I’d rather you just leave me alone. Is it really too much to ask? I want my son to be raised to know that he is allowed to have opinions. He is allowed to have likes and dislikes. Sure, he should voice them in an appropriate manner, but he is an individual with individual thoughts, and he can let them be known. I don’t want to raise a marshmallow. I want to raise an individual. And I’m sure, if you have kids, you do too. So why can’t we let each other be individuals with individual thoughts, and lead by example?

Days like these, when my son has cried probably 2-3 hours of the day, ripped out my hair, vomited on me multiple times, and woken up whilst I was blogging because he was having night terrors, I have a lot on my plate. I am having a hard enough time being a mama. I have enough to deal with without being antagonized. I’m allowed to be grouchy; we all are. Give me my moment to be a grouch; to not be happy 24/7. I’m a human, just like you. You ignore me, I’ll ignore you, and we will all be better people. Even on minimal sleep.