Somedays I let things get to me more than other days. Yesterday was one of those days. A friend I really like posted a joke on her Facebook wall. It was a joke involving a helmet and crayons - and it got a lot of laughs. From everyone except me.
I will be the first to admit - I have been guilty of using the word "retarded" in the past. "That's retarded." "You're so retarded." I also have been guilty of using the expression "Riding the short bus." in the past as well. I thought very little of those kinds of jokes then. But that was then.
This is now.
I'm not looking to change the world. I'm not looking to change you. I'm not mad if jokes like that slip out of your mouth. It has become so much the "norm" that I realize it's hard to change. I also know that it's impossible to protect my children from hearing jokes and put downs. Trust me - I really know this.
But I would just ask you to consider the following and file it in the back of your mind. Next time you hear yourself make a joke that is obviously about developmental disabilities and is meant to be insulting, ask yourself these questions:
Would you make that same joke in front of this Mom?
A Mom who has waited for this child her whole life? This Mom who wants to cry when she hears people make jokes at the expense of her son's difficult life? A Mom who, when she hears or reads a joke that's offensive feels like she's a failure for not "fixing" her son in society's eyes? A Mom who is well aware that that "short bus" may be in her son's future. That a "helmet" could be too...who knows? That her son may be diagnosed as "retarded" down the road...it's possible. You have to know that for me, it's personal.
Would you use that same word or joke about a short bus or tell a friend they need a helmet in front of Gavin? Imagine his eyes looking into yours.
We always go with the assumption that Gavin understands everything...he just can't communicate that to us. Would you want to hurt his feelings? This child who shouldn't have accomplished half - or more - of what he's accomplished. This child who continues to defy all the odds. This child who works...SO hard...for everything. This child who is filled with pride when he does things on his own. You could easily set his progress back by making him feel "less than"...or the butt of a joke. If you compare Gavin to anyone - it shouldn't be as an insult or a joke. Even if you don't mean it that way. If you compare Gavin to anyone - they should be flattered.
Would you joke about retards or kids who drool a little or otherwise disabled children in front of Brian? Would you want to contribute to what will already be a tough road for him - feeling the need to defend his big brother? Can you imagine turning around after your joke and seeing this face looking at you?
Would you want to hurt his feelings like that?
I really am not trying to preach. And I'm not angry. And, like I said, I have been guilty of saying stupid things like I just described. But that was then.
This is now.
Now I have Gavin. And now, it's personal. I hope that you...you who have grown attached to Gavin...will keep him in your mind before you make a joke. It would mean a lot to our family.