Sunday, March 09, 2008

Retard??

This is NOT a quilty post here--but just an observation and sad commentary. So, you can move on if you like. In the last 3 weeks, I have had 3 different friends who know me/us fairly well and know about our Down's Syndrome daughter,(notice the 'pose', when I told her I wanted to take her picture, she immediately went into her 'modeling' mode--oh, the pictures I'm NOT sharing!)
and they have all made similar comments about someone doing something stupid being 'retards' or that 'retarded dog' or something along those lines. Have you ever made a comment like that about another person or animal that isn't being too bright at the time? Unfortunately, that term is used in a very derogatory and negative manner with no respect for the truly 'mentally retarded' population out there. It's something I have heard all my daughter's life. I'm an emotional person and I'm afraid if I would say something, I would start crying. I know they love my daughter--but they are TRULY demeaning her as a human being when they say things like that. I wish I were a witty, quick on my feet person and had a great comeback. After the one episode, my husband and I just looked at each other when the comment was made, but said nothing. Apparently someone saw our eye exchange and said something to our friend, who called and apologized. We thought about saying this comment when someone makes a rude remark.."Oh, do they have Down's Syndrome too?" I thought, that would be a great comment to kind of bring their attention to their poor choice of adjectives. So, when it happened just ONE week later, from one of my best friends, I stammered. It was said so flippant, she gave it not one thought. So.........does anyone out there have any great suggestions? I know it's a very important thing to me, having a retarded daughter, but to others, it doesn't even cross their minds. But please, if you have ever made a remark similar to that, think about what message you are sending--that you think they are the lowest forms of our human race. And you know what? We were BLESSED by having her, wondering what we ever did to deserve to have her.


So, now that being said--and thanks for listening to my little 'soapbox' tirade.....here's a little story about her day today....

I made a huge mistake this morning by not remembering in time to change my daughter's watch and alarm clock for Daylight Savings Time. She is very much a creature of habit, she LOVES structure and follows her watch to the second! Believe me, when it's 12:00 noon--you KNOW where she is! Asking about lunch. 3:00--same thing, only it's 'snack' time and then 5:30 it's dinner. For some reason breakfast doesn't 'have a time'! LOL She-She (affectionately called by her nieces and nephews) has Down's Syndrome (although if you ask her, she's over that! She doesn't suck her tongue anymore and so she must think that's all that means--and don't even argue with her about that!) and is 26 years YOUNG. She's not old, she tells us, she's young. Okay, whatever. Dhe doesn't 'get' the time change thing, so she refuses to let me change her watch or clock. So I'm going to have to sneak into her bedroom tonight and do it quick. She's just not happy--she kept changing MY clock to match her watch! I threatened no dinner to her if she did it again. She didn't.
update: I HAD to change something-either change MY clock or her watch, because it didn't match and she was not a happy camper. Well, these new-fangled watches confuse me and do I know where the little book you get with the watch is? HA! So, after almost 1/2 hour of messing with it--oh let's see, I first changed her alarm by accident, I convinced her it was a better time anyway (it was 4:27--probably set by me to start with accidentally, and I got it to 3:00--snack time!), somehow changed the alarm to 5:00 and told her it was quitting time at work, so that's okay. FINALLY got it to the right time, well, not quite--it was ONE minute behind her newly changed alarm clock. Easy fix--change the alarm clock! LOL BUT oh no--I somehow got it in military time and can't get it back! There is no way I can explain that one to her, so I kept playing. Somehow I got it all right and she's not super happy because it's all confusing her why we do this, but she feels right with the world again.

And again--I appeal to those who don't even think about the choice of words they use..to maybe come up with a better way to express your frustrations with someone. I thought of several comparisons of what it sounds like, but they were all too negative and demeaning, I didn't even want to say them. I would love to hear your suggestions on how you would handle it? Remember it comes out of the blue with no forewarning and I'm not the quickest thinker! LOL


14 comments:

Patti said...

I'm certainly a failure when it comes to thinking of snappy comebacks. I think I'd just shoot straight from the hip. I'd look them in the eye and say something like "You are usually a very kind person, so I'm sure you have no idea how offensive and hurtful I find that comment. Can you please think of another way to express your feelings when that happens?"

I don't think I use expressions like that - I'm almost positive I don't - but you have made me think more about what I am saying. That is a GOOD thing!

Nadine said...

I absolutely hate that word, even when used "properly" to describe someone such as your daughter. I know that technically it's the right word in that case, but because it's been soooo misused, it doesn't seem right for anything. I know I don't use it in a derogatory way, and the first time it came out of my kid's mouths in the wrong way, it was the last.

I like Patti's suggestion, but I'm like you, not very quick on the draw in situations like that. I can always think of things to say when I'm alone later and the episode is eating it's way through my mind and heart, and the opportunity has passed.

Maybe you could do some research on websites about this problem? I'm sure you're not the only one to experience it. Maybe these 3 friends of yours read your blog???

Annemart said...

Hi Karin,

Reading this, I would like to react, because I understand your angryness about these remarks. My standard reply to someone who is implicitely offensive is "What do you mean by this word/remark/question?". They have to be explicit then and have to think about their answer. Usually it sinks in at that moment and it does the job. If not, or if they are referring to "oh well, she was doing something so stupid blah blah blah", you can say something like: "no, I am referring to the word retard, what do you mean by that?". That will usually help. And than make the remark about how you feel about using the word retard and about you daughter.

I know you as a very witty, happy person. But this is serious business. If it's serious, deal with it as a serious matter, and say what you think. Not witty, not more direct than they are, but from your heart as a fact. That usually goes directly to the others person's heart. And that's where you want it to land.

Your daughter is blessed to have you and Kirt as her parents.

Ruth's Place said...

I would say: "That's an interesting choice of words, do you mind telling me why you picked it?" and put the onus back on them to explain themselves.

Gail said...

I'm sorry that you have experienced this. I am not quick and glib, either-at least not when the heart is smarting. Many years ago I was at a gathering of folks I didn't know very well and one of the men was going on and on about "broads" and other less-than-respectful terms for women. After a while it became bit much, and I finally turned to him and said, 'hey, if you don't refer me as a XXX, I won't call you a %$%# (insert ethnic slur of your choice)" Now that wasn't a very sophisticated comment, and none of the words used was in the truly offensive category, but it got his attention and he was all apologies. Some words have become such a part of 'everyday speech' that he never thought that anyone might be offended; indeed, the word that I used was one that I'm sure he had used to refer to himself. However, words can hurt, and we all should really be more careful.

Vicki W said...

I completely understand your frustration but can I kindly offer another opinion? Every individual can't know every word or phrase that will upset of offend every single person that we meet every day. Are you positive that you have NEVER said something that has offended or upset one of your friends? Do you think they said what they said specifically to upset your or while thinking specifically of your daughter? Ask yourself if you have become too sensitized before you risk losing friends that love you because they slipped in their language.

The Calico Cat said...

Agin - not quick witted here, but...
I have to agree with those who said to just ask, "Why?" & the explain if that isn't enough of clue. Putting the onus back on them...

My husband & I had a falling out with my brother-in-law on a very similar topic - except that he knew he was being nasty & derrogatory...

I have similar feeling about curse words - I think it shows a lack of vocabulary (intelligence) to just throw curse words around & when I do actually swear - it is so very effective - because I don't throw those words around willy nilly.

I broke my husband of the swearing habit - so you can break your friends of their "habit."

Mary said...

I have said it before, I know I have and I consider myself to be a fairly sensitive person and I try not to use derogatory terms. I'm sorry, I really am.

I think rather than try a witty comeback I'd just quietly say, something like " I know it's not your intention but I feel that comment was derogatory and it's very upsetting to me".

I think Vicki's right to a degree in that I'm sure people are not intentionally saying something they know would upset you but rather than let it pass, I would say something - if nothing else, it may make them stop and think.

I personally feel just as bad if I sit and listen to people say things as if I was participating in the conversation. Usually when I'm with family or friends I say "I'm sorry but that makes me really uncomfortable and I wish you wouldn't use that word or phrase when you're talking to me.

Laurie Ann said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. I think I would just say, "Please don't use that word." If they are your friends, and it sounds like they really are, they would feel bad that they offended you and would want to know it so they are sure not to do it again. They truly don't realize how offensive that word really is. I know they would want to know your feelings.

Have you gotten a chance to make anything "Elvis" for your lovely daughter?

Yvonne said...

I had an aunt who was very negative about men--probably had a lot to do with her half dozen failed marriages, but she was REALLY negative. Whenever she'd start in on a whole "Men are stupid" rant, I'd point out the good, intelligent characteristics of MY husband. Finally she was trained that, when she'd start a rant around me, she'd turn to me and say, "except for Tom, of course." I guess the moral of this story is speak up if something bothers you. Your friends will catch on eventually. Hugs to you and your wonderful family...

Beth said...

I'm sorry that happened. I honestly didn't know in this very PC (politically correct) culture that people were still using that term.
Maybe ya'll could catch a cup of coffee at Starbucks and you could let them know it really stung.

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

What a lovely daughter you have! Maybe it is a regional thing where you live - as I have never heard anyone I know use the word retard in a general term and to tell you the truth - we don't even say retarded, but rather say slow, or have Downs or something to that effect. But if it is your best friend and you have a hard time verbalizing your feelings... maybe you should just print out this post and include it in a nice card about friendship, include a little note about how you feel and mail it... You might find yourself mailing it to more than 1 person, but I think it would work.
Cheers!
Evelyn

mamaspark said...

HI Karin,
I have a sister that is mentally retarded too. I love my sister but am not really offended when people use the word "retard" in a negative way. I guess if it is really bothering you you should just tell your friends you would rather they choose a different word as the word retard offends you. My way of dealing with it (and my parents) was just to ignore it and let the comment roll off my/our backs. If it was not directed at my sister, I didn't and still don't let it bother me. That being said, if it bothers you, then you should tell them.

Your daughter is lucky to have parents that appreciate her. Many kids don't have that, mentally challenged or not! I have enjoyed visiting your blog!!

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