The other day I found myself sitting next to some teachers (not teachers at the school my son attends). One says to the other, “How is Tommy doing?” The second answers, “He’s okay, but do you know Bobby? He knows NOTHING. I’m like, has anyone ever read him a book or anything? Because they might want to. That boy doesn’t know anything.’”
Later, I heard someone say, after a difficult interaction with a young girl, “Wow, I can just picture the parents of that one. Sheesh.”
Here is the thing: I don’t know what to say in those situations. I feel like I should say something, or else become complicit in a culture of constant judgement, and I don’t want to do that. But I have no idea what the right thing is to say. My goal is not to pick a fight. I don’t want to bare my soul, and I’m surely not looking for pity.
Whether they meant it or not, what I heard was:
* That child is stupid, and what’s more, it’s his parents’ neglect at fault.
* That child is awful, and her parents must be, too.
* I am better than these families.
I felt stunned, queasy, and angry.
If I did not have high needs children of my own, would I have heard the conversations this way? Or, if I did have the same feelings, would I have been able to voice them somehow? Hard to say. It all happened very quickly, but as I’ve replayed it my head many times I have not found much clarity.
All I know is that I am a special needs parent, and as such I have even greater respect for all kids, all parents, all families, all differences. As such, I have less respect for judgmental and derisive comments.
I want to find the right words to say next time something like that happens. I welcome your (positive) comments if you have suggestions.
Rooster's Mom is a parent, educator, wife, mom, and writer. She blogs at roostercalls.blogspot.com.