I really dislike that phrase because too often it is tossed around in a meaningless way. Like by saying it the person is given a free pass just incase they do say something incorrect. By now I bet some of you are wondering where this is coming from and more importantly where it is going...I will ask you to just trust me and read on.
I am a 46 year old Mother to a 6 year old child who has Down syndrome. Please excuse this momentary instructional piece - it is not Down's nor is it Down Syndrome. Many times I have people ask if there truly is a difference and there is but if you happen to say or spell it incorrectly from habit - life will go on for us at least. There are some who are less forgiving out there.
Reece is warm and loving, smart and funny, he loves to be read to and he adores our dogs and they are devoted to him. Reece has some additional medical challenges but nothing seems to phase this kid of mine. And honestly his Dad and I have handled it all in stride as well. We know there are some out there who don't understand and never will about our life and our son but that is their issue not ours. Well that is what I thought until last Friday...
Reece has speech and physical therapy in Boise every other Friday afternoon. Often we all go in and have a small treat on the way home but this week it was just him and I. Since National Scrapbook Day was the following day (Saturday May 2) some stores had started their celebrations early and as he was in a very VERY good mood after his sessions I decided to go to one of the stores and do the make and take so I had all day Saturday to concentrate on catching up with an old friend at some of the stores closer to her.
Reece came with me, of course, and was on some of his best behaviour occassionally needing to be reminded to stay with Mum when something or someone caught his eye. He helped me with the crop-a-dile and with placing adhesive and my patterned paper. And just as I thought 'Wow this has been very enjoyable and not a struggle at all' it happened - totally, completely and unexpectedly IT happened.
The employee who was manning the make and take table looked at me and asked 'do you need to take classes to learn how to parent him?' Without hesitation I said 'no' but as the word was leaving my mouth I was horrified that Reece who was right there might have not only heard but comprehended the rudness directed at me but about him.
I suspect some of you are thinking - what is the big deal? Others might be reading it shaking their head at my overreacting but let me ask you all how you would feel if some stranger came up to you on the street and asked when the baby was due and you weren't pregnant... Or you are pregnant and some body your don't know touches your baby bump. Or if the same question was asked of you while you were in a business with your child. All of these are inappropriate and rude no matter who it is directed to or from whom it came.
I have no doubt that there was not a malicious intent behind those 12 words but they were inappropriate for a stranger to ask. Let alone an employee of a business I was patronizing and don't even get me started about doing it in front of the child in question. If it truly was a legitimate question and they truly wanted to have an answer then ask me quietly and discretely out of his hearing, not to mention the hearing of all the other customers in the store! I would still be taken aback but I am very likely to have actually responded differently than I did. I may have explained that although there are some differences that you parent him the same as any other child - you make sure they understand what you are asking of them and then enforce it. That all children respond better when spoken to like an equal - that instead of speaking at a child try speaking to them. That all kids like to know the rules even when it seems they just ignore them as it gives them security and shows them someone cares. I may have simply said that I don't know how to parent any other way as he is my only child. But I do know for sure I wouldn't have just said NO.
I haven't written about this to ask you to condemn the store or the employee but rather to, I hope, spread awareness that we are parents just like you. Our kids may have some challenges in life that yours do not but they have the most important thing in the universe in common. They have parents who love them more than one could ever have thought possible - they have the right to be treated with kindness and respect by all who they encounter. Yes there are people out there who will be mean and disrespectful but they will be just as mean and disrespectful of all who they meet in life regardless of outward appearances or smallest of differences. They will be that way because they were not taught any better by the adults in their lives. I am asking you to help your kids and perhaps some adults you know to learn how to do the right thing, to make a difference by spreading kindness and understanding.
And if you want to know how this ended for us. I waited for someone I have known for years to be available - I told her what had happened chocking back the tears as I did. I then checked out and the teller smiled as Reece handed her my debit card and then took it back and placed it in the right spot in my wallet. She gave him a sticker which he is still enjoying today. Shortly after I got home I had a call from the store manager expressing their deepest apologies and letting me know this was unacceptable and was being dealt with. Monday I had a call from Coroporate telling me the same thing. Will I still shop there - Friday the answer was a resounding ARE YOU NUTS but now that the Momma Bear in me is calming down. Yes I'll go back however Reece will not come with me and if that individual is in the store I will just turn and leave.
2 days ago