There was a Facebook post written by a woman recently that was shared among my tribe. The woman who wrote the post gave two reasons why she thought people should not bring their “disabled children” to a park packed with kids. I won’t post the actual post here out of respect for her privacy.
The post prefaced her opinion with “I know this sounds horrible, but… “ Because, you know, that makes it okay to say things that make people feel bad.
This woman is entitled to her opinion, and she’s even entitled to put it on Facebook. And since she made it public, I’m entitled to respond.
My response: WTH???!!!
(Actually, my original response was much longer and contained more curse words, but #RealityMoms likes me to keep it classy.)
Her first reason almost seemed like it could be empathetic, saying that the kids probably get upset that they can’t run around and play too, and that seems cruel.
(Oh, honey, you have so much to learn!)
Her second reason confirmed that she actually has no empathy and probably never spent a day with a child with a disability, ever, saying that “their random screaming scares the f*ck out of all the other kids” and basing this on the kids “horrified looks.”
To be honest, I know she’s not the only one that feels this way.
My oldest son is deaf, has only one eye, and is non-verbal, although he vocalizes often. By her standards, I shouldn’t bring him the park with other kids so that I don’t tease him with the other children’s typical ways of playing, nor subject the other kids to his loud and uncontrollable noises.
Lady, have you been to a park with kids?
We were at the playground the other day. While my oldest son joyfully watched the kids play, he clapped and made loud noises. His siblings and their friends were running, sliding, climbing, jumping, and guess what…they were also yelling. Kids are loud. All kids. Not just my deaf and non-verbal son.
When one child looked at my son curiously (and yes, that look is curiosity, not horror!) I said, “This is Bobby. He can’t talk, but he’s having fun watching you play!” She smiled, then looked again. “Why does he only have one eye?” She asked. “His eye was sick when he was born, and the doctors had to remove it. But he can still see you with the other one.” I answered. “Oh, okay,” she said and went back to play.
The child’s mom saw the interaction, and she apologized for her daughter. “It’s totally fine,” I said. “I always prefer questions to assumptions. Kids are just curious.” The mom smiled and thanked me.
See, here’s the thing: children don’t think that a child making loud and different noises, and not being able to play like they can play is “horrible” and they don’t see that child’s being at the park as “cruel” either. You do. And if you are teaching your children that, then you are the horrible one.
Children do notice differences, and they are curious and have questions.
The best thing to do is to answer those questions honestly. Teach your children that differences exist. Teach them that children and adults with disabilities are not to be feared or judged. Teach them to embrace their curiosity so they can learn about and accept these differences. Teach them to engage with that child that is different. And then teach them to teach their friends to do the same. Teach them to be kind.
Because, I know this is horrible, but… if you aren’t teaching your kids those things, you’re probably raising an a**hole.