Last week I found myself actively fighting a war that usually just takes place in my head. The whole conversation about words and the power behind them has had my brain engaged in this battle all week long. Some very thoughtful posts have caught my attention but the comment follow-up has captivated me. As I mentioned in my previous post, the words themselves are not as worrisome as the attitudes that we attach to those words. Many have spoken out on the writings of others with almost a righteous indignation about their “freedom of speech” or about how the parents of exceptional children are being too sensitive. Julia Roberts, the author of this article, points out, “Their “right” to use terminology that offends, even in the face of being educated that it’s hurtful and perpetuates hate and discrimination, is what they want to use, just because to them it doesn’t really mean anything. To them, a joke. They defend with great passion.” Like I have said before, if it means nothing to you than why do you spend so much time vehemently arguing to prove your point.
Here is my point, as a parent to a child who may or may not understand what you are saying, it really matters. We know that speaking encouraging words to our typical children helps shape and mold them. So what about our children who have physical, medical, emotional and intellectual differences? If they already need extra help, doesn’t it make sense that taking extra care about what we say to and about them makes a difference?
I read a beautiful blogpost over the weekend regarding what we say to little girls when we meet them. As adults, how we engage our young people is so very important as they grow. After soaking in this well written and quick read, it brought to mind the awkward conversations I have had over the past 12 years when well meaning strangers have approached The Princess for the first time. Funny enough, Julia references a conversation in her article that spun off of another post where parents shared some of the uncomfortable things they have heard over the years. I found myself cringing at the audacity of those who argued that we were all being “too sensitive”. Obviously that is how others become callous towards other human beings that they share this planet with.
I’m okay with it though. I grew up being told I was too sensitive because I’m a “major weeper”. I’ll admit it, I cry a lot. I have come to grips with this horrible character flaw by reminding myself, I would rather be a tender, compassionate human being who passionately enjoys life, than one who can’t feel and abhors others who can. I am passionate so I feel deeply, I hurt deeply and I love deeply. In the past 11 years I have been taught by a priceless human being what it really means to trust, to have faith, find joy in the simplest of things and carry no malice. She has endured countless surgeries, procedures and indignities. Her intellectual disability has been used as a slur by political figures, as entertainment in movies and thrown around in public more times than I can count. Yet, if any of those insensitive and proud of it individuals were to meet her in person, she would lean forward in her chair, look them in the eye and give the most beautiful crooked tooth grin imaginable. I still have so much to learn.