Friday, February 7, 2014

(A post two years in the making)

One time I was in a coffee shop with Jack. That, in and of itself, is a really big deal. It meant he was out of the hospital. Out of isolation. That he could be in public was not lost on me. I, his mother, could proudly take him into this world. Just like any other mom.

There is nothing like the feeling of getting the green light to venture out. On top of this, our boy was walking. We were so proud of the incredible amount of work it had taken to get our boy on his own two feet. I wanted the doctor who said he would be a vegetable (yes, he said that) to see him, walking around the coffee shop as if he owned the place.

But some lady felt compelled to ruin the feeling by exclaiming very loudly "he walks like a drunken sailor!" amid the giggles of some onlookers. As you can imagine, I gave her the "Jessi Look of Death" and picked Jack up as we made our way out of the shop.

I could not believe she said that. If she only knew what it took to get our son to this point.

Later that day I needed to commiserate. I have found that our online support group has been a source of incredible wisdom. So on our Facebook page, I posted about the coffee shop lady and what she said. And friends, I learned a valuable lesson. There are those who were appalled. They said things like "I would have a hard time not slapping that woman!" and "I can't believe people have the audacity to say such things! Can't they mind their own business?"

Those comments validated my hurt.

But unfortunately, not everyone saw the situation for what it was. There were some who just did not get it and probably won't ever. Amid the support, I started to read excuse after excuse about why it was OK to say this to our son in the coffee shop. "People aren't trying to be rude" and my personal favorite, "It's just a term of endearment."

Unless you've been living under a rock, let me tell you, plainly, why this is NOT OK. Jack has cerebral palsy. It is not OK to point and comment about someone's disability. Would you go up to an adult with cerebral palsy and say "Hey! You walk like a drunken sailor!"

How is this any different?

The reason why I have not written about this is because it has taken me two years to understand this Excuses Mindset.

Unequivocally, there are some who are not willing to share this journey with you. There are those who are not interested in trying to understand. They will continue to make excuses for bad behavior, maybe because they are trying to give people the benefit of the doubt or maybe because they are ashamed of their own.

And you know what? That is OK. Let those people go. (but maybe/probably delete their comments)

Surround yourself with people who love and support you. With those who take the time to get it. Sure, spend time educating, but don't waste another moment worrying about those people hanging out on the sidelines.

You've got more important things to think about.
 
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12 comments:

blankenship5214 said...

LOVE this post and your blog! I found it while sitting in the NICU with my own micro preemie. It gives me hope and inspiration. Jack, you, and your family are truly a blessing to all of us micro preemie families!

Lela said...

Great post! We had someone remark on how big our preemie's head was (hydrocephaly). A friend at that! I don't think people mean to be rude, but that's no excuse for not thinking about what you're going to say before you say it. This '' friend'' knew of our ordeal and what our baby was going through but still chose to be hurtful. We no longer have contact with this person.

Kesha E said...

Congrats Jack on a wonderful week!! And, a big thanks to your mom for inspiring us all with your story. My micro-preemie, Elliott Scott, and I wholly relate to your journey. Wish I had the courage to share ours as eloquently. Thank you.

Marianne said...

Omg I can't believe someone said that. Why does anyone comment on other people's children in any sort of negative manner!? It's not their place. Unless a child is endangering mine I don't comment on others. That is up to their parents. I don't assess them or discipline them. I would have slapped that lady probably. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. Our twins are 2, and we're just getting ready to start being out more in public (as soon as this RSV/flu season is over). I'm not sure I'm ready for the comments that I fear may come our way (as one of our twins has faces pretty obvious challenges that most children never have to confront). With God's help, though, I hope that I will be handle it and not just fall apart into a bawling mess right there in the public eye. You're right; we definitely do have more important people to focus on than the ones who are belittling others. Our kids are amazing!

Mo said...

Beautiful post, and yes, yes, yes. My internal experience reading this coffee shop story was first to think that I wish you had told off this idiot woman - let her know scathingly that your son has CP and how dare she mock him (but of course that's not your job to have to do. I just want her shamed, I think on some level, and educated). My second internal response was to think, could she maybe have been just that clueless that somehow didn't realize he was special needs and just thought that his drunken sailor walk was the walk of any small child learning to walk? My daughter is 15 months and fairly steady on her feet now, but she used to walk like there was a significant earthquake going on. It was lovely, it was whole-body walking. She really threw herself into it. And her lurching gate was endearing to me. And since she was 11 months old, and hasn't struggled in any way with motor skills, it wouldn't have infuriated me if someone joked about her gait. But if she had struggles? Well, then I'd be out for blood. But maybe my second second internal response is a form of excuse-making. One of the many real lessons in your story is that you never know another person's struggles and laughing at or pointing at ANYONE, no matter their age, and no matter how benign you think it is, is really just unacceptable.

hydromomma said...

I'm sorry that this happened to you. Both my sons have Hydrocephalus, one of which has CP and does not yet walk. I cannot imagine the pain I would feel to receive such a comment. How I wish you had said something to this woman, if only to soothe some of your pain. But I know life does not work that way. You can't teach someone by hurting them, and letting her know that she just offended you and your child who is disabled would have probably hurt her. Still, I think that I would have gently let her know why he was walking that way. (Not that I am criticizing your reaction at all). I'd like to think that if this happened to me and my son, I would get the courage to let her know that yes, maybe she didn't mean it to be hurtful, but it doesn't change the fact that she was hurtful. People should really think before they speak. Sorry, I know I'm rambling. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

One of my husband's colleagues said at a Christmas party.. "Looks like your son is a drunken soldier"... My husband looked straight at her and said, "He has CP" and paused. Let's just say no one said a word and she quietly walked away... So sorry for you as some people just speak without thinking.

Reagan and Trevor's Mommy said...

Thank you for this perspective. I love the way early walkers walk and have likely endearingly said something similar without even thinking of how it might come across. That stops now though. I hate to think I may have been hurtful to someone and see how important it is to think before saying.

Reagan and Trevor's Mommy said...

Thank you for this perspective. I love the way early walkers walk and have likely endearingly said something similar without even thinking of how it might come across. That stops now though. I hate to think I may have been hurtful to someone and see how important it is to think before saying.

Reagan and Trevor's Mommy said...

Thank you for this perspective. I love the way early walkers walk and have likely endearingly said something similar without even thinking of how it might come across. That stops now though. I hate to think I may have been hurtful to someone and see how important it is to think before saying.

Reagan and Trevor's Mommy said...

Thank you for this perspective. I love the way early walkers walk and have likely endearingly said something similar without even thinking of how it might come across. That stops now though. I hate to think I may have been hurtful to someone and see how important it is to think before saying.