December 12, 2010

the r-word

After you are part of the Down syndrome community for a certain amount of time, you learn how everyone feels about the r-word.  You also come to realize how different it feels to hear the word after Ds is a part of your life.  You are also, inevitably, faced with how you will react when you hear someone use the r-word.  The other day I failed miserably.

I was in the grocery store with monkey bear and my buddy.  My buddy had spent the entire time throwing any item he could get his hands on out of the cart.  I alternated between picking food up off the ground and holding his arms still while he screamed at me.  We had finally made it to the check-out line.

I was unloading groceries with my back to my buddy.  He was in arms reach of the 5 foot tall Andy's candies cardboard display.  My buddy took the whole display down scattering boxes of Andy's candies every which way.  I was at the end of my rope.

The teenage cashier was ringing our food up when her friend came over and was making silly noises.  The cashier, under her breath, laughs and says, "You are so retarded."  I stood there paralyzed and had a very long discussion with myself in my head.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I will tell you that speaking my mind is not something I do easily.  I often find myself saying something in my head over and over and never being able to get it out.

So there I was considering just what I would say to her, wondering if she knew what Down syndrome was, feeling my face flush just thinking of the confrontation.  Before I knew it, the moment had passed and I said nothing.  I wonder if the situation were to happen again tomorrow if I would react any differently.


  1. this happened to me when i was shopping; rory was just two months old. workers were 'joking' about each other and throwing around the 'r' word. there was a line full of people. I rushed to the front of the line and said; "i want you to know as the mother of a child with special needs your language offends me."
    but then there was a time at a rest stop where a mother told her child not to be 'retarded'....and I said nothing...and I to this day still feel upset, like I failed Rory.

    thank you for sharing, mama!!!
    Christina (Rory's Mom)

  2. sounds like a really challenging day. I think I would have responded the same way you did, thinking about it and feeling uncomfortable. Everyone's different, my husband would have made a huge scene and made the clerk uncomfortable. If you really feel like you need to say something, maybe something really simple like ..You just really offended me and leave it at that. But honestly, we only understand what we are ready for so even if confronted they might not get it. They were teenagers being rude and offensive. I'm sorry it was such a hard day for you.

  3. I have very mixed feelings about that word...

    I really struggle between the face-slap and the comfort...and, yes, I know I'm's some extra throughts...