I have had a hard time finding the words that I want to use for this post. I actually started writing it two months ago. I have wrote, deleted and then rewrote something on this particular subject more times than I can remember and still, nothing seems quite right. Part of me wishes that I would have just saved it all, posted it all and then let you as the reader deceiver it all.
The mention of the 'r' word makes me cringe. When used in any context I can feel the anger boil from within me. I refuse to say it let alone write it. I feel as if it is just as nasty as the 'n" word but doesn't get the same respect in its usage.Ill admit, prior to having Vada I was ignorant. I never realized that one single word could hurt so much. I used the 'r' word as I would any other commonly used English word. I would use it to describe moments, actions and people (never people who actually had intellectual challenges, not that it makes the use of the 'r' word any more excusable). I often wonder who over heard me acting like such an uneducated fool. Who went home from a store or a restaurant with a heavy heart and a story to cry to his or her significant other with, all because they had an encounter with me or over heard my thoughtlessness.
Ive cried to Justin a lot over this year about the comments that have been made regarding Vada and her having Down syndrome. I haven't fully callused over as many parents in my position have. However, I refuse to be so thick skinned that I say nothing at all. I will call you on it if you choose to speak with words that discriminate and belittle even if I do it through my tear filled eyes.
I have expressed anger and even hatred towards people who were once considered our friends because of their ignorance's. Just last week I told Justin that I understand the position that people are in. You don't know and you wont fully understand unless you are in the same position. It's been a year since Vada has been born and already I am tired of being compassionate and forgiving towards ignorance.
Since Vada has been born I can count on one hand the number of times that this disgusting word has escaped my mouth. Yes, I have said the 'r' word even as being the mother of a child who will have intellectual hurtles. Each time I have been mortified and ashamed of myself. Forgiving myself for those slip ups has been a difficult process for me. Sometimes the word still comes into my thoughts. I am embarrassed to admit that the 'r' word was such a common word in my vocabulary, so much so that even now it's s something that I really have to be aware of, but I am doing just that..., being aware.
(The 'R'-Word Store only carried youth and adult Tee shirts so we had Vada's made and designed by a local artist here in the Quad Cities. If you are interested in having your little one "Spread the Word" then you can contact Brooke here or here.)
I know in situations where you become uncomfortable you stumble for the right things to say and do. You wonder how you can help, if you can help and what the other person may need. Down syndrome still makes many people uncomfortable, more so because people are unfamiliar with what Down syndrome really is. I'm giving you a key today, something that you can use in uncomfortable situations where you are searching for the right words. The 'r' word is never the right word. Do. Not. Use. It. Banish it from your vocabulary and help others realize that what may be one small word to them hurts others. It hurts me. It hurts my family and it degrades our youngest daughter.
On March 2 2011 there is a National awareness day to promote the awareness and to stop the usage of the 'r' word. . Its called Spread the Word to End the Word. Our family has made the above pledge and you can do the same. It costs you nothing and you get to add your name to a pretty amazing list of people who care and who want to make a better world for those with intellectual differences. Please, use you voice for something great.