Tuesday, May 01, 2007

2nd Annual Blogging Against Disabilsm Day

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

To all my friends, if you have a few moments, please click on the picture, go to some of these links, read and comment.

Peaches, you're all peaches!

Many thanks to Diary of a Goldfish , for putting this all together.

Here's my post (which I wrote last night):

Mom, the Disabilist?

Today we celebrated Little Guy's 17th birthday with a party. We invited his entire transitions skills class (for those with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities), their teachers and para-educators, past and present. It's become kind of a tradition over the last several years.

The high school gives us permission to combine lunch hours, and they provide the transportation and treat it as a field trip.

Everybody gets to have lunch in a nice---nice as in "sit down" and not "fast food"--restaurant, so nothing is rushed and there's plenty of time to socialize. We invited the grandparents (who live out of town) and assorted available relatives (it's in the middle of a weekday), and they get to meet all of Little Guy's friends and teachers.

Since we live in a small town--other than fast-food places--there are very few actual sit-down restaurants, and almost everybody knows each other. So as other diners trickled in for lunch, they recognized or were recognized by party-goers and stopped by to chat. It was a really festive event!

After it was over, and Hubby had settled the bill (see, he's good for something!), we thanked the manager for the wonderful service, and mentioned that the kids seemed to have a great time.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it!", she gushed. "I was surprised at how polite and well-behaved they were!"

Mentally, my mouth dropped open.

My mind said:
These kids are not toddlers, for pete's sakes! They're young men and women! What in the hell are you referring to?

We thanked her again, and left the restaurant separately---Hubby back to the office, and me back to the house.

I was in a bit of a huff, naturally. I got my Attila up.

I stewed about it for a couple of hours.

Over the years, we've dealt with some pretty nasty and ignorant shit regarding my guys, both who have disabilities.

In our previous school district, which I mentioned a few posts ago, during kindergarten, Little Guy was stuck in their absolutely cruddy "inclusion" program. Their idea of inclusion was to let the other--um--"normal" kindergarteners line up to sit on his back and ride him down the slide face first into the sand, like he was an animal.

Yay! They were "including" him in their play!

When he was in the first grade, in our new school district (we had moved), he got beat up on the bus by 3 fifth graders. They kept whacking him over the head with their backpacks while calling him names. One of them actually had to stand up and cross the aisle to hit him.

The driver did nothing. Claimed he saw and heard nothing.

Little Guy was sitting in the front seat. In the FRONT SEAT.

When this was pointed out to him, the driver finally said, "I just don't want to be responsible for disabled kids on my bus".

The school district required him (and the 3 students, who were suspended) to take sensitivity classes. Hubby and I debated whether or not to keep Little Guy on the regular bus---he was physically capable of riding it--to prove a moral point---or to request he ride in the special-needs bus. At the time, we decided that his safety was the most important issue and requested the disability bus.

A year or so later, we were at a Thanksgiving gathering, and were recounting the incident to extended family members. An older guest---the mother-in-law of someone (she'd had a bit too much to drink), sat down next to Little Guy and caught the tail-end of the conversation (where we said we'd requested the disability bus).

"You did a good thing", she proclaimed. "In my day, they kept those kids where they belonged---in their own institutions! I don't see anything good with letting *them* mix with *normal* children!"

I pointed out that we were talking about my son, who was sitting right next to her.

She looked him up and down. "You're lucky," she pronounced. "At least he looks normal. He could have been born with fins or something."

If Hubby wasn't holding me down, I'd have reached over the table and snatched her change-of-life-sunset-harvest-orange-colored medusa harpy wig off her pointy little head.

Little Guy's had kids take his clothes out of his gym locker while he was in class and throw them in the trash. Once somebody actually took a huge shit in his backpack. That takes some malice and effort.

He's been stalked by a couple of kids who thought they were funny (they didn't think it was so funny when they were hauled out of the classroom by the police). Their parents were indignant---not because of their own children's behavior, but because they thought that when they paid for a "private phone number" it meant it couldn't be traced. By the phone company. Dumbasses. *59 is our friend.

Most recently, a year or so ago, I took the kid to the pharmacy on the way home from the doctor's office, because I couldn't leave him in the car alone, and sat him near the back where the chairs were while we were waiting for his prescription, and went to hunt out some Advil.

When I headed back, I heard voices.

"Are you a stupid fucktard? You're a stupid fucktard, aren't you?"

Little Guy said,
Please don't call me that. My name is xxxxxx.

I rounded the corner, and there were 3 punks standing in front of him.

Their parents are still searching for the bodies. Remember, I have a big freaking freezer.

Just kidding.

But I do have to add that reading blogs that use the term "fucktard" really offends me.

Today, a couple of hours after the party, I couldn't stand it any more. I called my husband at the office.

I can't believe what that manager said! I'm so offended!

"What are you talking about?"

I reminded him. He didn't see it my way at all.

"Maybe the manager has had to deal with parties of teens up here. You know how it's been".

He pointed out some of the ugly things that have happened in our small town in the last few years. Parents of teens renting a room at the local hotel so their kids and friends could use the pool (and completely trashing the room in the meantime), kids running amok in the small movie theater, kids skipping out on restaurant bills, attacking each other, being verbally abusive to all and sundry, etc.

Once at a high school football game, Hubby was talking to an acquaintance and her kid ran up. Can I go to xxx's house? Parent said no.

"Why are you being such a bitch? You're just a f*cking c*nt!" The parent was absolutely mortified.

And you know, I think Hubby's right.

I spent my afternoon being reactionary and pissy about an intended positive comment on our lively party, looking for an insult where there was none.

I have a litany of big-ass beefs, which I've recounted above.

But they've spanned a 12-year period. Compressed in a small post, they look absolutely horrifying.

On the whole, how is it different from what other teens experience in their everyday lives?

They get teased for being too fat, too skinny, too rich, too poor, too unfashionable, too shallow, too ugly, too fake, too spotty, too smart, too stupid, etc. They worry every day about fitting in with their peers. And a lot of them are foul-mouthed, and foul-behaved.

Maybe it was a refreshing change for the restaurant to have a group of teens who were extraordinarily polite and considerate!

For the most part, with a few exceptions, our community has been completely open-hearted and accepting of my guys, if they bother to notice their differences at all. The kids that Little Guy has grown up with have been incredibly protective of him. When those boys were identified and hauled off for stalking him, they were completely ostracised by the other students.

I guess I'm the one who has been keeping a scorecard and keeping track of the bad things.

Of course, there are plenty of incidences that I never heard of that the guys have dealt with on their own, and while trying to think of a post to write about disabilism today, it stood up and slapped me upside the head.

They're young men now. If I've taught them anything, I've taught them how to advocate for themselves.

As a parent, how do I train myself to stop reacting to real or imagined ignorant slights and insults and bugaboos in every situation?

Because if I don't, I think in my own way, I'm promoting their disablism.

How do I learn when to let it go?


Mel said...

Holy shit, Attila. Yeah, those are horrible things to have had happen. And I'm sorry, but somebody shitting in someone's backpack is NOT in the normal run of things. To me, that implies mental imbalance on the part of the culprit.

golfwidow said...

You are far stronger than I will ever be.

Brenda said...

"Maybe the manager has had to deal with parties of teens up here",
I have to agree with your husband because I must admit, that was my first thought upon reading the manager's comment to you. Pre-teens and teenagers can, and will, be the most evil little shits on the face of the earth. You must be prouder than a peacock to have raised such FINE gentlemen Miz ATM.

I really enjoy coming here to read about your challenges, and theirs, and how you all cope with everything with much love and laughter. You're a fine Momma, Attila, and you've raised some wonderful young men.

Nightmare said...

I once stopped 5 of Fort Riley's finest from picking on a mentally challenged, guy I used to work with named Billy. They weren't too keen on wanting to play with me when I walked up and sent one of them into the stone wall, that they had Billy pinned against. Thats the problem with bullies, they are generally cowards until there is what they feel is enough of them in a group, to make a gang.

Lucky for me, Mom and Dad had some groovy sized genes in them some where and made me to be a large man!

I applaud little guys friends, and I am glad that hubby mentioned the state of teens today, that was my first thought. Had I not witnessed the same little shit teenagers, talking back to their parents in EVERY town I have traveled too I may have had a different opinion, but in this case, any act of civility at that age, regardless of who it comes from, deserves an atta boy for the parents.

Nice work ATM.

PS: I want you to know that when I have used (I have since stopped) the "F" word you refer to, I was never making reference to those who don't have a choice in their mental capacity...that doesn't sound right either...I only call people that when they choose to act like they don't know anything...that is not much better..I hope you get the jist of what I mean and not think I'm down playing anything....well anyway you might not have noticed, but I did try to keep my words less inflammatory.

Unknown said...

You should be proud of yourself for so consistently fighting for your kids.
Even if once in a while you overreact. Then they get to say "gee mom, lighten up a bit" and roll their lil eyes.

Unknown said...

Thanks for promoting this day. I'll be posting too.

Anonymous said...

I am a die-hard lurker but I just HAD to comment on this post and tell you how wonderful I found it to be! I've long enjoyed your blog and make it a regular stop, but this entry touched me deeply.

It's like you were in my head (ewww... scary for you, I'm sure!). You wrote exactly what I have often thought and did it in a voice that could've easily been my own. Well... if I was more articulate and succinct and talented, that is :-)

Thank you. For your intelligence, integrity, honesty and candor. It absolutely made my day, and was a booster shot to my own hope.

Rootietoot said...

Your kids are richly blessed to have you for a mom.

Litzi said...

Hi Attila,
This is an incredibly thought provoking and insightful post about your young men. “As a parent, how do I train myself to STOP reacting to real or imagined slights and insults in every situation?” Being the sensitive and intuitive Mom that you are, I doubt you’ll ever turn your head the other way and let the horrendous behavior of others go unnoticed and/or unchallenged. Loving and caring parents don’t walk away from their children because they’ve attained a certain age. Your sons will and are learning that somewhere along the line they have to fend for themselves and learn how to handle the emotional ups and downs of day to day living. But knowing that they’ve got parents who’ll be there for them when the going gets tough will provide them with a safety net throughout their lives.

You commented not too long ago that you wanted to visit your Mom to receive a bit of “mothering” yourself. If that yearning to have maternal affection never existed, diminishes or completely disappears, both the parent and the child have lost something very precious their life.

Anonymous said...

What can you do but be yourself? You're sensitive to the issue because it's hurt you and those you love so often. They've learned to fight their own battles, but I'm sure it's reassuring to see Mom ready to snarl right alongside them.

I may be a grown woman, but I appreciate support from my folks, whether or not I seek it out.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I don't know that you'll ever "stop reacting to real or imagined ignorant slights..." but the more you share your experiences, the more sensitive everyone else becomes.

You are amazing.

Beth said...

You're a fabulous mother - you've seen your boys through some terrible times. You've been there - supporting them every step of the way. And have taught them how to stand up for themselves.

As for learning to let go? Don't be so hard on yourself. Reacting to those things doesn't mean you're promoting "disabilism." You're simply being a Mom - we never truly let go.

seahorse said...

To have coped with all that and not feel like anger is part of your daily life would be asking too much of a human being. When we are constantly exposed to such things we become primed for the next occasion, and sure enough along it comes. But I agree with everyone above - you've done a fantastic job and I think part of your healing will be seeing your guys progress into adulthood with the benefit of truly spectacular mothering behind them.

Deb said...

You continually amaze me with your abilities to hold it all together. I guess you have years of experience with dealing with ignorance, for that I am sorry. I would loose it on people.

Your little guy is so very lucky to have you building him up while so many others knock him down.

carmachu said...

You are one awesome mom.

Some of that stuff would have me hiding many, many bodies. Granted I do have a river nearby...

You've done a great job.

Kay Olson said...

Thanks for writing this. Thanks for cataloguing the bullying and cruel commentary, because while I do think teenagers can be terribly behaved, it's important to note how that behavior gets channeled, especially when so many people don't believe "retard" and "fucktard" are hate speech. They are and you've proven that here.

Also, you sound like an amazing, amazing mom.

Anonymous said...

I love your ability to be reflexive about all the shit that's happened to your son and your family as a whole. You have the ability to drag the humor out but also grieve the losses in a way that brings some important reflection out of it.

Gonzo said...


I wish I had just a bit of your strength...!

Your story hurts very much because I sooo know what it is... *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Honestly, the less it happens, the less likely you are to over-react. It takes time to recover from an atrocity like the backpack incident (so beyond the valley of freakishly not cool). While you do have the benefit of hindsight and thankfully the attacks on Little Guy have been somewhat mitigated by a largely positive childhood, they were still attacks. He and your entire family were still assaulted. You need distance and probably time will be the only thing that can give you that.

So...if you jump to conclusions at first, you do. You just do. You know that your first reaction might not be based on an accurate assessment of the situation, so you know to take a breather and get some perspective before you begin the hair pulling and eye scratching.

Or you could go balls out and teach them all a lesson for good. Not sure what it would be, but I betcha people would think twice before saying anything to you again - LOL.

BTW those kids who harrassed Little Guy while he was growing up should be drawn and quartered. Get a bigger freezer. Jackasses.

Some parents' kids.

How does that happen?!!!

Did I mention that your post scared the hell out of me? I'm off to pick up a new pair of slappin' gloves and hedge clippers...she's only three now, but we are in the city and she is in public school.

I can tell you right now that if somebody takes a dump in her backback I'm goin' to crazyville and takin' the little monster with me.

One more BTW - The word "Fucktard" is completely unacceptable. You gonna tell me that with the massive vocabulary the English language possesses there isn't maybe just one other word that is as attractive to the trendy and oh-so-alternative hipsters that have to prove how imaginative they are by endlessly droning the same conjunction? Maybe a word that doesn't insult an entire class of people and all of their loved ones?

Hmmm... let's see...should they try racial slurs? No, no...those are offensive. No arguing that. But Fucktard, that is just fine. If somebody wants to take it the wrong way that's their problem. I called dibbs...I'm not giving it up.

Jackasses. Hmmmm...works just fine.

Oops...I see I ate my bitchy pill by mistake this morning. Sorry...

David said...

Thank you. Love your post.

Anonymous said...


i think it will take time, ATM, for you not to be so sensitive to remarks or comments because you have been defending, or guarding your boys from hurt & anger for all of their lives. and one day, you'll know they can handle it on their own.

you are an amazing and awe inspiring woman, and mother.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you liked it. I had a bit of an awakening myself today. I read a post about making websites more accessible for the sight impaired. I never thought about adding alt tags to my site in case someone needs to read a description to someone who cannot see. Made me realize we can learn a lot from each other even among the disabled.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thanks for this great post, yes, very much muttering to myself and the whole "What is wrong with people" thing but it is good to be reminded what children absorb and will continue to absorb from society until we stop it.

As for when bad things or hurtful statements are made - I have never found the "let go button" myself, I find it more like an echo chamber, each incident can bring back things I had forgotten, the pain tried to forget (and the rage too).

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Hello, thanks for commenting on my pigeon post. :-). I have been enjoying myself very much visiting all the BADD blogs, and enjoyed this too. I know a little what you mean about being on the alert for anything wrong in another's comments about the kids... sometimes I notice my mother getting annoyed on my behalf even though I'm an adult now. ;-). It's good to know she's got my back, as the expression goes, and that usually helps me react more calmly than I might have done otherwise.

Wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....how to stop reacting to a potential threat to our kids well-being? I honestly don't know if that can be done. I guess it's a good thing we don't know half of the crap our kids face because I suspect it's those times that make them grow their backbone.
I have a copy of this saying on my daughters mirror; "Never grow a wishbone daughter where your backbone ought to be". S asks me often what it means and I just tell her when she gets it I will know all is well. And she WILL get it, but stepping back long enough to let them get it is easier said than done. ;o)

Anonymous said...

Your guys are so lucky to have you for their Mom. And don't even think about slowing down on th e protection. They will always need their Mom. We all do. Hell, I'm nearly 70 and I miss my Mom still.

belledame222 said...

What rootietoot (among others) said. You're a great Mom. and I loved the ending. you're probably right: it WOULD be a change for nice polite teenagers, especially if the alternative is the sort of person who tormented Little Guy.

seriously i think those people are more impaired than anyone else. empathy deficit. it's a real problem.

abfh said...

This post put a few things in perspective for me -- I've linked to it from my site.

Jacqui said...

I'm still making my way through all the BADD posts. I was a bit horrified by your examples too (especially the back pack). I would probably have jumped to the wrong assumption by what the manager meant too. I'm only 3 years into this but people's attitudes already majorly p*ss me off.

Anyway, thanks for your posts. I'll be back again if that's okay.