One Saturday night I met up with some old friends and a few new ones. We met at a trendy, hip Hawaiian restaurant and bar, beautifully located right on the water. Sometimes it's nice to be a girl out on the town. Nobody under the age of 12 calling me "Mommy.” It felt good being with what I affectionately refer to as The Grown & Sexy.
And even though I have a child with different needs, there were still moments that made me as typical a mom as the ones who surrounded me. We enjoyed laughs and traded stories of preteen angst. But inevitably the moment comes when I am again reminded just how different my world is from that of the other moms.
A friend of a friend--an educated mom who works with children, whom I'll call "Betty"--threw around the r-bomb a few times. Made me totally uncomfortable. She had no idea at the time that I had a child with a cognitive impairment. And I didn't want to go there. There are times when I just don't want to go there. When I just want to have a good time and not try to educate the world.
But it is also in those moments that I feel like if I don't say something, I'm letting down my son Isaiah. I'm letting down my family. I'm letting down my friends who have kids with special needs. I'm letting down anyone who has ever cared for or loved a person with a disability.
When the conversation turned, I did explain that my son Isaiah has cerebral palsy (CP). Betty countered that she didn't think CP had cognitive implications. So then I had to school her on the brain cysts. His developmental delays. His brain injury. Luckily I came just short of whipping out his MRI pictures.
Talk about a buzz kill.
I don't typically go into social situations looking for sympathy. When people start talking up their kids, the first words out of my mouth are never, "Well, my son is disabled." Because there are so many other things he is. But if I'm pressed, I'll gladly share.
At the end of five hours, I left feeling recharged and refreshed. I don't know if I had any influence on whether or not Betty will ever use the word "retarded" in that context again. But I would hope she'd at least think twice. Think of her friend's friend, Sharon, and her precious son, Isaiah---who is so many more things than "retarded.”Sharon Berry-Brown is a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom currently residing in the Washington, D.C. area. She has a BS in psychology, which comes in handy as she and her husband rear their three children: two girls and their little brother, who refuses to let cerebral palsy slow him down. When she's not bulldogging for her kids, Sharon is blogging about them at www.threechocolatebrownies.blogspot.com.