We don’t do a lot of serious here at the Cowardly Feminist, however sometimes a situation comes up that should be addressed and discussed. Today’s posting is about the ugly side of Tuesday’s waiting room post. I didn’t write about it that day because, quite frankly, it was heartbreaking.
As I said earlier this week, there was a lot of not paying attention going on amongst parents. I know it isn’t possible to keep an eye on your kid every second, but when they are in public, playing with communal toys and other kids, well, watch them. One of the children in the room was a child with special needs. He was sitting next to his mom on a bench. Another kid, who was approximately five or six, took notice of him and screamed, “Look at his face!” at the top of his lungs. The mother of the kid he referred to looked up immediately, and her child turned his head into her side. The mom of the child that screamed did not respond, or even hear, because she was playing with her phone. So he stood right in front of his mother and yelled it again, this time pointing, and when she didn’t respond (again) he yelled it a third time. Finally his mom snapped to the fact that a) her child was standing right in front of her, yelling, and b) he was yelling and pointing about another kid’s physical appearance.
Just writing that makes my heart sink. It was awful to witness, and I can’t imagine how the mother or her child felt. Judging from the look on her face it was shock and anger, and the desperate need to protect her son. I am not going to go into what the parent of the screaming child said. Once she realized what was happening she did try to explain to her kid that everyone is different, but the damage was already done, not once but three times over.
Now, I’m not blaming the kid that pointed and yelled. He was probably in kindergarten or first grade. And I’m not going to judge his mother on her explanation, because she was clearly mortified. But I sure as hell am going to say that had she been paying the slightest bit of attention her child would not have been able to say that sentence three separate times, loudly. Every other parent heard him, and the other children stopped playing, and of course that only made the situation worse. It was pretty terrible.
I don’t often write about parenting because I am not a mother and therefore can’t speak with any authority. However, I was very bothered by this situation. My 62-year-old aunt has Down’s Syndrome. I saw her every summer all during my childhood, so I grew up knowing that ‘everybody is different’. To me it was completely normal. I love my aunt, she loves me, and that’s the end of the story. However, I also came to understand at an early age that a lot of people are insensitive. It’s a sad truth.
Part of me felt confused over the situation, because today people with special needs are well integrated, so I had a hard time understanding how this particular kid seemed so unaware that what he was doing was wrong. I also think that he should have been taught not to point and comment on anyone’s appearance, special needs or otherwise. You can’t control what comes from the mouths of children. But you can prepare and teach them.