When Someone Said, ‘We Don’t Mind Kids Like Him’
On Halloween, we usually gather on a large lawn in a nearby park with other neighborhood families. This year was no different. One big difference was that last year, my son, Carter, stayed in his stroller mostly. This year, he was off exploring all over the park. He was off and running as soon as we got there and I unsnapped his stroller. He had little interest in actually acquiring candy, but he was very interested in his surroundings.
As he jetted straight for the water, we stopped briefly so he could pet someone’s dog (which he does with every single dog that comes along), and then he was off running again. So I did what I always do: I ran after him. A few minutes later, the owner of the dog came running after us screaming. He said, “My wife says I should give you this.” (It was a flyer.) “She does yoga classes for families, and I watch the kids while she teaches it,” he continued. “I taught special education, so we don’t mind kids like him at all. I mean really, it’s no problem at all. Really, no problem.”
Now for some people reading this, that may seem like a nice thing to say. For me, it felt a little like being kicked in the gut. I was running around the park, not thinking about anything but how fast my little guy had gotten and how beautiful he looked running along the paths against the beautiful back drop of fall. Then, BAM, I was hit with, “we don’t mind kids like him, kids with Down syndrome are welcome, too – really it’s no problem.”
Carter was no longer just a little boy running through the park, enjoying the crunch of leaves beneath his feet. He was the kid with Down syndrome. The kid other people wouldn’t mind, really.
If you see someone with a child who has a disability and you want to ask questions, please do. Most of the parents I know welcome questions. We love the opportunity to educate and brag about our children. But whatever you do, please do not make comments like, “We don’t mind kids like him.” Like what, exactly? Cute, funny, energetic, happy, loving, sneaky? I know you “don’t mean it like that,” but please, just don’t.
Having child who wears his disability on his face is not hard for me, but it can be hard for others to simply see Carter. Carter is a little boy first. Just treat him like a little boy, and just treat me like any other mother of four.
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