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To Donald Trump From a Special Needs Parent: Your Words Matter

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Donald Trump recently made fun of rival John Kasich for the way the governor ate: “This guy takes a pancake and he’s shoving it in his mouth,” Trump said. “It’s disgusting. Do you want this guy for your president?” he added with a smirk.

When my 13-year-old makes fun of his 10-year-old brother, I explain what he’s really doing is making himself look bad — definitely not very “presidential.” The silver lining here is that my 13-year-old is not running for president. I have a lot of work to do before he does, and I am the first to admit I need help.

The further I get into this mom thing, the more the saying “It takes a village…” seems to ring true. We moms rely on a small army of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and to a certain extent, those in the public eye to help raise our kids.

Some days we need help getting them from point A to point B. Every day we need help honing their character, instilling values, reminding and reminding again right from wrong. We hope and pray they will come into contact directly or indirectly with people who are kind, considerate and thoughtful. We do what we can to guide them in that direction and help them to understand that how you speak and how you act matters.

As the mother of three young boys, I spend a lot of my time mediating and correcting my sons’ interactions. An average afternoon sounds a little like this: Don’t touch him. I don’t care what he called you. You are not allowed to use that language. You are not allowed to use that word. Listen guys — words matter.

Two of the words thrown around here of late are “stupid” and the R-word. I know they’ve been around for years. Growing up I admit I used them in the heat of battle with my own brother — but I evolved and learned that names can break a person as surely as sticks and stones.

I also now have a family comprised of the three aforementioned boys and a 14-year-old daughter who has autism. As I try to impress upon my sons, in another time and place, their sister would have been — not just called — but classified by the R-word and held at arm’s length by much of society as a result. Tune into most media outlets these days, however, and I begin to wonder if that time and place really isn’t here and now.

This is the first election season to which all three of my sons have really paid attention. Initially I thought this is great! My fourth grader is studying the American Revolution — how it all began; now he will see it all play out live. But as it turns out, as much as I want my boys to learn and to tune into the politics of today, it’s really all I can do to keep them from tuning out. I do enough refereeing as it is — standing next to the TV, whistle in hand, is not an option. I cannot send Donald to the penalty box. I’m their mom, not his, and already have one in time out and dinner to get on the table.

While I continue to try and not lose my mind while constructively criticizing the headlines and the sound bytes, I’ve largely fallen back, as moms do, on the art of redirection. I no longer lobby for news shows and have relinquished the remote to my 8-year-old, who lives and breathes ESPN.

Examples of sportsmanship, class and the consequences of lacking either seem far more plentiful on ESPN than network television. Just a few weeks ago, I whispered a prayer of thanks as we watched Jordan Spieth detail how his sister with developmental disabilities helps to ground and remind him what’s most important in life. And a few days later, after an unprecedented plummet at the Masters, carry himself with exceptional poise and grace, and offer his opponent only praise.

Look guys — words matter.

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Lead photo source: Evan Guest

Originally published: May 5, 2016
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