“Hey, ugly boy!”
This delightful extract is straight out of the potty mouth of a five- or six-year-old girl. Directed at my special needs child, who was rim-stim-stimming to his heart’s content next to the hotel poolside where we were staying this weekend.
A less rational part of me wanted to grab this Bratz doll of a child by her perfect little ponytail, drag her across to where her family was sitting underneath a nearby umbrella, and acidly enquire: “Does THIS belong to you?”
But I didn’t. I raised an eyebrow, took another sip of my pina colada and asked the Husband, who was parking off on a lounger of his own next to me: “Are you watching this?”
You know, just in case I was hallucinating in the glorious sun.
“Yup,” he said.
And I did nothing.
In fact, I felt nothing. My heart rate didn’t so much a blip up a notch. THAT’s how okay I have become with the fact that our family is disabled.
Yes. All of us.
Having a son or a brother who is classed as moderately to severely impaired by a neurologist, and yes, even the South African government (for tax purposes) has left out entire family with a limp.
Travis didn’t so much as turn his head to acknowledge her, standing there in her pink and brown Pringle striped swimming costume. He carried on hooting and twirling his toes. Clap-clap-clapping manically with the pleasure of it all.
He ignored that girl, that girl that can stand, all on her own.
That girl who can speak. I’ll bet she’s been able to do that slap-bang since the Infant Milestone schedule predicated it would. Lucky her. Lucky mom and dad.
I’m not angry at that little girl. I’m not even angry at her parents. There’s probably not a little Johnny in her classroom who walks with crutches. She’s probably never had The Speech about why some kids are different, but it doesn’t mean they are special.
But on Monday morning – HERE’S what made me shit a brick: 11-month-old Ryan was standing there when it happened. He watch the whole thing play out, his baby face scrunched in concentration as he looked first at that little girl, and then at his brother. The name-calling. The cruel laughter. The lack of consequences.
And he watched me do nothing about it at all.
Ryan is still too young to have noticed the odd looks and prolonged stares in the breakfast dining hall while we enjoyed our weekend break, but in the next two or three years – he will. The Husband and I shake it off, but will he? And most importantly: should he?
I’m already visualising playground scuffles and bloody noses when some (ignorant) child tells Ryan to his face that his brother is a retard. But the fact is: it’s not Ryan’s job to defend his big brother. It’s mine. It’s his dad’s. And we are complacent.
What do you think we should have done? Should I broken the tranquil poolside vibe to play special needs advocate and speak to that girl’s parents. Or was it better to keep the peace?