Monday, November 1, 2010

I was tested.... and FAILED

I was tested ……. And FAILED
Last week while on a business trip, I was sitting at the bar eating dinner and talking with this guy sitting next to me.  We discussed our jobs, travel and sports and in particular the World Series.  There were a number of us, travel warriors, settling in for Game 1 of the Series.  Then it happened, out of the blue and totally unexpected, I was tested.
There we were, talking away, getting ready for the game and I hear this gentleman say “I will show you what a retard I am” as he continued to ask me a baseball related question.  The test…..  Here was a moment that I knew I would face someday.  Since the birth of Shane and Wyatt, after reading the blogs from other parents and after reading and hearing how truly offensive this word can be, I now feel differently about it and it was now my moment to react.  I admit, prior to my twins, I didn’t use the word (often) but had no reaction when others did. The test. 
This guy probably said this word before and this time was referring to him and did not use it to call out someone else.  It is the word; the R-word used anyway IS offensive.  It was now up to me to educate him on what this means to others.  It was my moment to talk about awareness and special needs, Down syndrome and maybe even what my boys have been through.  The ball was in my court, the test.  Maybe, this was my opportunity to eliminate this word from being used by one more person for ever.  Well, I said nothing.  I failed the test.  Yes, I felt my blood boil, yes it upset me and yes, shortly afterwards I left.  I said nothing.
I have pledged my life to being a force and someday a leader in driving awareness.  I have pledged to be a voice and to speak to the issues, educate and advocate for special needs and Down syndrome.  I realized this day that although I have come a long way since March there is still so much that I have to learn.  I also realize that many of you reading this would have reacted differently and would have said something.  This was my first opportunity and I didn’t handle it well and as I went to bed that night I felt as though I let Shane and Wyatt down, I let some of you down and I could not help but wonder what would Rosa Marcellino have said?    I will never fail this test again.
A few weeks ago my wife heard someone use the R-word and recently one of our nurses used it as well.  Both times, my wife politely said something to them.  She has always told me that she has never used the R-word and she will not let anyone say it without saying something to them.  She feels that we will always have to the spokesperson for our sons and what is right.  This can start with one word or in this case by eliminating one word.
One by one, person by person we can spread this message of awareness.  We will have good days and bad and some days we will wish we could have said something or did something differently.   OK, maybe I know that I didn’t fail the final test and possibly this was just one quiz in a series of quizzes.  I know my final grade will come long after I have left this earth but I do know the next time I will not let you down.


  1. Don't beat yourself up. It's an uncomfortable position to be in...especially the first time when you haven't rehearsed what you are going to say. You'll get them next time!!

    Although I haven't comment here before or very much on FB, I will tell no means have you EVER failed Shane and Wyatt!!!

  2. Maybe it's not that you failed at not sticking up for what you believe but instead you succeeded by not stooping to his level and reacting with anger and rage. I often feel this same exact way. I am a special education teacher who has taught students with so many different disabilities. But time and time again, I can't get away from the fact that when someone uses the "R" word it takes everything for me not to lose it on that person. Most recently a colleague of mine (who is a special education teacher) used that word and I just froze, I was stunned that someone in the same position as myself would ever use that word, and in school!!!! But instead of reacting with an attitude I just ignored her and walked away. A day or two later I pulled her aside and explained to her that I was so thrown off by her using that word and I wasn't trying to be rude, but I just can't stand when people who that word in that context. It was unconfortable for me, especially because you never know how she is going to react, but I was glad I said something. And I normally do. I just have to learn to say it with less attitude. Unfortunately some people just don't have respect and appreciation for all the differences that exist in this word.

  3. Don't beat yourself up. I know that we want to eliminate the use of this word entirely, but I have been guilty of "letting it slide" when I have felt that the person's INTENT was not to hurt anybody's feelings but was just using some slang. I know. I KNOW, we are supposed to try to educate people that it is NEVER acceptable, but it's hard. Please don't beat yourself up.

  4. The first time is like a punch in the stomach. Who am I kidding - each time is like a punch in the stomach. The first time is more like a sucker punch that can take all of the wind out of you. You can't even hear the conversation going on around you - the "word" just reverberates in your head and you're sick to your stomach.

    Don't be so hard on yourself. And I have to say that I agree with Cathy - you have never failed Shane and Wyatt.

  5. I have had my twins for 5 years now. I still don't say something "everytime". When the time feels right, I say something. When the time feels uncomfortable or feels like it will go nowhere, I don't say anything. I don't know if we will ever truly always have the right words to reply to this when someone says it, but YES it boils the blood, YES it feels like a punch in the stomach, NO it does not lessen your ability or drive to advocate for your children. You failed nobody, your just building confidence.

  6. I've been there Eric. Most of us have. And I know it feels bad right now, but it'll be OK. I found the experience to be enlightening in the long run. I found out how bad it felt to let it slide and I won't do it again. Prepare yourself for the next opportunity. Stock up on ammo, have a retort for a stranger and one for a friend at-the-ready, and go get 'em Eric. I have faith in you as Shane and Wyatt's parent!

  7. don't beat yourself up. we all are in the same boat with you.

  8. Eric, I wouldn't say you failed. Although you knew it would happen, you were unprepared and are also not confrontational. Now you have been "put on notice," so to speak. Next time, I am certain, you will be prepared. Instead of a knee-jerk response, that could have left the guy defensive and thinking "what a jerk" you are for an emotionally-charged outburst, you will be ready to express yourself in a way that could teach a valuable lesson to the offender, as well as to anyone within earshot.

  9. Been there. But after that experience I've thought about it over and over and thought of different ways I can say something (and I'm still trying to think of ways). I haven't had another "test" since then but it'll probably come up again when I least expect it. But hopefully I would have learned from the first experience and be a little more prepared. And maybe you will be more prepared at the next chance too. All the best to us all! :-)

  10. Please don't beat yourself up or feel you failed the test. Its hard to confront someone you don't really know and they use that word. I bet more of us have NOT said something more times than we have. Its an uncomfortable subject and as easy as it is to play it out in your head, its harder to say it in reality.

    I always tell myself I'll say something when it happens, but that's not always the case; hasn't always happened the way I intended.

    Recently it happened to me twice in a group of ladies I just met. Once while playing Bunco and once in a MOPS group. I felt too uncomfortable to just blurt out something in the middle of my table like that with women I didn't know and didn't know my daughter. I have a problem because I feel like I'm going to make everyone else around me uncomfortable, so I said nothing at all.

    You're not the only one.

  11. Eric,
    You were blindsided, and caught off guard. I don't think you have to say something every single time to make a real difference. I think it also matters what context and tone the word is used in. For example, many people apologize and decide not to use the word, but there are some who are either embarrassed (and don't say anything at all) or angry that you embarrassed them (and choose to use it purposely because they want to argue that it isn't an offensive word.) That last group is the one I'd like to punch in the face. :)

    I have found that showing Soren Palumbo's r-word speech from the website helpful to getting my message across.


  12. Eric,
    I'm so sorry that you are feeling like you failed. You did not fail! Also, just like you probably didn't sign up for being "that parent" as we are often thought of, you probably didn't sign up for "perfect" or "super hero" either. You are in love with your boys, and that does make you a super hero for recognizing their beauty and worth; and that is what makes you and your wife perfect for Shane and Wyatt. Think of this as a practice quiz. This one doesn't count. It's a "do-over." You'll get a great score the next time. Apply some of that love and compassion to yourself! Hugs!

  13. Don't be too hard on yourself. We learn with tests and trials. We learn how and when to speak; we learn to choose our battles wisely.

    It takes time.

    I'm proud to be traveling this journey with you.

    Be strong and endure.

    God bless.

  14. Eric, I don't think you failed at all. I think perhaps your subconscious security senses may have kicked in. Think about it... you were in a restaurant/pub far from home, talking to a complete stranger who may or may not have had a few beers (or a mental health problem, or a parole officer...) and who knows how he may have received even the gentlest of admonishments. Perhaps your test was not one of correcting this man, but one of self control. If it was, then you passed with flying colors.

    Clearly you are a tireless advocate, fearless educator and outspoken crusader for the rights of people with special needs everywhere. I have absolutely no doubt that you will single-handedly strike the "r" word from the vocabularies of countless people in the future. That night, however, you were just a prudent father and husband, having dinner far from home, and talking baseball.

    There was a reason you didn't confront this man, and it wasn't fear, and it wasn't shame, and it wasn't wrong. Please don't let the idea that you let this one guy go bug you for years to come, because I think perhaps in this instance you did the smartest thing under the circumstances. Keep trusting your instincts.

  15. You will...eventually you will get your chance...I read your post the other day...I then went to the office the next day..someone was talking to a co-worker and used the word "retard" numerous blood was boiling and my heart racing, I interrupted them and told them it was NOT acceptable, I may have blurted, I may have sounded stupid, but I said it, they may not remember THIS time, but I did it, and a few days later I did it again, this person didn't get mad or annoyed, he said "you are right ,I shouldn't use that word, my fiancee tells me it's unacceptable, I will try not to use it" will speak up when the time is right, your heart will race and your palms will be sweaty, but you WILL do it, you DO love your boys:-)