My Name is Sarah

MY NAME IS SARAH. I am a quilt designer and the sewcial director of Sarah's Sewcial Lounge. I also have a business called Down Right Charming. I sell my quilts mostly on etsy and I make pillowcases to donate to patients in the hospital in memory of my friend Kristen Kirton. I am a young adult living with Down syndrome. I hope you enjoy reading about my life journey.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ugh!!! The R Word spoils the Day

Whenever I have the chance to take photos at a soccer game, I try to get a picture of the closing handshake. It doesn't matter what happened on the field, in the end, both teams acknowledge the efforts of each other. My son being the goalie, leads the line for his team. On this particular day, his team lost. That's when it is harder to lead the line. I tell him he must still put a smile on his face and be a good example for his teammates.

We spent the weekend in Detroit for a tournament. Truthfully, I was torn about going. Sarah has been so sick, still has her IV line and I was extra tired from being up for three nights. Yet, I did not want to disappoint Matt. He loves his soccer and so looks forward to out-of-town tournaments. On Friday afternoon I needed to wait for the delivery of the IV medications and the first visit with the home health nurse, so another family offered to drive Matt so he could participate in the fun of the afternoon. I followed later in the evening. I personally love three hour drives alone. It is so rare that I have that much time just to myself and it is the perfect time for thinking.

The first game was in a sportsplex in a suburb called Fraser. We were staying in Novi, so the drive was a good thirty minutes. The drive over was uneventful. The drive back, well let's just say it was white knuckles all the way. With all the drama back home, I never thought to pay attention to the weather report for eastern Michigan. Had I known it was due for a blizzard, I would have taken the van, as opposed to my little car we refer to as "the roller skate." During the drive, Matt was receiving text messages from his teammates to meet up at Olive Garden. I was working hard to keep the car on the road, so we did not end up smashed into the median wall or down in the ravine on the side of the road like so many others we were observing. Matt was not being particularly sensitive of the road conditions and just wanted to get to the restaurant.

We finally arrive and find several families gathered at one large table: adults at one end, kids circling the other end. How lucky was I that I got to sit closest to the kids:) Lunch arrived and it appeared everyone was as hungry as I was. Ten minutes or so later, the team clown chooses to attempt to entertain the crowd. So he picks up a strand of spaghetti from his teammate's bowl and proceeds to put it into the straw of the kid sitting next to him. Then he pours pepper into the water glass of another and this continues until he takes an entire meatball out of another kids bowl and puts it into a drinking glass. I watch in horror. I know I am already cranky from the car ride, but these are 6th graders. What happened to the teamwork?

I look at my son, who believe me is no saint, to see what he is doing. I can tell by the look on his face, he is as disgusted by it, as I am. And then we hear, "Oh ------, you are such a RETARD." And then it gets repeated a few more times, retard, retard, retard.

I was so stunned, I was speechless. Matt whips his head around and looks at me. I am waiting for him to say something. I am waiting for him to be that line leader after a loosing game. He says nothing. I want to stand up and say something, I'm not exactly sure what, but something. Then I remember a post that another mom did a while back about her son being upset when her husband said something to one of his friends and I thought to myself that I better let Matt handle this on his own. I recognize this is a heavy burden for a twelve year old though, and I realize we have not really discussed how one might go about this. The conversation moves on and it is not mentioned again until...

...we are back at the hotel and a few of the same kids are running down the hall, screaming about a "retarded policeman." I can tell Matt has had enough, so he sulks up to the room with me. Once we are behind closed doors, he and I have a discussion about the subject. And we do a little research online(so glad I lugged the laptop with me). We discover over on Rejenerations that on March 31, 2009 there is going to be an effort to "eradicate the R word." We are planning how we will participate.

Later that evening, Matt tells me he did share with the one person on the team that he spends a lot of time with, to please not use that word. At least, not around him because it hurts him and his family. I'm so proud of him, and tell him so. I just hope I can continue to give him the tools and support he needs to navigate these deep waters. Maybe a few Saturdays at Sibshops could help.


Mandy said...

I'm sorry your son had to hear that :(
That word is the worst word that people don't realize cuts like a knife.

Lacey said...

How sad that people still use it so frequently. I think that its the parents that need to teach the kids not to say it becuase kids think its better than swearing so they say that instead.

JRS said...

I'm sorry for the hurt those thoughtless boys caused. You will keep talking, talking, talking and come up with a plan for how to address it when it inevitably happens again. I'd bet big brother has some good ideas.

Alexander and even our new baby will probably be in the same situation some day unless we can spread the word to end the word fast enough.

I see so many similarities in our two families (older brother, middle child - a girl - who has Ds, 3 siblings). You guys are just ahead of us by a few years and I am learning through you and your experiences.

On another note, as our baby's due date draws closer, I'd love to ask Sarah some questions on how it was for her to become the middle child and a big sister.

Take care and have heart. I know for a fact that we ARE making an impact.

Anonymous said...

When reading through your post, I was thinking, "Say something!" -- but you know what? I think you did the right thing by staying mum and to let Matt work through those emotions. I think that because it was a new situation, like anyone, he nor you really knew what to say. But by doing the research, both you and Matt can plan out what to do about awareness. And, readers, like me, can learn too!

Ruby's Mom said...

I just hate that word!Sorry that happened to your son.

Carol N. said...

We haven't had to deal with that yet. But, I would sure have been tempted to draw attention to the parents for their son's behaviour - saying something like, "could you please have a chat with your son about his use of the r word and how hurtful he's being when he uses it around us."

Or, for shock value for the kid I would say, "you know what, I'd rather you used the F word, because it doesn't hurt so much." That should get him thinking (most parents wouldn't say that).

But, then again, I likely would have sat there enraged and thought of responses hours later (like I usually do).

Lisa said...

Joyce, I can't help but wonder what the parents of those kids were doing. Did they not hear it? Did they just condone it or what? What is wrong with people????

I'm no stellar example of a parent, but even before we had a child with Ds, my kids have never been allowed to even say the word "stupid."

Anonymous said...

I hate that word. I wish it would be eradicated....but people will still use it. It's like when people say "Oh, that's so gay!" They're not thiking about what they're response to Lisa's comments about the parents...unfortunately, I hear many an adult use that word, some family members included. Very insensitive...all I can say is that I try to pretend that it just means they don't think of Olivia that way...right? I would have handled it just like you did....but I do like the "F word" idea! :)

BTW, I was driving in same said blizzard in Michigan on was bad!!

Jennifer said...

Poor Matt, for having to hear it AND for having to figure out how to deal with it. I think you are very right to not have said something. Good luck to Matt while he tries to figure out what to do in the future if he is in the same situation.

rickismom said...

I probably would have said something like :
"I don't know a single person with intellectual impairmant that would do things like that>"
But, for your son's sake you where probably right to keep quiet...

Monica said...

Joyce, Matt is very lucky to have such a wise mom. 12 is such a hard age, and Matt also sounds mature beyond his years... So, sorry that happened~

Anonymous said...

Dave at Chewing the Fat has blogged a lot about dealing with the use of this word. You might want to check out the "words hurt" campaign, which Dave is involved in and which has created a card that you can give to people when you hear them use the "r" word. Check out words hurt at:

And Dave at:

Anonymous said...

the hardest part is speaking up for fear of offending the offender.
it's not easy to stand up for what you believe when you are twelve years old. No sibling asked for the job, but each time you do it, it just gets easier. All the best.