Every parent of a child with a disability knows what "it" is. That moment that some numbskull decides that they need to point out how your child is different. Most of the time it is a simple look or gesture without words but occasionally it is words. Ignorant words. Last night was one of those ignorant moments and sadly it caught me in a not so forgiving mood.
Actually it was pretty simple how it all happened. Knoah and I were standing in line as Knoah was telling me how he could survive in the Dollar Store if he were trapped during a Zombie Apocalypse and I told him that eating everything in the candy isle probably wasn't the best strategy. As we talked the family in line behind us, two boys and their mother, began to "notice" Knoah. Obviously, I want to say what they notice was the extremely cute little boy wearing a suit jacket and dressed up after Easter Dinner and that could have been what they notice. But, it wasn't.
The younger of the little boys exclaimed loudly to me that, "wow, your baby talks good". I tried to ignore how the words reminded me of Ned Beatty hearing "you gotta pretty mouth" in the movie Deliverance so I looked at him for a moment and then looked at his Mom, hoping she would intervene before I said anything. When it was clear this wouldn't happen I simply said in a rather stern manner, "excuse me" thinking he would retract his goofy utterance but . . again, I was disappointed.
I asked the young kid how old he was and when he told me he was seven I let him know that Knoah was also seven years old and that he was a little person meaning that he is not as tall as other children but that he is just as smart as others and that he also has the same thoughts and feelings that others have if he is called a name. Again I hoped that this would quell the situation but alas that was not to be. Instead of asking something reasonable about what a little person might be the young kid then said, "no way, he ain't my age" quickly followed by, "I go to the first grade". I could feel my chest tighten and dreamed that his Mother would say something, anything that could end this but . . . disappointment was all I received. I then thought to myself, just let it go as Ron White likes to say, "you can't fix stupid" instead of following that plan I was confronted with the older brother feeling the need to chime in with "I'm nine and in the second grade, he (meaning Knoah) ain't seven". That was it. I was done. I had enough.
Bending down to look at these sadly confused and misguided gaggle of siblings I said, "well, my son Knoah is seven and as I said he is a little person who is very intelligent, thoughtful and caring". Knoah, as I explained to them was in the second grade and was doing very well. Knoah, hearing me say this, began to recite his times tables up to four. The younger boy then asked Knoah if he could answer what 100 times 100 was. Yes, of course Knoah can and did answer quickly. The intrusive little siblings were amazed by this and began loudly telling their Mother how Knoah looked like a "baby" but he was seven and knew his times tables and could add "big numbers" (there words, not mine). Mom was apparently now aware of her children, looked at Knoah and opined, "nu-uh". Done again, I was.
I looked at Mom and informed her of that Knoah was a little person (because it seemed the first two times didn't take) and that he was seven and bye-golly he knew his times tables and could add numbers in the hundreds without the aid of his fingers or toes. I wanted to punctuate it with my favorite Frank Zappa lyrics ("Great Googly-Moogily") but figured that was too much. I then looked at the young boys and the Mother and told them that, "you know, you guys should be helping each other in school because if you're nine and in the second grade and Knoah is seven it seems you could be a little bit behind". I told them that focusing on those things might just benefit them more than being amazed by the differences in Knoah's body size considering he was apparently more academically advanced.
We checked out, left and went home. I was still pissed about it when we got home and I talked with Hannah and Laura about it. Laura chastised me for highlighting the fact that the older brother seemed to have failed a grade and how in doing so it made me just as wrong as they were. She is right of course and I felt bad for being "that guy". No excuses. I didn't handle it well. My fault.
In the end, I guess that I must learn to not let things bother me as much as I do but at the same time I know that I want to "protect" Knoah and all of my children from ignorant people. I did try to be the "good advocate" at first but in the end I fell short. I need to learn that Ron White is correct, "you just can't fix stupid".
Thankfully, I have amazing children who will support their amazing, intelligent, happy and beautiful brother in the years to come and may be next time I can be more reserved but I won't make any promises about that; not now, not ever.