In a Name word count: 404
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
An emotional barrage answered a good-natured inquiry. A friend posted a concern about her son in an online international special needs discussion room. Someone asked the child’s diagnosis, and she answered “Spastic Quad CP.”
“That’s an offensive term,” one said, referring to the word “spastic.” “You Americans misuse language, but also by saying such things, you also abuse the afflicted people.”
My poor friend burst into self-conscious tears. “I don’t mean anything offensive. It’s his diagnosis.”
I posted in her defense. “We were unaware that “spastic” is being weeded out of the Queen’s English. It sounds as though you folks across the pond view the word much as many here do the word “Retarded.” However, “spastic” lends clarification to a generic diagnosis. Our medical community uses it to differentiate specific symptoms that our children experience. Nothing offense was intended. I know this mother to be a sensitive, empathic caregiver. Please, can’t we be kind to one another and address the issue instead of attacking based on semantics?”
The responses flamed. “How dare you Yanks?” The posts made my face burn. They named us backward-thinking, uncaring, poor parents. My friend and I left the discussion group and offered each other our own support.
I felt kicked in the teeth by the experience. Nothing we said made a difference. We were branded and blocked.
I know the lack of evil intent in the use of a descriptor does not make us bad parents. I strive for parental perfection daily, and of course I fall short and cry ourselves to sleep at night.
I feel for my friend. She hasn’t a partner, so she relies on her pillow for a comforting squeeze until exhaustion overtakes her. Some nights, when my partner is tired of my drama, I also find the cotton squished beneath my grip, feeling exceedingly lonely.
Yet with every sunrise, I force my eyes to open, my hearts to see the beauty in the simplest things, and carry on with responsibilities. I strive for that illusive perfection, attempt to be the well-spoken advocate, the educated helper, the patient caregiver, and loving part of our families. I brush aside insults and misunderstandings, sweeping them into the recesses of my conscious mind to be dealt with at a later time when I felt stronger. I keep in contact with others, knowing that parenthood can be a lonely job made less lonely by the kindness of good-hearted companions.