I have to preface this post by saying that I am extremely conscientious about taking my kids places in public, especially restaurants. We pick kid-friendly places and do our best to remove a kid who is creating a scene. However, I think that it is entirely appropriate and necessary to take kids out in public in order to teach them acceptable behavior. It doesn't happen magically or immediately, but it has to be done.
So. I took the kids for lunch one day at a well-known soup-and-salad type establishment. Totally kid-friendly and it was 11:30 or so in the morning. I maneuvered our double stroller into a quiet-ish corner where I could set us up without being in the way and got the kids settled. As I got our food to the table, my hot-headed little tempest in a teacup took offense at my admonishment to wait a minute while I got things organized before she started grabbing for food. She gave the food tray an indignant shove and my bowl of soup went flying into the booth seat where I'd piled my bag and our coats.
Now, this is not my first rodeo. I've dealt with spills and messes and shabby behavior in public places before, so I'm pretty good at just getting on with it. This, though, this was a pretty big mess. Tomato soup in my bag, on my bag, covering Brighton's coat and part of Pacey's. I took a deep breath, enlisted the help of a waitress and started cleaning up. It was clear to me that Brighton's coat was a goner. It'd been a clearance buy to begin with and just wasn't worth trying to get it home to be cleaned. I folded it up to whisk it over to the garbage can and managed to dump the half a bowl of soup it contained onto the floor.
At this point I was feeling pretty stressed out. The kids were hungry and Brighton was upset because she knew she'd caused the mess. Cheeks burning, I took the coat to the garbage and noticed two men dressed in business attire, laptops open, sitting in our corner. They exchanged looks with each other and one rolled his eyes. Jerk. On my way back to the table and my screaming daughter, a couple of moms gave me sympathetic smiles and one asked how much I felt like crying. Eh, I shrugged, it happens.
And then, as the heart-of-gold staff member that was helping us escorted us to a new table nearby so she could clean up the mess in the booth (seriously, this woman was a saint), one of the businessmen cut his eyes at Pacey and lobbed a bomb. His comment doesn't bear repeating...I have to hear it in my head and I don't want to have to see it written here. It was hurtful and it included the term "retard."
At that point? Yeah, I felt like crying. I felt like punching the guy in the nuts, I felt like dumping my fresh bowl of soup over his briefcase (lord knows I had no appetite for it at this point). But somehow the rational part of my brain prevailed and I sat with the kids, facing them away from these assholes, and focused on the fact that they had no idea what had happened. I gritted my teeth, smiled at the kids and swallowed past the giant lump in my throat as I helped them eat their lunch. I managed to hold it together until we exited the restaurant and then I couldn't anymore - I called my husband and sobbed.
Now, I have to point out that in 4.5 years, this is the only bad experience like this that I have had. I do believe that generally people are good and kind and don't say things intentionally to hurt. But many people I know uninentionally say things that hurt. I understand that generally the use of the term "retarded" is not intended as an insult to my kid. But it is meant as a insult and is used as a synonym for stupid, and every time it's used that way it's hurtful. It's so easy to pick another word...the English language is full of them. I even have a suggestion. If that word is on the tip of your tongue, change out a few syllables and go for "ridiculous." It might save someone a really bad day.