Saturday, August 18, 2007

Name Calling

The other night we were at our neighborhood pool. There was a father there with three boys, ages roughly 2, 4 & 6. Towards the end of the evening Nicky and the 4 y.o. were on the tennis courts chasing each other around. Nicky was growling and the boy was laughing. The 6 y.o. then joined them and started calling Nicky "idiot" and the 4 y.o. joined in with "poopyhead." As I was about to intervene the father came and grabbed both boys, berated the boys in the tone of voice usually associated with times when your kids have totally mortified you. After a few minutes of lecturing the father bought the boys over and they apologized to both Nicky & me.

Nicky was oblivious and had thought it was all just good fun. I, on the other hand, was very upset, visibly, so that I couldn't do much more than thank the boys for apologizing. If Nicky was a typical kid, the incident probably would have passed without notice or perhaps escalated with Nicky hurling his own insults. But, he's not, and this is the first time, I've experienced unpleasantness on his behalf.

Could the incident have been handled any differently? The boys' father was so furious I'm not sure they understood why their father were so angry. Not having overheard what he said to the, did he explain that Nicky has a disability? Should I have said anything? And, how to prepare for the next unpleasantness of this sort?


Ashley at Mean Mommy said...

Oh, Anne, that's heartbreaking for any mama and any child, but more so for you with Nicky, I'm sure. I think you handled it just fine, especially since the father made it clear that the behavior was unacceptable, but I can understand your impulse to educate them, to explain the ways that Nicky is special. Hopefully their father set them straight.

Beth said...

I think there were two things happening there, one was the six year old teasing Nicky, which is something heartbreaking but inevitable. I'm not sure how to deal with that, or how to help Nicky deal with that.

But the four year old was treating Nicky as a peer -- poopyhead doesn't sound like a derogatory insult but as standard reference from one over-excited preschooler to another. I wouldn't see it as a bad experience for Nicky, but as one more accomplishment. I'm glad the adults were there, since those scenes can easily tip either towards friendship or towards teasing, but it sounds like Nicky still felt at home. Or maybe the four year old was trying to be mean -- I wasn't there. I'm just picturing my Nicky in the scene, or even my Alexander. Or seeing my Alexander as either the six year old or the four year old.

So, were the kids teasing Nicky because of his differences, or because they didn't notice his differences? It will probably make a big difference in how Nicky feels about it as he gets old enough to tell the difference.

Beth from oct98

Shelley said...

Yup - it is a tricky one and i am sorry that you had such an upsetting experience. I don't think there is a standard answer to this situation - but no doubt it will happen again - to you and Nicky and me and Hannah too. Because Hannah was excited to see me at childcare one afternoon she made this really high pitched babbling noise with 'mum' interspersed - another little girl thought it sounded fun and started to laugh and copy her - from an adult point of view it was making fun of Hannah but for that little girl it was just seeing whether she could make the noise too - I know because I have seen Kit do similar mimicing. Still it won't always be unintentional or inclusive (of preschooler obsessions with poop!) and then - I guess we just have to let our hearts break for our babies and protect them as best we can.

Special Needs Mama Prof said...

Wow, that's an intense story. I don't have much to say other than echoing what Beth has offered. I hope the dad did explain his reasons (to his kids) for being so upset, since clearly it has as much to do with disability as it did anything else. I.e., he was self-conscious due to Nicky's disability.

Jen said...

What else could you have done, really? It's not your responsibility to educate or discipline other people's children, especially when it seems like their dad was already handling it. I do hope he explained his reasons for being angry, so maybe the next time those boys are in a situation with a person with a disability, they'll think twice. Or maybe that's just expecting too much from a kid. I don't know.

No matter how you look at it, it's still a terrible, hurtful thing to see your child as a victim of teasing, or meanness, or whatever you want to call it. I don't look forward to the day when my son is old enough to experience that. I'm sure I won't handle it gracefully.

mum2brady said...

Ohhh - hugs Anne! That is so dang hard for a mom to see. I hate to say that it happens whether your child has T21 or not.

I'm happy the dad came over and talked to his own children though. So many times the parents don't notice, or even care - as they sometimes share the same views :(

I'm sorry you and Nicky had to go through that.