Saturday, March 22, 2014

Haters in Disguise?

I'm feeling discouraged and overwhelmed by the world around me. Do you ever feel that way? 

The family is good. While it's the usual crazy and loud, it's not overwhelming at this point. We are in a good place. 

It's the rest of the world that chaps my hide. I saw on facebook that an old high school friend "liked" this article/video in which Bill Maher says you aren't an environmentalist unless you care about overpopulation. Stupidly, I read the comments which vilified large families like mine for all that is wrong in the world. 
That's why I hate that show about the duggars that glorify over breeding
Agree. Education of women is the best birth control! Get a degree; not a stroller.
Agree. I'm appalled now when I see families with 5 & 6 kids. It's selfish. 
Oh, yes, selfish. That's exactly how I feel when I've been up half the night taking care of sick kids or counseling a teen through a period of angst. Thankfully, my degree did not preclude me from investing in many strollers over the course of my life. I also loved the comments that referred to my large brood as a "litter." Awesome.

And, if it were not enough that people are apparently "appalled" when they see my big family, it appears as if some would like to see at least two of my children outright killed: 
Infanticide may offend our social senses rooted in 2000 years of Christianity, but if you look at cultures throughout history infanticide was largely accepted. The Greeks used to leave their disabled and retarded infants on a hill to die of exposure. 
 In case you, like my high school friend, believe great scientific minds like comedian Bill Maher, here and here is some food for thought about the overpopulation myth. 

I thought about all the pictures I post of my very large family on Facebook. I thought about all the funny statuses I post about life in a big family and about how "out there" I've put us. To know that one of my friends "liked" something that condemns who we are and what we're about made me feel exposed and vulnerable. 

Then I read this article about a mother and son who were jeered out of a movie theater last Christmas. The adult son, Max, is autistic and became frightened during the previews. He became loud and his mom was reminding him of movie theater rules and breaking out the coping tricks that have worked countless times before, when suddenly, the people next to them turned and demanded that she quiet him. She tried to explain, but they would have none of it and when others joined in, she and Max made a hasty exit. The theater erupted in applause and taunts. One of them, "He's retarded!" reverberated in her soul. After reading her blog post about the experience, an acquaintance from church rented out the theater so Max and others with special needs can have a safe place to view the new Muppet movie. 

I read the comments on that article, too. 

My stomach is still churning. 
Bottom line, there is no way for the audience to know what kind of issues he has, and if she would be able to calm him down. They saw a situation developing and reacted to it. Mom, on the other hand knew exactly what she was dealing with, but chose to take him to the movies, instead of waiting for the movie to be released on DVD.
whose to say her "coping" mechanisms would have worked that day? I have seen them fail in situations over and over. All the while the parent of the special kid is trying to keep calm themselves. Bring them to the movies theaters that do special days for those kids.
Clapping because a loud person leaves the theater isn’t cruel. Mom bringing Max there knowing he has a problem being quiet is.
I also know a paraplegic, But I wouldn't think of taking him swimming just so he can be like everyone else.
So "we" paying patrons that don't have a kid with a disability. That pay full price for our tickets. On our date night. Should put up with a loud and obnoxious person? Sorry, but no. The majority of people still out weighs those with issues that cant sit quietly and shut the heck up.
Nevermind that Max didn't actually disrupt the movie. Nevermind that Max's mom didn't even get a chance to employ the coping strategies that have worked in the past. Nevermind that no one simply notified the manager if they were bothered...because they didn't have time. Nevermind that the people in the theater loudly and rudely taunted and jeered him as they applauded his exit. 

According to the commenters, Max and his mom deserved what they got. They should have waited and rented the DVD or gone to a theater that does "special days for those kids." They should've remained isolated and alone or stayed with their own kind. 

Trust me. Staying isolated and alone is so tempting. Especially after getting a glimpse into the heart of your fellow man. In all honesty, it makes me want to hide, too.

I've always known there is ugly out there. People lose their inhibitions behind the anonymity of their computer screens. Apparently, they do under cover of darkness in movie theaters, too. They are free to show who they really are and say what they really think. 

So it begs the question. How many people, how many friends, smile at my family, LOL at my statuses, "like" my pictures, cheer for my boys... but secretly agree with the haters? 

There is nothing I can do about the fact that I have eight children. (Make no mistake. I would change nothing, given the chance. The zero population growth people can bite me.) 

But I have boys with special needs. One of them is very typical, although loud. We are working on that and he will learn the appropriate use of "inside voice." The other is anything but typical. He makes weird noises and vocalizations. He bangs his head on things. He is unpredictable. He thrusts his tongue. He has a strange fascination with shoes. 

Right now, he is small for his age and still cute. But he will get bigger and older and less cute. 

And he will make people uncomfortable. 

I worry that we will stay home and watch DVDs and hide him...because that's what people want us to do. 

I worry that all this advocacy that we do, all this blogging and networking and sharing stories about Down syndrome and disability, I worry that all of it is for nothing. That its only purpose is to make ourselves feel better. To make us feel as if we are accomplishing something. To think that somehow, through our efforts, we can make the world less ugly. 

I worry that people are only humoring us. I worry that those that are smiling are doing so out of relief that they aren't saddled with a kid like ours. I worry that we are pitied for the life that we have chosen. I worry that, for all our exposing ourselves, no one really sees the truth. 

The truth is we are abundantly blessed to have these boys. We delight in the different they bring to our lives. They teach us to slow down and celebrate the small things. Because of them, we learn to weed out the unimportant, to embrace the best, and to breathe in the moment. We learn that we have more patience than we think we do...and then we dig deeper and find even more. They make us laugh and keep us young and give us gray hair, all at the same time. Life is rich and colorful with splashes of gray and scary thrown in for balance. It's more nuanced than it was before. 

And then I realize. 

Truth does not become less true simply because it is not acknowledged. People may not accept my boys, my lifestyle, or my family. They may not believe me when I say that life is good. But, their attitude toward my life doesn't diminish my truth. 

I still get to live it.

I know that we will encounter haters in life and some of them will not be hiding behind a computer screen. I can't live wondering if everyone I meet is on my side or not. I don't have the emotional energy for it. Honestly, most days, it really doesn't matter.

So yesterday, on World Down Syndrome Day, I wore my crazy socks and proudly paraded one of my boys around when he came to deliver blue and yellow cupcakes to my work friends. 

And I tried not to wonder if my smiling co-workers are really haters in disguise.


  1. " I worry that, for all our exposing ourselves, no one really sees the truth." Me too.

  2. The things Bill Maher said and the slurs he used are horrific -- I wrote a letter of complaint to the broadcaster.

    The young man with autism who was disrupting during the movie previews... is a different matter altogether. It was absolutely wrong of the other patrons to jeer -- but there's nothing wrong with politely asking an usher to ask the guy to quiet down or leave the movie theatre. It is not unreasonable for folks to expect the people in the movie theatre to sit quietly in their seats once the previews start.

    1. I don't publish anonymous comments, as a rule, but I made an exception in your case so I could respond to yours.

      I am consistently amazed at the need for people to point out the rights of the other people in the theater. What about the rights of the boy and his mother?!? HE WAS JEERED AND RIDICULED AND PEOPLE APPLAUDED AND YELLED AT HIM AS HE WAS LEAVING!!! THAT is the take away here. THAT is what we are discussing. I don't want to discuss whether or not she should have left earlier. She probably should have. He had every right to BE there, even if he couldn't stay. He had the right to TRY it!

      Recently, the group of older folks in front of us, talked and laughed through the entire previews. It was annoying, but I didn't make a stink about it. I assumed they would settle down before the movie came on. They did. If they hadn't, I would've gotten an usher to ask them to quiet down or leave. THAT is the expectation and the treatment Max and his mother deserved. THAT is public decency!

  3. I hear you on so many levels, Tara.