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Adoptive Families Magazine

Parents With Disabilities

Responding to Ignorance

Many parents with disabilities occasionally encounter negative attitudes from others about our being parents and having a disability.  We had one such incident while returning home from dinner Sunday evening.

We live in a diverse city and don’t experience ignorance often.  When we do however, the person can usually be educated.  This time wasn’t one of them, and the way we were treated really lit a fire within me.

One of the most frustrating comments I hear is when a stranger tells one of my kids “I bet you take good care of your Daddy.”  I’m a working adult and perfectly capable of taking care of myself and my kids.  To suggest that I’m not and that a child needs to look after me is insulting.

While boarding the bus to go home, the driver told my 7-year-old son in a disapproving tone that he should have been helping my wife get on the bus.  I reaffirmed to my son that it was ok and that he should sit down and put on his seatbelt.  I then asked my wife if she needed any help, but she did not.

Turning my attention to the driver, I told him that it wasn’t my son’s job to help my wife get on the bus and that if she needed help I would help her as her husband.  He didn’t agree though, and told me that my son was old enough to be helpful.  He left me with the impression that he actually believed that we adopted our son so that he could help us, which made me even more angry.

Seeing that I wasn’t going to be able to educate the driver, I sat down hoping the rest of the ride home would be smooth.  Sadly that wasn’t to be.  The driver generally spoke to us like we were misbehaving children.

He started in again when we arrived at our destination.  I made sure that I let my older son get off the bus ahead of me. As my wife was walking down the stairs carrying our 2-year-old, he went on and on about how she needed to be careful and that she shouldn’t drop him.

Once we were home and everyone’s coats and shoes were put away, I noticed that my son seemed a bit sad, so I asked if what happened on the bus made him feel upset.  He said that it did and that he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong.  I reassured him that he hadn’t done anything wrong and reminded him that when we’re out in public that he needs to listen to his Mom and I before anyone else.

I called the bus company and spoke with a supervisor the next day.  I didn’t file a formal complaint, but explained what happened and asked that they educate their driver.  The supervisor apologized and said that she would talk with him.

How do you handle this type of situation when you’re out in public and someone questions your parenting abilities and undermines your authority with your children?



Very thought provoking thread.

So in regards to the bus incident, perhaps if you’d said something to the driver when he started reproving your son for not helping you more -like “We are all fine Sir, but thanks for your consideration.” maybe he would have not felt like he had to continue to prove his point?  Really, though, you handled it all with admirable restraint and calm!  I think calling the bus co and the supervisor and dealing with it as you did was also excellent. (You may have had more beneficial effect that way in terms of the driver and/or others on the bus observing than you know.)

I did have to laugh at the “I bet you take good care of your Daddy” comment.  How horrible would that feel to take that seriously (which is how it is probably quite often meant)!

What about if you take that comment (“I bet you take good care of daddy.”)when it feels appropriate to you, sort of like the comment many able bodied folks children get “You must be mommy’s little helper.” It requires a bit of confidence to not feel demeaned, and instead see it as a comment of praise about your child….one that can be responded to with   “He is a wonderful, thoughtful, responsible son. We are so happy to have him in our family.”

One other thought, which I will illustrate with a story. A friend had severe asthma at times. Her little boy, when he was just a couple of years old, would run and find her inhaler and bring it to her when she was having a bad attack. He was well fed, housed and very well loved - and free to live a wild, happy boy’s life, but still he did have that very crucial role and responsibility in their family. Far from burdening him, he was proud of his importance in the family, and along with being a fun loving, exuberant child, I think in part because of this, he also is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, most caring children I have ever known.

While children bore too much responsibility as child laborers in the past,  I think we have, to everyone’s detriment, swung too far to the other extreme of children having no other purpose in the family then to play and think only of themselves. Kindness and responsibility to care for others are important, and it is not something to be ashamed of, but a plus to have one’s disability teach or give a child an opportunity to learn these skills. After all we all need some help from others in one way or another.

Posted by Happy Camper on Nov 21, 2013 at 6:51am

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