Not a week goes by that I don’t see another post on a parenting site instructing the world what not to say to those living within certain personal circumstances. Whether its 10 Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents, What Not to Say to a Working Mom or 10 Things Not to Say to Your Childless Friends, there are so many dos and don’ts that I fear all of these demands will ultimately beat ourselves into conversation submission, worried about every little thing we say. Seriously, we need a score card to keep track.
But it’s The Stir’s 35 Things Not to Say to a Mother of a Child with Autism that’s finally forced me to step on my soapbox and take on the topic. THIRTY FIVE things not to say? Wouldn’t it be easier to just list the two things we are allowed to say?
It’s not that I don’t understand. Being a working mom with three kids — one internationally adopted, one with autism and one with life-threatening allergies, I am proud to be part of a generation of parents who serve as advocates for their children and their needs. And if writing a post would miraculously cure ignorance and stupidity, I’d be all for it.
But it feels like we’ve become so obsessed with being politically correct, never mind terrified that our own children might actually have to experience an uncomfortable moment or two during their lives. Instead of trying to school a stranger in human relations, it’s a better use of our time and energy to teach our kids how to handle these situations as they come. Because the only way to raise independent, confident adults it to show them how to face adversity head on; not expect that the rest of the world will suddenly play nice, just because we tell them to in a blog post.
4 Ways to Respond to Ignorant Comments
Why Do You Ask? Oftentimes, people are just making conversation or unfamiliar with something and let curiosity get the best of them. These four little words are a polite way of putting the onus back on them and will often provoke an apology or backtrack when they realize they may have traveled over the line.
Laughter is the Best Medicine While this option can err on the side of passive aggressive, it’s sometimes the best choice if you’re in a public place or in earshot of a child. This was choice of response one time in our local grocery story after being asked “How much did your daughter cost?” A lighthearted “what a silly question to ask” guffaw did the trick and the woman was on her way to insult someone else.
It’s Personal If honesty is the best policy, this is the way to go. There’s not much more to be said when someone clearly and kindly informs you it’s none of your business. And for those rare occasions that doesn’t work…
Have Fun with Sarcasm I’ve been known to stop a truck in its tracks with a quick-witted quip. And there are times I’m just not in the mood or the person doesn’t take hints #1-3. A couple of examples:
“Where is her real mom?”
I’ll tell you where she’s not… rubbing my baby’s back in the middle of the night as she projectile vomits or saving for her college education.
“He has autism? He seems so normal.” At least someone does.
Then there was the time I was pregnant with my first son and celebrating a birthday at a French restaurant in Los Angeles. “It’s okay to have wine when you’re expecting,” the waiter informed me. Wow, you wait tables and earned a medical degree at the same time? That’s impressive.
No matter which option you choose in dealing with intrusive comments, remember this: The best way to change others’ attitudes and behavior is to help open their hearts and minds to seeing things in a new way. But before we can do that for someone else, we must do the same within ourselves. We’re human beings who all make mistakes — the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.