Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stupid Is Not the Problem


I would wager that quite a few people who read yesterday’s post were anywhere from uncomfortable to horrified that I told my six year old son Jade that his four year old sister Kimani is in fact stupid.

Before I go on, let me put it out there again that Kimani has suffered brain damage. Her having Down syndrome is secondary to that. I would give most anything I have for her to only have Down syndrome. I would never, ever say that her sisters Masha and Autumn (who also have Down syndrome) are stupid, because they are not. They have a good measure of common sense and the ability to process and store information at a functional and educable rate.

Which brings me to the classic definition of stupid: lacking in common sense, perception, or normal intelligence; having dull mental responses; slow-witted. There is no value judgement inherent in the definition of stupid... nothing to say that it is a bad thing.

But we know that being stupid is bad. We know that calling people stupid is an insult. We know that actually being stupid gets you picked on and often abused. Those problems are more about us than they are about Kimani. She is who she is and has the brain capacity that she has. It is us, those around her who will place a value on her head. I happen to think she is worth her weight in gold.

As for stupid... instead of me trying to paint some prettier words over it (intellectually impaired and cognitively delayed) which have less stigma attached to them, I simply admitted to my son what he can already see for himself. His sister lacks the ability to do many things because she lacks common sense, perception, and a functional level of intelligence. What is most important is not that he believe that she is NOT stupid but rather that he believe she is valuable and lovable despite being stupid, and I am pretty sure he gets that.


CJ said...

Well stated!

We keep it real around here. My son can be lazy and disrespectful at times, like most teens. I will call him out on it while affirming I love him, he is an amazing kid with LOTS of great attributes, but he is being a jerk in that moment.

I keep it real with all my kids. I'm not going to paint them as perfect little creatures without fault. What service does that do them?

Em understands she has Down syndrome. She understands she says bad words. She understands that she can read and write. She knows there are GOOD and not-so-good things about her, just like there are about all of us.

My wife and I always say that if we ever have an ugly child, we will admit it. We will hope and work on making sure they have an awesome personality, but we'll admit they got shafted in the looks department. Life is cruel, you have to prepare kids for it.

goldenleaves said...

Hugs. No judgement here. Kids are tough and saying the "right thing" is never quite as easy at it seems.

Jenny said...

I actually thought what you said to your son yesterday and the way you said it, was perfect.

TUC said...

My husband read this post and laughed at me. He said it reads like "damage control". Nobody said anything critical to me to prompt this post. I just know how I would feel if I had read yesterday's post on someone else's blog. I would be thinking, "Damn, I can't believe she told her kid that."

Anna said...

I thought that exact thing when I read the post yesterday, but yet I totally "got" what you were meaning too.


Melissa said...

I admit, the other post made me uncomfortable, but I think you handled it brilliantly. There are going to be uncomfortable parenting moments ahead. It is a fine balance of explaining things to kids with honesty and compassion, and I hope I have the words when I need them.

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