Mama Bear Came Out [Inside]
I had my first mama-bear moment when something was said about Tristan. My claws came out, the hackles went up, and I had to retract them and walk away.
I have heard of people saying stupid things about adoptees, but so far, have only experienced it once in our year home with him. And honestly, this post isn’t about the person whose unfortunate words caused pain within my gut or literally made my blood pressure go up OR created fighting words within my spirit. It is about how we look at people. How we are quick to judge. Quick to label.
Human beings. That is what we are. Period.
If you have hung out with us for any amount of time, you will see that my son has a lazy eye, which has strengthened so much since he has been home. Or that he is learning to swallow his saliva, which he is growing more aware of. Or that he drinks a special protein formula for a rare genetic metabolic disorder.
As humans, we are quick to jump to a conclusion about others. We label them or place a reason behind certain behaviors. We look at a child full of energy and label them as ADHD. We look at someone with a physical difference/need and think somehow they must have a learning disability as well. Or label them as “special.” We want explanations for things. We want to know “what’s wrong with them.” We want our discomfort, comforted.
And for what reason?
I’m not sure.
Maybe it is to make us feel better about ourselves? Or place pity upon someone? Or move our discomfort to a place that helps us not act awkward… Or gives us a reason for why they are the way they are. We want explanations.
For whatever reason, we immediately label that person as: Human being +_________. Fill in the blank.
I am learning very quickly how active [most] boys are, which is awesome! Tristan is NON-stop on the go. He wants to be in the thick of things. See how things work. Move stuff. Touch stuff. Break things and put them back together. Or just break things in general. It’s awesomely exhausting all at the same time.
Another child was observing Tristan’s behaviors and didn’t really enjoy his level of energy, which is not a big deal to me at all. The child made a comment, which also didn’t bother me. But the following statement made by an adult floored me. The adult replied to the child’s discomfort and said,
“Oh honey. He’s just special needs.”
I’m just gonna let that statement sit for a minute.
I was so shocked. So stunned by the comment I was left dumbfounded. My husband was even shocked I didn’t say anything. And honestly, I am too.
What led this adult to label him so quickly?
Let me make it VERY clear that the phrase “special needs” is not entirely bad UNLESS used in a way that puts down or is used in a negative connotation, in which people are purely being defined is “lesser” due to their need that requires “special” attention. For example, when we adopted from China, the majority of children who are waiting to be adopted have some form of “special need” i.e. had cancer, need cancer treatment, heart surgery, eye surgery, are deaf, mute, have metabolic disorders, need glasses, have down syndrome, missing a limb etc etc etc. The list goes on and on. So, the term “special need” is not always bad.
But the way in which the statement was made about Tristan was, and it got me thinking about how we view other people.
The moment we label someone, is the moment we place them into a defined idea of who we or society thinks they are. The moment the adult made that statement about Tristan to the child, taught the child to place “labels” on people.
Just think about it for a moment. Throughout history, humanity has placed people groups and individuals into categories of “lesser than" or “greater than.” Placing individuals into groups creates a divide. It allows people to justify their bad behaviors, thoughts, and prejudices towards others. It creates pity as if somehow that person would be so much better off if they were only X-Y-Z.
Am I going to the extreme here or a little overboard? Probably a little. Or maybe not.
Millions of people with “special needs” were put to death in gas chambers during World War II. And for one reason and one reason only. They were labeled as “different” or “lesser than.” They were categorized into a defined idea by someone else. And this is just ONE example from history.
I honestly don’t even know WHY the statement was made about Tristan. Maybe it was because I had a bib on him that day to keep his shirt dry from drool. Maybe it was because I have a sticker on his sippy cup that says “Medical Food” in regards to his rare metabolic disorder. Or that his eye was having troubles staying straight that day. EITHER WAY, to place a label in a negative context or put them in a “lesser than” category is the point I am trying to make here.
Labels are everywhere and many times serve an important purpose. Yet, HOW we choose to use these labels and terms is where the importance lies. We are ALL guilty of using them negatively. ALL guilty of not thinking prior to speaking. ALL guilty of using phrases meant to assist others in a form of mockery or even pity.
My hope by sharing this story isn’t for you to hate the adult that passed judgement on my son. But for us to be aware of how we see others. To see people as people. To see them as human beings with a soul and feelings.
I do not believe this adult was purposefully trying to cause pain or hurt. While it still stings. I know it has created a good conversation in our home about how we view and treat others.