I'm not proud of this, but I'll admit it: I've used the word retard.
Growing up in the 80s, who didn't? It was the insult of choice. And though I like to think I've grown a bit more sophisticated since middle school, the word has stuck around in my vocabulary. It's a handy self-deprecating joke ("I can't believe I missed that typo! I'm such a retard"), and I've tossed the r-bomb at my husband in moments of exasperation ("Where do we keep the diapers? What kind of retarded question is that?")
I would never, ever call my son a retard. No mother would stand for that. "Love That Max" mom blogger Ellen Seidman certainly won't -- and thanks to her, I know I need to take a stand against the word, too.
Seidman's son, Max, suffered a stroke during birth and has brain damage and cerebral palsy. He's a loving, brave, funny kid, and when people like me thoughtlessly throw around the word "retard," it hurts him. And it hurts his mom. After watching her video, I don't think I can go back to using the r-word. If you're thinking, "but it's just a joke" or "it's just a word" or "people are too sensitive these days," check out her video first. For me, it hit home.
Max has enough challenges to overcome in life without being haunted by ghosts of stereotypes past. As his mom, I want to give him every possible advantage. If asking people to not use a word could help my son in some way, you bet I'm going to ask.
The mom in me says: Right on.
The vocabulary nerd in me wonders what words I can use to replace "retard" and "retarded." A little online thesaurus research yielded some promising possibilities: Chucklehead, nincompoop, dunderhead, dopey, doofus. From the Brits, we have gormless and prat -- both satisfying alternatives.
So, don't be a gormless, dunderheaded doofus -- join me in striking the r-word from your vocabulary.