Parents

Stop calling my son a retard: One mom's crusade

March 7, 2012 at 3:07 PM ET

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. 

Seidman writes:

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.

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