"She's such a retard."
I try my damnedest to let kids be kids. When they're arguing over a toy, I sit back and let them "fight it out", unless it gets physical. When they're crying, I hug them and console them. However, when the above statement comes out of a child's mouth, I stop walking, turn around, and say, "I'm sorry?? What did you just say?"
The little girls look at me, fear in their eyes, as one points to the other and says, "She said her sister's a retard." (I have no idea who "her" or "her sister" is ...)
"No, ma'am. That word is not nice. We do not use that word."
It is at this time that the teacher, who has been getting L's breakfast for her, hears me and asks what just happened. I tell her, and she looks so shocked and so sad.
I turn to walk towards the kitchen to put L's medicine in her cup and then go to the car to get her pull-ups. As I'm walking, tears start to sting my eyes and my stomach feels queasy.
I will be the first to admit that, while I've never liked the word and don't use it myself, I've never been personally offended when others have used it. I know what people "mean" when they say it, and I'll call them out on it, but I've never had that just-punched-in-the-gut feeling when it was said ... until this morning.
I don't know if it was because a little innocent child was using it in such an obviously negative way or if it was because I was looking at L flapping away in her chair, smiling happily as I was walking toward her when I heard it, but I felt sick.
Upon walking back in to the room with L's pull-ups, I noticed the aforementioned little girl crying. The teacher had apparently spoken with her, and now she felt sad and guilty about a word that she probably doesn't even realize can have such an impact on people. I wanted to hold her, comfort her, and let her know that everything would be okay, but I just kept on walking, unsure of what to do.
All I can hope is that she is old enough to remember this exact moment and realize that words can affect people, both negatively and positively. Hopefully, next time, she will stop herself and think about what her words actually mean.
In the meantime, all I can do is love my children and make sure the words they speak are words of love.