The “R” Word

“Could you for one second stop being retarded and act normal?” I asked my 10-year-old daughter, D’Andra. She looked at me and her eyes got big, then she started crying. I realized that she understood the word ‘retarded.’


D’Andra’s tears broke me and I kneeled down to envelope her in a giant hug. “I’m sorry sweetheart that I called you retarded. Do you know what that word means?” Tears flowed down her cheeks and she nodded hard.

I assumed that since she had the official medical diagnosis of “MR” that she wouldn’t know what the word meant. I apologized to her and asked for forgiveness. D’Andra taught me that she knew what the word meant and extended mercy to a mom that spoke with cruelty.

I was frustrated because she wasn’t responding or moving as fast as I wanted her to. We were already late, my day full of appointments was blown and I hated having to adjust everything – again – because she couldn’t keep up. I’m crying while I write this and I hope that you’ll be marked forever by this memory so you don’t have to carry the guilt like I do of a word spoken out of impatience.

People who are diagnosed with mental retardation understand what you mean when you say they are retarded.

In that one moment, D’Andra understood that word to mean…

“I’m too slow.”
“I can’t keep up.”
“I’m not enough.”
“I’m in your way.”
“I’m too dumb.”
“I’m not smart.”
“I’m not good enough.”

For the sake of D’Andra and the millions of people who have this diagnosis, please don’t use this word. I still carry this moment as constant reminder to be kind, caring and loving with my words. D’Andra taught me just how powerful my words are and showed me love, mercy and compassion.

3 thoughts on “The “R” Word

  1. I grew up at a time when the word retarded was used a lot. Mainly to describe any who is different from normal people. It’s mean to call someone the “r” word to their face. You’re daughter is not stupid. She’s smart in her own way. It just takes her longer to learn things She has a pretty name too.

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