Recently a friend used the r word. It caught me off guard coming from her, and I wasn't ready with a request not to use the word. The social situation we were in didn't offer me an opportunity to pull her aside, so I let the moment pass. This was a good friend, though, who I see frequently, and since I needed to address the issue I sent her an email.
I cried as I wrote the email. I felt bad because I know 'she didn't mean it that way'. She would never do anything to intentionally hurt me or Claire, and yet she did. I explained to her that when someone says 'don't act like a retard', what I hear is 'don't act like Claire.' The word is never used as a compliment, it's always an insult. And I felt bad that I had to send the email.
And then I felt bad for feeling bad because I stood up for my daughter.
Last night we talked. She apologized for using the word, that she didn't mean it that way, and that she didn't even know she'd said it until I pointed it out. She said that she cried herself to sleep the night she got the email. And I felt even worse.
Then she thanked me.
She thanked me for the humbling and eye opening experience. She said that as she cried herself to sleep that one night she thought about all the times, in the years ahead, that I would cry. All the times that people would, intentionally or not, hurt me or hurt Claire.
And I felt so much better.
Not because she cried, but because she thought about what I'd said, and she got it. This is someone who will not only consider the words she uses, but it wouldn't surprise me if she doesn't correct others for using the word also. Her eyes are open, and even though we both felt bad, it was worth it.