I should have done this a long time ago. I meant to do this a LONG time ago. But it wasn’t until today when I saw a video online that I finally decided to drop everything I was doing and start this blog once and for all. The video was from a lady, a mother of a special needs child, who was angry and upset over a joke told on the Steve Harvey Morning Show during a skit with the character, Miss Odell. I did not hear the joke itself, only her explanation of it. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it exactly. As comedians go, they poke fun and make us laugh about every everyones shortfalls and flaws. And things are relatively funny until the joke applies directly to us or someone we know and love. I have heard my share of jokes about people with special needs and have found most of them to be amusing and relatable. I have, on occasion, also experienced jokes that I found to be too personal, rude or down right disgusting. So although I completely understand how the mother feels, I can’t really give my opinion on that until I hear the joke for myself.
However, there is apparently a part of the joke that references the special needs person and church. Particularly the part about the person’s language not meaning “Amen”. THIS is where I took it to heart, as this is what I experienced personally last year at a church in Sacramento, CA I had been frequenting and planning to join. My husband and I took all of the kids to church with us that particular Sunday. I believe it was a special day, Easter or Mothers Day. Tysen gets particularly excited when at church. He’s always smiling and laughing. He’s playful and just seems happy to be there (when he’s awake). So, this Sunday was no different. Tysen was very joyful, laughing and making his happy sounds, which everyone thought was fine and cute until the preacher began his sermon. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the type of parent who feels that if a child is being loud or disruptive, would happily escort him outside to hang out or calm down. But on this day, Tysen wasn’t being loud or disruptive. He was being expressive, much like every other adult in the church shouting out their “Hallelujahs”, “Amens” and “Say It Pastors”. His voice didn’t boom over the pastor’s as those of the vocal folks in the audience did. One lady shouted out a “Yes Pastor” after every ten words, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. Because my child can’t say those specific words, his joy was taken to be that of a disruptive little boy whose parents need to take him out. A few minutes into the sermon, a deacon came over to my husband and whispered something to him. Shortly after, my husband got up and took Tysen out of the sanctuary. Although he didn’t say anything to me when he got up, I knew what that deacon had asked him to do. I felt so hurt and angered that my child had been singled out amongst all of these others who were far louder in their expressions that he was. I couldn’t help but think that when Tysen is old enough to sit in church on his own, will he then too be escorted out because his delayed language of expression disturbs others? Up until that very moment, I thought that a small church would be the perfect setting for my family and I to blend ourselves into. Our church home in Vallejo was a smaller sized congregation. Although we loved them dearly, making the weekly trip with three little ones was hard. Not to mention, it was impossible to participate in weekly activities. So, we began to look for worship elsewhere. Maybe a family like mine needed a large church. So that we would not have to be worried about Tysen’s joy disturbing someone else.
I grabbed my things and my other two kids and quickly exited the building, only to have an apologetic First Lady come after me. Most of what she said was a blur to me. My anger seemed to supersede anything else happening at that moment. I am sure she could feel that by the death stare I was giving her. I knew that I just needed to leave before my things got ugly and I allowed my feelings to take over and further ruin a beautiful Sunday. I didn’t plan on cursing when I got to church and I wanted to keep it that way. The only thing I can recall she said was asking us to please come back again. I simply said, “I don’t think so.” I later learned in the car that my husband had a long conversation with the deacon before I came out. He explained Tysen’s condition to him. After which, he was very taken aback and very apologetic. He even offered for them to come back in.
As hurt as I was, I refused to let it ruin a great day with my beautiful husband and kids. However, I will forever be scarred by the incident. Situations like this are what keep me in my defense mode when out with Tysen; aimed and ready for someone to stare or pass judgment. I don’t mind telling Tysen’s story or answering any questions people may have. But to be ignorant and rude is just something I refuse to tolerate. As much as I would like too (LOL!), I can’t fight everyone that comes at me “sideways” about my son. What I can do is make everyone understand what it is like to be him. I have, for the most part, been fortunate that most people have been understanding and curious about Tysen, rather than rude and judgmental. I have, however, had to put a couple of people at Wal-Mart in their place a time or two. Outside of that, most of the people I encounter have children or know children with conditions such as Autism, and enjoy being able to hear about Tysen. I can guess that almost everyone who reads this post knows a child with a developmental condition. So, of course, we may be prone to be sensitive about certain topics in a comedian’s joke.
Comedian Bruce Bruce has a joke about a special needs child that I found to be absolutely hilarious. So funny, that I often repeat it to people because it reminds me of my Tysen. In the joke, Bruce Bruce references an upset, non-verbal child making unintelligible noises in the car with him and his friend. When he asks his friend what the matter is with the child, the friend explains to him that the boy wants to go to Target. Bruce Bruce, baffled, says “I didn’t hear him say Target”. I almost wrecked my car the first time I heard this joke. That is the exact same explanation I have to give people when Tysen, also non-verbal, is making a fit about wanting to go to McDonalds. He knows exactly where the McDonalds near our home is and how to get there. He is very smart and has gotten “hip” to me trying to go a different direction from McDonalds to throw him off. If you pass by a McDonalds ANYWHERE and don’t stop, there is trouble in the car for the next ten minutes! Although those scenarios can be frustrating when they happen (because he also lashes out at the other people in the car), it’s funny and relatable jokes like these that can turn a frown upside down and make you see a brighter side of things.
So this is where it is going to begin for me folks. It’s time for me to really play my part, tell Tysen’s story and make a difference in the lives of others. I hope everyone reading this will help me do that.