The Retarded Teacher


I spend a lot of time worrying about my disabled son. Where is he? What is he chewing on? Am I doing enough to curb his carbon footprint? All that drool has to be fucking up the water tables. Where does it all go? To the estuary? Do I need an EPA license to bring him outside?
These are questions that you don’t think to ask when you’re first sent home from the special hospital with your new little bundle of chromosomes. These are questions you begin to ask, and begin to answer, further down the road. They’re questions called life.

Friends, believe me when I tell you that I am a Christian mother — a proud Christian mother. And like the proud mama bear teaches the younger Charmin bear how to wipe its ass, I look after and guide my disabled son through life by the doctrines of the Lord. I cradle his simple, swollen hand in my own, and as we walk along the beach, I whisper, “…don’t touch that, my child … don’t put that in your mouth.” I know Jesus walks with us, and as I look over my son, Jesus looks over me — as if I myself, were the retarded child of the Lord.

It’s moments thus that I begin to understand the cyclical nature of life. Now, when I say cyclical, that’s not to say that I believe in some dothead nonsense like reincarnation, or that I believe time itself to be cyclical. But cyclical in the sense that there is no real social hierarchy. Cyclical in the sense that all humanity is just a big game of rock paper scissors. Or, scissors paper rock, if you’re Canadian or an idiot.

That is to say, I learn as much from my son as he learns from me — in a very allegorical, sort of poetic sense, of course. It’s not like he’s teaching me algebra or chemistry, but he’s teaching me patience and understanding. He’s teaching me the science and arithmetic of virtuous compassion. Every temper tantrum, every soiled diaper, every head shaped divot in the drywall, every eaten diaper– these are all opportunities for me to exercise and practice my newfound sense of patience. These are all a product of Mason’s work as a teacher. These are tools that Mason has placed in my hands, for they are too large and complex for his own.

When I say that I am blessed with a retarded son, I truly believe that. I believe him to be a divine tool, sent by the Lord, for the purposes of teaching me that aforementioned compassion. Had my son not been disabled, I could beat him with impunity. I could smack him around and he would quickly learn to act in ways that do not anger me. Mason, however, is more a beast than a man, and as such, beatings do little to correct his behavior. They serve only to break his spirit. Hitting him does nothing but invoke pity in myself. Even in my occasional violent outbursts towards my child, I am still a pupil of compassion.

The matter is simple. As a retarded child, by definition and diagnosis, Mason is incapable of learning. When he behaves poorly, there is nothing I can do to correct him. There is no appeal to logic, no appeal to reason, and no emotional acrobatics I can employ to show him that he has done wrong. I simply have to accept his behavior, clean up the diarrhea in the bathtub, and move on with our lives. I have to use his retardation not to teach him, but to teach myself.

To many, compassion would be expressed in the pity they feel for Mason at face value. They would say, “Oh a disabled boy, I’m going to feel bad for him,” and maybe picture him having a conniption over dropped ice cream or a missing balloon. They’ll smile and move on. That’s not compassion, friends. That’s simply voyeurism and an opportunity to pat yourself on the back. Compassion is accepting the fact that Mason has eaten all of your makeup the night before an important job interview. Compassion is accepting the fact that he saw an episode of Sanford and Son and now he won’t stop saying the N-word in public. Compassion is curbing your completely reasonable, completely understandable anger and frustration towards someone and realizing that despite logic, despite not only your opinion, but the collective opinion of society, and despite hard facts of right and wrong, some people are still going to anger you, and you can’t change that. Some people are going to be wrong. Some people are going to be retarded. Compassion is trying to understand frustrating people in that moment, for their reasons, and accepting them as they are.

The larger point here, friends, is that we all have our frustrating, retarded children. For some of you, it’s an incompetent boss. For others, it’s anonymous voices on the internet – commenters or bloggers. For others still, like myself, it’s an actual retarded child. While I have the benefit of being inexorably connected to Mason through the spiritual (but more condemningly, legal) bond of motherhood, I still feel the same frustration towards him that many of you feel towards obstinate, obtuse individuals in your life. But, because I am linked to Mason in such a way, I have to love him. That’s where the blessing of Mason lies – in the fact that I cannot simply log off or discard him, as he’s too large to put in the trash now, and he’s too loud to leave at the movie theater. If you could only be so tethered to the people you dislike so vehemently, you’d receive a better lesson in compassion than you could ever imagine.

So, friends, try to understand that no matter how right you are, no matter how wrong someone else is, no matter how angry you feel, or frustrating another individual may be, either by choice or by design, the education at hand is yours and yours alone. Understand that when you’re mad, it’s your responsibility to rectify that, and the simplest way to do so is through the embrace and acceptance of your retarded son, rather than a fruitless endeavor to show him why he shouldn’t flush the cat down the toilet.

When someone says something you don’t like, and you grow red in the face, calm down, remember that they’re retarded, forgive them and be grateful for the opportunity to compose yourself and exercise real compassion. And do it without a sense of superiority, and without a sense of righteousness, because trust me, friends — not only do you have your Masons that you must deal with, but you yourself are most definitely the retarded child of another. You yourself, are somebody’s Mason. TC mark


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