Ellen has talked about this before–it’s one of her pet peeves–but I myself hadn’t run into that much until recently.

In a nutshell, you tell someone that your child has cerebral palsy and then they make a frowny-face and say, “I’m so sorry.” It’s weird. It seems like it would be a good thing to say, but you feel like you need to argue with them–point out that your child is happy and loved. The person feels sorry for you and you want to take their pity and maybe jam it down their throats a little bit. Maybe. You surely don’t want their pity. You want them to see your child’s abilities, what they can do in spite of adversity. You definitely don’t want them to feel sorry for you.

And so for those that do feel sorry for me, I ask you to do this instead:

Be sorry that some people’s lives are so narrow that they are unable to see past appearances.

Be sorry that so much ignorance about disability still exists.

Be sorry that some people won’t ever get to know the joy of my child’s smile because they are too busy looking away.

Be sorry about that.

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  1. You know, to be honest, and I hope you don't hate me for it, but it might be something I would say to someone who just found out that their child had something like that. Just because I wouldn't know what else to say; maybe the first thing that popped into my head. But I'll watch that. Thanks for the insight.

    That said, I without a doubt do not feel sorry for you–especially with all that I read about Charlie and all the adorable pictures I see. He is beautiful; he is your little man. He is perfect.

  2. Stephanie @ The Helping Mommy says:

    Hmmm, I'm not sure how I would respond. Probably something along the lines of "Oh, okay" and then ask questions?

    At any rate, this is my first time stopping by your blog, and oh my goodness what a cutie you have there!

    Found you through Allie at No Time For Flashcards. Off to poke around your site some more!

  3. Janis @ Sneak Peek At Me says:

    True story: Today I was in a group on FB. A father mentioned that his dd had a disability sort of in passing. (She has Downs Syndrome.) Another person (adult with CP) responded, 'I'm so sorry.' The father responded, "Don't be. We aren't. She is a blessing."

    So it just goes to show that even within our own community that response seems to pop up every now & then.

    That being said it does bother me too, especially when accompanied by the sad face. Pity.

  4. Bravo.

  5. Amen!

  6. Right on, friend! I have recently become irked at people who say this and have started adding another weapon in my arsenal. When someone says something like that I say Don't be sorry…she is the happiest kid on earth! She is a gift! That usually puts them to thinking about things differntly or at least shuts them up!

  7. hmmm…in the past (before coming across your blog..and some others) I may have responded in that way. Today…I don't think so. Having said that however, the 'sorry' wouldn't be a sorry of pity for you or your child..I think it would be..and how to say this..I'm not as articulate as you…a sorry you have to face this challenge kind of thing…does that make sense?

  8. I like Candace's response to people who are 'sorry' about our super-awesome little ones. How about you Katy? Have you found a good response to put people at ease and show them how amazing and what a blessing Charlie is.

  9. well done!

  10. Small Town Girl says:

    Well said, as usual!

  11. Wahzat Gayle says:

    sending you hugs

    i had a longer response but I figured it would offend so I deleted.
    Keep being passionate cause as we all can see your son is beautiful slash that gorgeous ( he is a boy after all)

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think sometimes we can get overly sensitive about comments like "I'm sorry." I have been a special ed teacher for 30 years, and although I see the kids for what they are, and not just their disability, I do feel sorry for their parents at times. Not all kids with disabilities are loving and brave and courageous, and if you get to know adults with disabilities, you'll see the same thing. I have taught kids who can't stop hurting themselves. I have taught kids who hear voices that tell them to do awful things to themselves and others. I have taught kids who have such debilitating disabilities that their parents can't deal with it and stop caring for them. Sometimes saying I'm sorry means the person is sorry for what you will have to deal with, or sorry your kid will have additional struggles in life.
    Sometimes the best response to I'm sorry is "thank you. We're trying the best we can to have a good life."

  13. Anon:
    Yes, I totally agree that people can be sensative. I acknowledge that complete. I also NEVER, ever try to make a person feel uncomfortable when they say something that sticks in my craw a little. I prefer a bumbling attempt at a connection as opposed to a lot of other things.

    I don't think I made any claims about people with disabilities being brave and loving and courageous and I actually try hard not to make great, sweeping generatlization like that. I try to speak to MY experience only.

    And as a final thought I would say that if someone said their child heard voices that made them hurt others or if someone wasn't able to care for their child, then yes, "I'm sorry you have to go through that" or "I'm sorry for their struggles" IS appropriate. Leaping to the conclusion that my child's life or my life sucks because of certain diagnosis–one with many, many variations–is not. Again, I would never be so rude as to point this out to someone who was talking to me. In person I am as polite and gracious as I know how to be. Here, in my blog, where I discuss the issues surrounding raising a child with special needs, I will speak my mind.

  14. I don't feel sorry for you but instead I just have nothing but admiration for you and all the other SN parents out there who will bend over backwards to make their child's life the best it can be.

  15. I like Irene's and anon's input. I would hope that when folks say they "are sorry" that they mean for the extra struggles, not that they are sorry I have the child(ren) I do.

    Yesterday Luke started feeding therapy and I met another mom. When I told her that Luke had autism her response was asking how he was doing. As our conversation progressed we talked about siblings, respite, etc. Her approach was delightful.

    Many years ago (before I had children) I read about how women in the workplace (and in general perhaps?) tend to say "I'm sorry" way too much. In the workplace it has a tendency for them to accept responsibility for another's problem. A more appropriate response could be – can I help you or have you been able to come up with a fix (or even a Yikes!)

    I work with a bunch of men (engineers) and I next to never hear them say "I'm sorry".

    Just a thought to ponder.

  16. Yeah, I get the 'sorry' thing a lot. It has always bugged me. I like to tell people to go feel sorry for someone with ugly children.

  17. Josephine says:

    Ah, I relate to this post :) If people had any idea how happy our little family is, they wouldn't feel the need for pity of any kind!

  18. Danielle says:

    Thank you for saying what you did about people being "sorry" for you. Years ago, my dd was born with Downs Syndrome and I was so sick of hearing people feeling sorry for me. One day, a woman in a store came to me and I had to explain the Downs and she said, "Well, my dear, she is beautiful and aren't you lucky to have such an important role taking care of God's little angel." It was the best response I have ever heard.

    Your post was very well put and your son is absolutely adorable.

  19. Katy, you are so right. SO right, in fact, that you have forever changed how I might've responded to someone who would offer you an apology for having a child with even the most minor imperfections.

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to hear it.

  20. luckeyfrog says:

    What would you suggest someone say instead?

    I probably wouldn't say "I'm sorry," but I wouldn't know what else was a better option.

  21. Wherever HE Leads We'll Go says:

    Very well said. When people say I'm sorry I usually respond with something like: "don't be – we aren't". I am working on having a tougher skin about this kind of stuff. In general, most people are not trying to be hurtful – they just really don't know what to say.

  22. Love this!! Check us up at @Friendship Circle we celebrate children who have special needs!We need to keep educating the public! All they need to do it spend SOME time with a child who has special needs and they will join the rest of us.