Words Hurt

I couldn’t help but notice them as I arrived at Target. A family of five—a mother, father, school-aged son and daughter, and an infant—were walking through the parking lot. The mother had a scowl on her face I spied from 30-feet away. She was without a coat, even though the weather wasn’t quite warm enough to be without. The father was a large man, his belly barely contained underneath a t-shirt. The toe-headed young son, bespectacled and chipper, jogged alongside the cart the mom pushed, where the infant was perched high in her car carrier. The young daughter was hopping on and off the cart, hitching a ride for a few feet before jumping off.

Later, as I strolled into the store, I noticed them again near the $1 bins. The mom was barking commands at the daughter, while the son stood dutifully beside the cart. The father trailed listlessly behind, perusing the $1 items. I grabbed a basket, walked by, and continued on my shopping excursion.

As I was perusing the cleaning supply aisle, I heard a commotion behind me.

“Why’d you duck? Stop acting like a little queer,” the father whined to his son.

I felt like someone punched me into the stomach. My head whipped around to see who uttered such a reference. It was that family. They were hanging out in the sporting goods aisle, and the father was throwing a ball to the son.

I shot the father a dirty look, and I heard the son mumble a protest. I was hoping against hope that the mom would say something. She did, but it wasn’t what I expected.

“Yeah—stop acting like a little queer,” she said.

I was frozen to my spot. I wanted to run over there and kidnap the young boy.

Instead, I did nothing. And it still haunts me.

I struggled with publishing this post for awhile. I don’t want to judge other parents, but the simple fact is that words hurt. Please watch what you say to your children. Even something that sounds innocent enough to our adult ears and minds can have a profound impact your child. (And, for the record, “little queer” is never innocent.)

8 thoughts on “Words Hurt

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have so many moments in my life that haunt me like this. I feel ya sister. It’s sad.

  2. Ugh! Name calling is always hurtful, but especially when it has to do with a child’s identity. I mean, that little boy might very well turn out to be gay – or, at the very least, he may question and explore as many young people do. He doesn’t need to be told at such a young age that what he *is* is shameful. I know too many parents of boys, especially, who are so paranoid that their son might be *different* that they freak out if the boys want to do things like push a baby doll carriage or take dance lessons. I’ve even heard parents who normally would never use disparaging language about others use works like “queer” and “fag” to describe gay people. I suppose they’re telegraphing their discomfort to their sons.

    Me? I can think of few things that would bother me less than finding out my child was gay. I’d be much more unhappy if they were smokers or materialistic airheads.

  3. Wow…that is really upsetting. I would have reacted the same way – shocked but unable to do anything. And what, really, could you have done? Even if you tried to nicely say something, would it have been received well? I doubt it and the situation certainly could have escalated. I wish there was something we could do in these kinds of situations. If anyone has any ideas…

  4. Anon–Thanks for your support. It IS sad.

    Sara–I was more appalled at the use of such a word at all. And used in such a way. He ducked so he was “queer”? I still don’t really have the words…

    Caroline–I do not think if I approached them it would’ve been received well AT ALL. I could just tell. And I echo your question… if anyone has any ideas.

  5. Amy-Girl In Paradise says:

    Oh, that made me feel sick to my stomach. I know how you feel. I feel the same about when I am in Wal-mart and see some mom screaming at an already upset child and then grab them by the arm.

    I think I’ll go hug my kids…..

  6. It breaks my heart to think if the father is saying this at Target what is he saying behind closed doors.

  7. Unreal but, sadly, no surprise. I don’t even know what to say. We’ve all had bad days, but I 1) never see a reason to berate your kids and 2) never see a reason to utter what equates to slurs against other people to make myself feel better.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Very unfortunate. I tend to find such redneck trash when I go to Target. Love the store but not everyone that shops there is educated on how to treat their children in a public setting. Verbal abuse is unnecessary and hurtful. I feel sorry for the boy.

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