Don’t Call My Son Cute
Aidan is cute. He’s adorable, really. Those beautiful blue eyes make everyone stop and take notice. And he still has soft kissable cheeks. His size is misleading. I get that. He looks like a nine year old and nine year olds can be cute.
But not teenagers. Aidan is 14 now, a tween, a teen? I’m not even sure anymore, but not a little boy. Let me make all kinds of rules and immediately break them. First one – YOU can’t call Aidan cute but I can. How do I know this? Because I still kiss Liam and call him adorable. They are MY babies so they will always be precious to me. They’re also allowed to roll their eyes at my affection. Totally appropriate.
Here’s another rule to keep in mind – since he’s no longer a baby, and not cute (even though he totally is), you should refrain for the love of all things from using baby talk with him. Don’t add a -y to the end of your words or a -w to the beginning of them. Don’t sing them. Wook at the itty biity wheels on your chair that make it go zoomy zoom. Just don’t.
The only people who usually call teenage boys cute are, well, teenage girls. It’s not at all the same, except in this case it is. I’m quite sure that there are girls who think Aidan is cute in an adorable little boy way as opposed to the typical sooooo cuuuuuuuute raging hormones way. We’re going to just gloss over how that breaks my heart that girls aren’t asking Aidan for his snapchat handle (that’s a thing, right?).
This is not, of course, about the word cute itself. I’ve used the word cute in reference to my friends’ teenage sons to say they’re handsome and witty and smart and kind and the girls are gonna dig them. That places them at a level with their peers. It’s different from the cuddly, snuggly, cuteness of a young child.
Why are we even having this conversation? Do I need to be writing this? Honestly, the people who really know Aidan speak appropriately to him. But I’ve run into people, even professionals in the field (bangs head against wall) who baby talk him, people who have access to his birthday and can presumably do math. So yes, I’ll keep preaching age appropriateness.
We, the adults, need to set the example that Aidan is a teenager. He’s not less than, he shouldn’t be infantilized, and he’s not cute (even though he totally is).
We can deny his age by the music we surround him with as well. I understand that some teenagers with disabilites have possibly shown an actual preference for Barney or other typical toddler music. They should be allowed to listen to what they like. However, if we are choosing, we must do our best to expose them to what their peers know. That means Shaking it Off with T-Swiz or busting out the moves to Uptown Funk. To keep myself honest and on my toes, I asked Aidan’s cousins to put together a playlist for him. I get both a gold star for that brilliant move and a chance to enjoy some great beats with my boys.
There’s already so much that sets Aidan apart from his peers. He drools, he has limited communication, he doesn’t spend much time with them in class. These are realities that make him an other. I invite you to help me bridge that gap.
Have you noticed different examples of people “othering” our kids with disabilities? How do you keep things age appropriate?