Blogger Phoebe Holmes “never planned on going viral.” But in late December 2011, the mom of four wrote an entry on her personal blog about “Being retarded” — specifically, use of the word “retarded” as a synonym for “stupid” — and the Internet noticed.

Holmes is the mother of Maura, a young girl diagnosed with cognitive disabilities — or in other words, mentally retarded. And so she wrote a little about how people’s casual misapplication of that word reflects on her life and her daughter. The post, not to mention Holmes’ positivity and love and admiration for her daughter, apparently struck a chord with the people of the Internet, and her normal 50-100 hits-per-post turned into 90,000-plus as the link spread around social media networks.

For me, it’s not just any old word – it’s my daughter. My beautiful, bright, happy, loving, amazing daughter who is slow or limited in intellectual development and academic progress.

In our household, being retarded means something different.

It means not being able to fully care for yourself.

It means not understanding what the doctor is going to do to you.

It means not being able to explain what hurts when something hurts.

It means not being able to ride a two wheeler. Or read. Or ever be able to live on your own.

But ever the optimist, I also know that retarded means…

…never realizing the negativity behind the word retarded.

…never knowing the insensitivity surrounded the word’s usage.

…never realizing the ignorance of people.

…never knowing how other people view you.

Being retarded also means…

…loving unconditionally.

…finding joy in the smallest of things.

…being self-confident.

…not realizing that there are limitations.


If you haven’t seen it yet, give the whole thing a read.

4 thoughts on “On “Being Retarded”

  • I once saw the best movie about a young woman they called “retarded”. She was so delightful. As she matured she fell in love with a normal young man that in turn fell in love with her. The moral side of the story was she had fought “the system” not to have an enforcement of her tubes being tied and in the end had won the battle. The young man married her, was delighted with her and explained he felt the rest of the world did not recognize the value of moving just a little slower and appreciating everything around you in a more acceptable “how life should be” surrounding. I have to agree with his philosophy. Sometimes we should slow down and appreciate life! I know it’s not a cut and dried answer, but the limitations and innocence may be well served if some of the rest of us one learn that concept. God Bless and thank you for sharing!

  • Phoebe’s daughter is beautiful – inside and out. And our Father in Heaven reserves such mothers for the special children like Maura. Their spirits are so special and pure – and they will have a special place in heaven. I so admire mothers like Phoebe and their grace in the face of challenges. And from the way she writes about her daughter, I am sure that she also feels blessed to have her sweet daughter Maura.

  • I was raised with an older mentally retarded brother in central Nebraska. As children he was called many names “retardo, idiot, moron” from children and adults alike. I cringe now when I remember those words, aimed at him, coming out of my mouth out of anger. People thought because I called him those names, that they could also. They would soon learn what a bad tempered little sister he had. Back in the day when boys did not hit girls, I could make most boys regret calling him names. He was MY brother and only I was allowed. We grew, times changed and special needs children were mainstreamed so they became less intimidating.
    I’m not sure when the term “mentally challenged” was born, but it became the catch phrase in my family. I recentlly heard the term “intellectually challenged” and knew that was inappriopriate, for my brother, he was a genius about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. (He could give you facts and stats about the teams in the 1970’s as well as the 2009 team.) I heard about the “make a change” campaign around two years ago. I have discovered it was easier to change OUR vocabulary “mentally challenged” than everyone elses. All the human race has challenges somewhere in their life. We have fertility challenged, vertically challenged (that’s me), reading challenged, hearing challenged, sight challenged and etc… These things can be altered but it just takes more work. I would never presume to say fixed because 1. most things can not be fixed 2. most things do not need fixed 3. challenges give purpose to life.
    I know people will disagree with my opinion written here, but that is why it is an opinion. I do want to pose a question though. If you disagree with the term mentally challenged, is it because the playing field was leveled? You have to look at your challenges and realize you are retarded at some aspect in life.
    My brother did the best that he could and that is all I asked of him because that is all he asked of me.

  • sorry, but this is retarded. The diagnosis is cognitively disabled, not retarded, so stop identifying your child by a term no longer used in that context. connotations change, its called the euphamistic treadmill, just like idiot, imbecil, moron, and now retarded. And by the way, dumb once only meant mute or speechless, and stupid meant stunned or confounded.. why do we always seek to control the world, rather than understand it??

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