My last post ruffled some feathers, and a big reason was this opening:

“‘So there was this little ‘a-hole kid’ in Annie’s swim class this summer.’ That was how I originally planned to start this post, but when I re-read the sentence I realized it was no way to talk about a little guy.”

Many commented that calling a kid that name wasn’t cool, and they were right. It’s never appropriate – even when written in jest. As a reader pointed out, “A kid can’t be an asshole. A parent might be, but not a kid.” I regret writing that line, and I won’t do it again.

A curious thing happened though as comments popped up. What started as a discussion about what a parent should do when a child is disrupting a class took a turn when a commenter suggested that the boy causing the disruption might have had special needs. Very quickly a number of readers latched onto this idea, and what was initially merely a suggestion turned into a fact. Soon commenters were chastising me for having the poor taste to speak out against a special needs child, and questioned my compassion and empathy. One commenter even wrote that I needed to “re-think my position.” Rethink my position? What position? The whole point of the post was that I had no position – I was asking how a parent should handle such a complex situation.

I’ve read enough blogs to know that a comments section can go off the rails, but the reality is that none of the commenters were at the pool. They only read the five hundred words I wrote about the situation, and interpreted those words through their own experiences and perspectives. Commenters who were the parents of a special needs child likely imagined the boy was like their child, and, reminded of times their child was excluded or treated poorly, left impassioned comments based on that assumption. But it was just that… an assumption.

Many of these commenters were first time visitors to the blog, so they can be forgiven for not knowing anything about me. But I’d hope that readers who have been here before know that I am a warm hearted person who loves kids, and that if there were even the slightest indication that the boy had special needs, I would have had a very different reaction.

As I’ve blogged about in the past, I grew up overweight and with Tourette syndrome, so I’m not some clueless, insensitive oaf who has no idea about the difficulties many children go through. I’ve experienced firsthand what it is like for a child to be excluded (not to mention how hard kids – and their parents – can be). I’m also a credentialed teacher who took many classes studying special needs children, and if Madeline hadn’t passed away, I would be raising a child who is different from the other children because of her prematurity. I’ve been open about these things, so I hoped I’d be given the benefit of doubt.

That’s the trouble with a blog post though. It is only a brief glimpse at something. If I’d written three thousand words explaining how the situation was very different than many assumed there would have been little room for misinterpretation, but who wants to read a three thousand word blog post?

In the end the response was so impassioned because everyone in the online parenting world so fiercely loves their children, and that’s the reason I love this community so much. Still, we should all give a little more thought to what we put on the Internet – post or comment. Take it from me… the guy dumb enough to call a kid an a-hole on the Internet.