Dad With Cerebral Palsy Conflicted After Overhearing His Teen Son Call His Disability 'Embarrassing'
Being a parent of a teenager can be tricky.
But being a parent with a disability can add even more difficulties into the mix.
When Redditor firtip, who has cerebral palsy, overheard his son griping about his disability, he wasn't quite sure how to handle the situation in a way that wouldn't get his son in trouble or inadvertently cause more tension.
So he turned to the subReddit "Am I the A**hole" (AITA) to get a judgment on his handling of the situation, asking:
"AITA for lying to my wife and not attending my son's events because he is embarrassed by my disability?"
The Original Poster (OP) laid out exactly what went down.
"I have cerebral palsy that affects how I walk and my posture. It's quite noticeable. I've been married to my wonderful wife for 16 years and our son is now 14."
"I overheard my son tell his grandfather that he finds my disability embarrassing and wished I didn't come to all his sports games and school events."
While he was hurt by the comments, the OP doesn't want to be another source of stress for his son as he navigates adolescence.
"I really love my son and it does hurt that he is embarrassed by me. Because I've dealt with a lot of judgement throughout my life but I definitely didn't expect it from him."
"But at the same time, I recognize that he must be getting teased because of me and that's not fair to him. And he's never been nothing but a wonderful, loving son to me. He's really the best son I could've hoped for."
But that decision has come with a cost.
"So I've started making up excuses to stay home for my son's events. I don't dare tell my wife because I know she'll be furious at our son."
"At the end of the day, I want my son to be happy. And I'm ok with witnessing his events on video if it means he's happy. I do feel guilty for lying to my wife though. AITA?"
Redditors were then asked to weigh in on the situation, using the following judgments:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You're The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Many were quick to declare NAH, although they were split on whether or not the OP should tell his wife.
"I don't think you should."
"I think you should start communicating to your son, 'Yeah, I know people stare at me when I'm out in public and sometimes feel uncomfortable by my condition, but you know what? I don't care. I'm not going to miss out on life because I have a disability, and I'm not going to miss out on your life, either.'
"Repeat this, as often and in as many different ways as is necessary."
"NAH, since I don't really think your son is being an A so much as been a kid who is dealing with some bullying, as so many kids do."
"But I do think you're missing a HUGE opportunity on teaching your son a lesson about self-acceptance, as well as accepting others who are different."
"You don't have to apologize or be ashamed for being a person with CP. You didn't choose it, it's not your fault, but you have CP and that's just a fact of life."
"Showing him you intend to live a full and happy life anyway is the best example you could possibly set for him."—Katt_ler
"NAH, and I'm sorry this has happened to you. You're trying to do what's best for your son."
"Here's the thing tho - You're not."
"Your son is giving in to the teasing. He faced an obstacle, and wanted to collapse in front of it. You enabled him to do that."
"Maybe it might be better if you level with your son. Let him know that you support him, you realize that your disability probably causes him problems socially, and that you're willing to back away to make it easier on him."
"That will give him a chance to tell you not to back away, and he can act like the good person you've brought him up to be. He'll be able to stand above the teasing (even as difficult as that is at his age) and he'll be a better man because of it."—ProudBoomer
"NAH, but tell your wife so that she's aware. It's an unnecessary lie (probably one of the worst kind) unless you think she'll overreact and punish your son for his feelings?"—ChasingTheGrey
The OP weighed in to add that his wife's potential reaction is exactly why he hasn't told her yet.
"I do think she'll be mad at our son for it. It's why I'm hesitant to tell her."
Still, Redditors thought a conversation will be necessary before things get out of hand.
"Could you word it differently. "He's getting to an age where he gets embarrassed easily. I'm afraid my disability may embarrass him". That way she doesn't think you just don't want to make time for your son, and she doesn't know son said anything."—Mathqueen82
"I think this is important. If the kid's embarrassed by his dad because he's a 14-year old, no harm. If the kid's embarrassed because his dad has cerebral palsy, that's concerning."—Strahan92
One Redditor warned the OP that missing things now might set a bad precedent.
"You said he's awesome, so have to assume he loves you and genuinely wants his dad there cheering him on."
"Sucks if his friends might be giving him a hard time, but it would probably upset him if he knew you weren't going because of something he said in private."
"It may have just been blowing off steam in that particular moment. Who knows? And when he's an adult, he'll appreciate you attending even more."
"I'd vote for you to continue attending things. Seeing you more, not less, will help normalize things for them. And you don't want this to snowball to future things in your sons life. College drop-off? Awards ceremony? Wedding?"—areyousayingpanorpam
To which the OP responded that his absence is just for now.
"I was just going to do this for highschool because I can remember how awful highschool was for me. Once kids get older, it becomes less of an issue."
But a personal story from another commenter laid out exactly why that might not be the best move.
"I'm gonna be painfully honest here. My father suffered a major traumatic brain injury when I was a baby. He is partially paralyzed on his left side, so he walks with a prominent limp, and one of his arms is totally immobile."
"Just going from my personal experience, he probably isn't embarrassed by you. He is most likely embarrassed by the way others react to you."
"I remember being in kindergarten and having my dad pick me up from school and all the other parents and teachers would give me this look. I didn't understand it, but as I got older, I recognized it as pity."
"I loathed those looks, because my father was every bit as capable as any other father. And he SHOWED UP, which is more than I can say for others."
"My point is... I don't think you embarrass him, OP, even if that's what he said."
"He probably isn't emotionally mature enough to realize that what he hates is the looks of pity that he gets from others, because he's not able to show everyone how wonderful and capable you are, and how much you add to his life. Those are hard to swallow, especially because there's nothing he can do about them."
"Keep showing up. When it matters, all he'll remember is that you were there for him."
"I would also tell your wife, but remember that your son probably only said he was embarrassed because he couldn't articulate what he actually meant, especially since you say he's otherwise an awesome kid who loves you."
"Believe me. My dad didn't become my favorite person in the entire world because he didn't show up."—cookiescoop
It sounds like the OP needs to figure out what's more important: short-term comfort for his son, or long-term regret about missing out on some crucial moments in his son's life.