Dear Ms. Meniscus,
My ten-year-old daughter has juvenile arthritis and I’m sick and tired of people saying that only old people get arthritis, that I must be mistaken. Mistaken about my own child’s condition? How can I firmly let these ignorant people know that children do indeed get this wretched disease without biting their heads off?
Dear Molly’s Mom:
Ms. Meniscus sympathizes with the urge to flatten ignorant people, especially when they shamelessly comment on something they know nothing about. But for the sake of your own health and stress level, try to understand that there are many false assumptions out in the world about a host of illnesses and diseases. Because these nincompoops can’t necessarily “see” anything wrong and/or haven’t heard of juvenile arthritis, in their minds: it can’t exist. If only that were true.
Every parent wants to shield her child from unsolicited and insensitive comments, and hopefully these people are not questioning you in front of your daughter. You can’t correct every false assumption and enlighten every ignoramus, you can, however, protect yourself and your daughter from the hostility of questioners and doubters. What you must do is focus less on the fact that these people doubt your word and more on the fact that they know not of what they speak, and boy, would it be nice if they would cease speaking. But they don’t and they won’t so you must arm yourself with a few facts about juvenile arthritis.
In all likelihood you already know several…such as how many children are afflicted with JA (several hundred-thousand). So to those people whom you feel you must respond, say: “No, Gertie, unfortunately I am not mistaken. There are 300,000 children with this disease. I can give you all the facts you need.” That should do it for Gertie. If it doesn’t do the trick, you simply must excuse yourself and walk away. Some people prefer to remain ignorant of the sufferings of others, and so be it. You don’t need to indulge their doubts and misconceptions.
Go set ’em straight, dear Molly’s Mom, coolly, calmly, and then promptly forget about them.