updates from the bradfields

12 Aug 08 Is it only a word?

A boycott of Ben Stiller’s latest movie “Tropic Thunder” is afoot here in the US. At the centre of the storm is the movie’s use of the term “full retard” to describe the character “Simple Jack”, an actor who is famous for playing mindless characters.

I’m not going to use this blog to lecture anyone on what words they should use or how they should use them. However, I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

On the one hand, “retard” is really only a word, defined in the Oxford dictionary as “make slow or late, delay progress or development or arrival or accomplishment or happening of; backward in mental or physical development”. This is a fair assessment. When used in practical terms, Nicole is mentally retarded. Her disability does slow down her development.

For me, the issue isn’t the use of the word retard, it’s the connotation that being mentally retarded or developmentally disabled automatically makes you ignorant, mindless or an idiot. Having a mental disability doesn’t make you any of these things. I’ve known a lot of “normal” people for whom the word retarded, if I used it that way, would be completely appropriate. Nicole is certainly less ignorant and less of an idiot than all of them.

The mother in me knows that Nicole’s road ahead will be a tough one and the last thing she needs is Hollywood affirming that using a word with this connotation to describe people like her is ok. Nicole is a complex package of many parts, just like the rest of us, and deserves to not be defined solely by her disability. I have many parts of my package that I wouldn’t want used to define me.

What surprises me is that no one at DreamWorks predicted that there would be an adverse reaction the use of this word. The communicator in me says that either they obviously didn’t consult their marketing department or I’m a better communicator than those making tons of cash in the film world.

In support of all those with development disabilities, I won’t see the movie. What I hope is that the proposed boycott will make us all a little more sensitive about the words we use.

29 Apr 07 Nicole Teaches Mommy Another Lesson

What began as a regular visit to the food co-op today ended in the latest in a lifetime of lessons I’ll learn as a mother. We left Marley and Ncole in the co-op’s child care while we shopped. I leave Nicole there almost twice weekly when I’m shopping or working, and give the child care workers the same spiel about how she can’t go in the exersaucer, where they would normally put kids her age, because of her low muscle tone.

When I returned from shopping, a rather blunt child care worker immediately launched into a rant about how Nicole is too vulnerable to be left in child care. It seems she needed to be held the whole time so the bigger kids, who were throwing things around, wouldn’t hurt her. Carrying her for 20 minutes is a pain, I agree, but I did ask twice before I left if they could handle having a baby there (sometimes there are just too many kids and they say no).

I was insulted by the worker’s brash approach and felt Nicole was being dicriminated against because she isn’t able to do the same things other 9-month-olds can do. I’m determined to not allow her limitations to change how I will treat her, and I want her to experience all the normal things, like sometimes being separated from me and socializing with other kids.

You may not agree the worker was being discrimnatory. Obviously, I feel she was, but that’s sort of beside the point. The lesson I learned isn’t about about how Nicole will face much discrimination in her lifetime, but rather it’s about how I must learn to deal with it positively and teach my kids to deal with it that way, too. I fumed all the way home, then took a couple of deep breaths and decided to not let it ruin my day. It didn’t seem to bother Nicole, so I’ll try to take my cue from her.

09 Apr 07 Crazed drivers: Enough to drive you crazy

We have just returned from a wonderful Easter weekend in Toronto. It was quick but we managed to pack in a fair bit, primarily with family. We also got out to a pub to catch the Leafs final game of the season; an exciting win over the Habs.


This isn’t really a post about our Easter weekend though. It’s a rant about how awful and oblivious Toronto drivers are. Or maybe they just don’t care. If you’re not into rants then don’t read this.

David is a real driver. He loves it. But our last two trips to Toronto have left us in a state of disbelief at the chaos and insincerity on the roads of our hometown. Toronto drivers are really bad. We have little authority to paint the roads of Toronto with such broad brush strokes since we now live in New York City and sold our car late last year. But we still know how to drive and are unaware of any major changes in the rules of the road.

In Toronto, the demeanour on the roads has deteriorated into potholes of impropriety. It’s the small things that add up to a growing problem. Far too many people gab on the phone and don’t focus on the road. Or worse yet, send a text message from the driver’s seat. Others travel far too fast or dangerously slow. Some cruise through stop signs. Many inconsiderate fools even use highway on-ramps to leapfrog ahead of a few cars in front of them.

The most frustrating thing is so many bad drivers in Toronto just don’t seem to care. They play deaf when you honk in defense and continue to merge with millimetres to spare. They flip the middle finger with absolute ease and yell meaningless insults that only raise one’s personal blood pressure. There is no fear of consequence and little sense of responsibility behind the wheel.

Road rage is infectious and unhealthy. It’s everywhere in Toronto. It’s crazy.

People seem to lose their civility behind the wheel. If it’s intentional it’s rude. When it’s unintentional or threateningly dangerous, we call these people “obliviots” (a term coined by Ted Kaiser, a former colleague of Karyn’s, who combined “oblivious” and “idiot” to come up with this great term).

Defensive driving is an unfortunate necessity in Toronto. But when it really comes down to it, I don’t think it’s a change in driving capability. It’s a social problem. We even see this online where people who blog or comment on blogs feel somehow protected from the larger social impact of their interactions. We’re at a weird point in the development of humanity and I suspect there is a major backlash brewing. It’s time to shape up and show some respect. Take it easy. Enjoy life.

Enough of the rant… now back to the family.