This year was a challenging year for our kids at school. More independence, less coddling by teachers, homework and school yard dynamics. Oy! Some of it we anticipated as part of attending a full day in the primary grades. There were issues with inclusion, speaking up, hurt feelings and even and a bullying incidence. (which has resolved – fingers crossed)
Some of it, my husband and I were unprepared for. Like the time our youngest had her pals over for a play date. Sitting around the kitchen table having a snack they sang a new rhyme they learned at recess. It was a derogatory song making fun of a specific ethnic group. Whoa! I cut them off mid song and we talked about the words and their meaning. They were unaware that the rhyme was so awful and felt badly afterward.
One of the biggest shocks my husband and I were not prepared for were questions about unfamiliar words they heard in the playground. “What does “gay” mean, Mommy?” – “What does “retarded” mean?” Seriously?! Grade 1 and 2 children are running around calling one another these unacceptable words? Yes. Unfortunately, some adults are still use them too.
Perhaps people are unaware that the words are full of hate and hurt. Many of us grew up hearing the terms and think nothing of using them. Recently, I asked someone not to use the word “retarded” with me and they argued there was nothing wrong with it – because it was a ‘legitimate clinical word’ and they didn’t say it in a mean way. Ooooh, that was an interesting conversation…
One of the blogs I follow is Dave Hinsburger’s blog – Rolling Around in My Head. He has worked for over 30 years in the field of disability, is an author and travels the world as a lecturer. His writing makes me think and reflect, sometimes cry, and delivers a powerful message.
Dave recently wrote about marching in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade with his organization Vita Community Living Services. He wrote, “We had determined we wouldn’t just ‘be’ in the parade, we wanted to ‘work’ the parade. As the parade is, in part, a celebration of diversity”. He had cards printed and with the help of co-workers and other groups marching that day, handed them out to the crowds. I thought they were so powerful I asked Dave if I could share them…he said yes.
After the parade and the crowds dispersed, Dave noticed coming back up Yonge Street no cards were thrown on the ground. An encouraging sign! I hope Dave’s cards will inspire sharing this message with family, friends and community. At the very least, invite discussion, which is always the beginning of change.