In celebration of Deaf Awareness month (September) and in celebration of 4 years of committing to this journey, I’m going to share some the fabulous things that, Deaf, has done for me.
Raising kids that don’t fit the “typical” mould, comes with its challenges. (I can’t help a below-my-breath giggle as I type that EXTREME understatement.) But man, being Deaf and raising deaf kids, has its bonuses. So whilst some days, you make me fight my greatest fears, today, Deaf, you four – lettered friend – I salute you!
Here are a few reasons why:
- Communication. What is that? Talking? Before this journey, I had no idea of the complexity of this seemingly simple task. Families with hearing kids probably think they communicate well, parent-to-child. But just because your auditory pathway is typical, there is no guarantee that meaningful communication will happen. Communication takes work. Most marriages know this well! Had Deaf not slapped me right upside the head on this one, I may have missed it. I cannot imagine not getting to the crux of the matter when one of my girls is upset, or not being as intuitive to their body language and expressions, to know when to listen harder. The fact that my girls are three of the best “listeners” I have ever met, I know that communication actually is independent of hearing and talking. I’ve wrestled my own limitations in communicating with them early on; blood, sweat and many tears involved, but man, it has been worth it. They are still little, and we are communicating well. We know each other intimately and care about each emotion. Deaf, if it weren’t for you, we would have been ordinary, and not every ordinary family truly “gets” communication. You’ve been an absolute biscuit in that regard!
- Deaf, you gave my comfort zones the middle finger! I’m an introvert, I do not like attention, let alone doing anything that could even potentially be embarrassing. I’m the person that dreads weddings because of the dance floor, I do not want to make myself vulnerable or give anyone any opportunity to think I look silly…and then Deaf, as you do, you brought along your friend Sign Language. Sign Language is not shy. She’s dramatic, and in-your-face and well, is not a respecter of privacy. Throw in a mom that contributes to that “94% of parents who haven’t a freaking clue what to do with their deaf baby” statistic, and you’ve got stuttering fingers, deer-caught-in-headlights response to receptive finger spelling, your face is doing things you never dreamed possible, and you know what…for the sake of communicating with my kids and other adults like them, the introvert within me has to step aside. Sign Language, you’re the fun friend, the one that brings out the life in others, the one that laughs with you when you look like a paw paw. You’ve lightened me up, and helped me to care less. Now that’s a true friend!
- Deaf, I had no idea, that when you forced me onto this journey, blindfolded and begging you not to, that you were bringing me to a place of all things REAL. In today’s world so much is fake. We are brainwashed into coveting the lives of the Kardashians, and yearn for Facebook-perfect profiles. We die at the thought of anyone truly getting to know us, as we are terrified of not fitting in, and being rejected. Well, yet again you crashed this one in style. I suddenly found myself alongside other wide-eyed folks who also contribute to that “94% of us who haven’t a clue” stat. There’s no question about it…we don’t have Facebook-perfect lives, and it’s glaring obvious that we “don’t fit in”. What an incredible gift to bypass the superficial “what if they reject me when they realize I’m different” bull, and have friends that lead lives equally as imperfect as mine. Beautifully imperfect. Perfect sux, as you have to maintain that plastic façade. Yet again, the friend who knew better – Deaf, you biscuit!
- You made me brave. Whilst this introvert has always been fairly willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of advocating for others, gee, I had no idea what doing that daily would feel like. The first time I asked for an accommodation for one of my girls, I practiced how to say it a good few times in my head first, and then the words came out in a very nervous and apologetic way. Let’s just say that with practice, I am unapologetic about speaking up for my kids, for what is right and fair. It’s like you’ve got my back Deaf, cheering me on…reminding me that more is possible and that these three are worth fighting for. Life is precious and valuable and made for a purpose, I get that now more than ever.
- Deaf, you keep my brain challenged. There was a time when the twins were little where I wondered if my life would ever be more exciting, than keeping a check on the number of wet nappies daily and the number of milliliters of milk each consumed and puked up. Well, you made sure that I’d be challenged intellectually on an ongoing basis. By the time my kids have kids, I’m sure I’ll deserve a few honorary degrees in audiology, linguistics, education, psychology and heavens knows what else! One thing is for sure, Deaf, you sure are NOT boring!
- Deaf, you totally messed up my understanding of human hierarchy. I blame medicine for influencing me negatively. The more letters you have behind your name, the more valuable you are, right? No? Come one…deep down inside you know that is an ugly-but-true core belief of society. Well, guess what…Deaf, introduced me to moms with no formal education who have more expertise than people with the letters behind their name (which are meant to qualify them more). I’ve thrown aside my admiration for the learned, and embraced a sincere awe for parents deciphering their complex kids on the parent-24/7-shift, with a smile on their face and frankly, making miracles happen. And then, in their spare time, making miracles happen for others who are similar. Whilst you handed me a kaleidoscope of freaking scary views at first, I am so grateful for the perspectives you have given me. Deaf, you biscuit!
- Whilst I try my best, flip I stuff up a lot. I get tired, and say things that I shouldn’t which could be hurtful to my special three. The best part is, since fatigue is a huge instigator of these human moments, most of the time I’m at my most fragile just before they go to bed (when all hearing help is safely in its various night store boxes), when I may snap at yet another need to go to the toilet, and all the usual things that kids do to procrastinate bed time. I’m finished, and all I want is silence. Auditory silence… visual silence…brain rest…and as I spurt out a frustration that I instantly regret to a child who is walking off to the toilet yet again, I am relieved to think…she didn’t hear that! Deaf you flipping biscuit! You have saved me and them on many occasions! You’re the giver of the second chance – that can only be a win!
- So whilst the lack of incidental learning (a phenomenon true to deaf kids that statistically sees deaf children leaving school with the general knowledge of an eight-year-old) is something that totally freaked me out in the beginning. It has seen me exhaust myself to fill them in if something interesting is being said and done some extreme interpreting at times to make sure they don’t miss anything. It’s the reason our internet is finished long before the end of the month (long live uncapped wifi which we are getting soon) as the YouTube videos of a baby joey crawling up into mommy kangaroo’s pouch, the eruption of volcanoes, what life is like inside an igloo and other weird and wacky cool things, are constantly being searched. I then just have to look around me and see the deterioration of this world, of moral values that I hold dear. Kids are growing up too fast. Crazy stuff is being said over the radio, and conversations are had, that at times, I’m like man, that’s inappropriate with kids around. And then I think…dear friend, Deaf, you’ve sorted that one out for me. You’ll help me to keep them as protected as I’d like to for as long as I need to. I’m their mom, and that’s my prerogative, it’s my responsibility frankly, and Deaf, you’ve made it that much easier.
- Deaf, at times I think you’re of the caliber of the X-MEN with your superhuman-powers. Conversations across a distance are no challenge to you. As most people get terribly frustrated in a noisy crowded room, I can get my kids’ and husband’s attention… and without elbowing a path towards them to communicate my intention, I can say pretty much anything to them, with full comprehension. Try watching your kid across the karate hall about to walk onto the mats to compete. She glances up at you for reassurance. What would you give to tell her that “she can” and that you are proud of her? Yet again, Deaf, with our hands, there is no distance between us.
- And then, there are things that matter less, but are really cool to have. Having full conversations on the back of a safari truck when silence is needed, or even whilst scuba diving (one for the future) is nothing less that super-power cool! Chatting and laughing loudly with my best friend, over the phone, as I sit on the couch in their bedroom as they fall asleep at night (a need of my youngest at the moment) – what a bonus! Investigating why the heck the alarm has gone off in the middle of the night without adding to the worry that it may wake up the kids…need I say more!?
Deaf, you biscuit!
**[“You biscuit” – a South African slang term for affection meaning similar to “you wonderful”]