I try not to be all negative about my deafness.
It can be hard enough trying to find ways to work around my disability while living in a world where so much depends on sound. (Try jumping out of the way of a speeding airport golf cart after it beeps. Oh wait, you didn’t hear it beep? )
But dealing with opinions is far more difficult.
I took Itty Bit to a sand-sculpture contest this weekend. And before we even set foot into the viewing area, a woman noticed me signing to Itty Bit.
“Oh, is he a signer?”
I smiled and replied that he was. “He’s just shy around everyone right now.”
I could tell that she didn’t realize I was deaf. She signed to him and spoke to me. “So nice that he’s bilingual!”
She introduced herself as a “deaf educator”, and remarked that many parents were realizing the benefits of teaching their children sign language.
Just to get it out there playfully so she wasn’t embarrassed about not realizing my profound hearing loss, I said, “Yeah, he’ll grow up to be my interpreter” with a smile.
I saw the expression on her face. And I couldn’t help it - I braced myself.
“Oh! And what school are you going to put him in???” with a calculating look.
I tried to sidestep – I really did.
“He’s only four. We haven’t decided yet.”
“Oh really?” Pointedly, “Well don’t you think he needs to be someplace where other children sign?”
“You know, we may just homeschool.”
Supreme unsubtle hint ignored. Shoved aside. She had an educated point to make.
“But don’t you think”, she pressed, “that he deserves to be around children in THAT social environment?”
I knew my Irish genes were making an appearance in my clenched jaw and sharp exhalation.
I also knew there was a good possibility that I’d had more scholastic success than her, and spent more time with children than she had. And to be sure, I’d spent more time being deaf than she likely ever would. The clear criticism on her face was insulting.
“He signs at home and speaks as well.”
“Oh, so what method are you using?”
What “method”? He’s a kid. I talk to him. I sign to him. Does a mother need a “method”?
“I simply sign as I speak.”
“I see. So you’re using the SYM COM method. And he just picks it up?”
arched eyebrow, extended sidelong glance at my patient little boy
“Yes, he’s very bright”.
“But don’t you think he needs…”
She is pressuring me about my lack of using strictly American Sign Language.
“I want him to read, write, and speak in correct English sentence structure”, I say with my last bit of patience.
It stops her momentarily. There is no argument she can offer.
She looks at me as if I am simply too stupid to understand her. She looks at my son with pity on her face.
So help me I wanted to shake her and ask her if she really thought that her suggestion was the best for my child? He is already growing up with a deaf mother, let’s throw another handicap in there and send HIM to a school for deaf children?
My son can communicate with everyone in his world. I won’t get into an argument over why I won’t confuse him by teaching him a language I don’t use. (Aww heck – we did just fine last weekend, didn’t we GunDiva?)
I’m used to the personal criticism – it’s easy to say with a smile, “I have a great marriage/family/circle of friends/professional life – how would limiting myself to a certain brand of sign language better it?”
But when it was directed at me as a mother… I was surprised at how angry I got at the clear insinuation that I was doing a disservice to my son.
Experiences make up the most profound education. I hope that book-learning doesn’t give others permission to look down on people who actually walk in those shoes day after day.
Sorry. I just needed to vent.
He’s worth every right decision I ever make.