Monday, August 30, 2010

When politeness sucks

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?”

I cringed.

“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.



Sylvia Plathypus said...

Ugh, what a total bonehead!!! There should be a law that allows folks to bop morons like that one over the head with a big wooden mallet, since they clearly can't take the hint to shut their trap. I'm so sorry she was such a royal *insert vulgarity here* to you about Itty are one of the most amazing moms I know, if your blog is any indication!! God bless you for the ability to keep it classy with her -- I would have ripped her to ribbons myself. (Not a classy corner to be found on me at present, more's the pity. LOL) You are a phenomenal woman, and no amount of uncalled-for censure from a charter member of the Douche Parade is going to make that any less true! =)

City girl turned Country Girl said...

WOW I don't even know what to say right now!! I guess I'd better be picking my jaw up off the floor soon!!!

What an ignorant woman!! Educator to whom?! Monkey's?! You really did SOOO much better than I could have!!

You rock! And your a heck of a great MOMMA!!!

Unknown said...

I would have bluntly said, 'No I don't want him being trained by judgemental people like yourself' then I would have walked away.

Brandi said...

GAH! Girl, you are such a kind, sweet person... don't even engage in conversations with people like that. I don't think it's rude to just say 'excuse me'(or even something more colorful)and walk away. ;)

Allenspark Lodge said...

You missed it Rachel. Your last words should have been "Oh! Wait! You think HE'S the deaf one?"

Would'a been priceless. Oh well, there is always next time (mores the pity)


Kmama said...

I never realized how much controversy their is regarding education of deaf children until I started reading your blog.

I'm sorry you had to go through that. Why can't people just mind their own business??

Aunt Crazy said...

Maybe I'm confused or stupid or I really do have Alzheimer's but why would itty bit need to go to school with deaf children? He can hear, he can speak, he can sign, I'm not sure I understand where she was coming from, however, why on earth do people think they have the right to tell parents what to do with their children???

Anonymous said...

Mind blowing. Totally. Can't even put together good sentence structure myself because I'm so stunned at such stupidity. Seriously, you have Emily Post's permission to do the icy stare, clenched jaw, "I'm sorry, but have we been introduced? No? I didn't think so." and turn away method of dealing with someone so incredibly rude. *sigh* And yes, that sweet boy is worth it AND he's a very fortunate man to have the family that he does. All of you. Such love.. .maybe THAT'S what was missing in that woman's life.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Aunt Crazy, I came away more confused from her perspective than anything.
As a hearing person I am oblivious to the tug-o-war that happens among the deaf community and it still shocks me everytime when I read your stories.
{{hugs}} friend, you know in your heart of hearts you are doing what's best for Bit and that lady really knows jack squat.

Allenspark Lodge said...

I was thinking while cooking breakfast. How 'bout a t-shirt that says "I'd rather be Deaf Than Dumb"

You could start a clothing line!

"I'd tell You to SHUT UP, but it's easier to just close my eyes to you"

OMG! The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Too bad you are such a nice person...


(Maybe you should delete this comment)

Kelly said...

I'm confused...why would Itty bit need a school for the deaf? I can't even see where she had a point at all unless she thought he was deaf and never realized it was you, but even with that she should keep her mouth shut. What a moron to think it is okay to push her agenda on someone...even to think that she can sympothize with you because she can hear quite well, too bad she never heard the saying "God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak" ...

Kelly said...

Oh Bill your comment needs to stay.. I like the idea..

Beth Zimmerman said...

Rachel ... maybe you should start your own ETSY shop for those t-shirts Bill suggested! I'd buy one or two and wear them proudly!

And lump me in with the confused lot! I don't get why she would think he should go to a school for deaf children. Makes NO sense to me!

And while I haven't had to deal with that exact opinion ... I've heard more than I cared to as a home schooler! Crazy how perfect strangers think they can make better decisions for MY kids than I can!

Some people are NUTS! Rude ones!

Amy said...

Rude does not even describe it! I will keep my comments to myself on this one because it would be just as rude and very mean. Just know that I would so have your back if you needed to get into an altercation with her.... someday.... at some random a dark ally.... you know....

How dare she! Ugh!

A quick note... people always ask me "what are you going to do with her" when they see that Lula Mae is reading at a first grade level at the age of 2... do with her? Do with him? We are going to continue to teach our children to strive of success! Why is it so odd for kids to be smart these days????

Sending love your way my dear! Glad you were able to vent :-)

Allenspark Lodge said...

How about "I'd Rather Have No Sense of Hearing Than No Sense of Humor"

This is good stuff- someone write this down!


(Bet she turns on comment moderation soon...)

Rachel said...

Oh my Lord BILL... I am about to pee my pants. See, laughter really IS the best medicine... now that I've had a chance to vent :)

Thanks so much - the empathy and humor are just what I needed!

Mr. and Mrs. Nurse Boy said...

WHY do people feel it is their right to express their opinion when noone asked for it?! ((HUGS)) to you, my friend. So sorry you had to put up with her.

Mrs. NB

GunDiva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GunDiva said...

Oh and make those shirts of Bill's - I'd buy them :)

GunDiva said...

Sorry, had to delete my last comment - I made a stupid error that comes from reading too quickly in anger. That woman - UGH!

You're such a sweetheart and I love the out you gave her that she totally and completely didn't get. Not a very smart deaf educator, is she? Did you get the name of the school she worked for?

We got along just fine even though I *gasp* learned SEE before ASL and now I sign a muddled mess of both. I can tell you, though, that my deaf friends in school who were raised with SEE read and wrote much better than my hearing friends and understood such things as suffixes and tenses. One of my friends in college, who learned strictly ASL in K-12, struggled like you wouldn't believe with papers - written communication was very difficult for him.

Rach, you're an amazing mother and Itty Bit's lucky to have you and Mr. Daddy and your families instead of a judgemental biddy like that woman.

Foursons said...

OK, so there is nothing I can say that everyone hasn't already said. Just know that I think you are an amazing mother and Itty Bit is going to grow up to be an amazing man who lives for the Lord. What more can anyone ask of him?

HeatherOz said...

I can't believe you had the restraint not to slap her! I really can't deal with people who think THEY know what is best for complete strangers! Mind your own business, Psycho!!!!!

Floortime Lite Mama said...

uggggh what a dumbo that woman was !!!

Killlashandra said...

He's worth everything! I think said "educated" woman sounded very uneducated in her lack of listening skills and pushing her own opinion on you. Very uneducated and rude.

Kameron said...

Some people just feel the overwhelming need to judge others. I am so sick of everyone thinking they know what's best! Different things work for different people. Why should he go to a deaf school when he's not deaf? You can teach him just fine. Grr. People need to put their 2 cents right back in their pocket where it belongs!!

Dyann said...

So this woman wanted you to send your hearing child to a deaf school? Ridiculous.

As your gifted elementary & AP History classmate, I can attest that you must not have any clue what you're doing and you never did really know what was going on.


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