As I walked through the hallway of my church with my two children, I watched other children talk to their parents; I realized how different it was between my kids and I. It became evident as I saw my four year old sign to me, “Ihop?” His little pinky finger bounced up and down with a hopeful expression across his face. My daughter rubs her chest with a flat palm, saying “Please?” with her own eyebrows raised with hope of being able to get some pancakes. I sign back without my voice, “Wait. Call Dad, See-see can go.” In the English translation, that would be, “Wait until I call Dad first, so we can find out if we can go or not.” They nod their heads in understanding. I do speak when I sign sometimes, since some signs they are still learning, but as they grow up I know it will become more fluent between us.
It isn’t easy raising two children who are hearing when both my husband and I are deaf, though my husband hears better than I can. I have had moments when communication would fall through between my kids and I. I can remember one time when I heard my kids fighting and my son calls out, “Mommy! Mairi hit me!” I stepped in, naturally, and asked my daughter if that was true. She tried to explain herself, but it ended up coming to me as that she had done so out of anger. I sent her to room in tears as I had been angry with what I understood happened. My husband came to me and explained that I had misheard her. “She accidently hit him because they were holding the toy at the same time and she let go.” I felt so bad, and naturally went to my little girl and apologized. I sat there holding my little girl knowing that it was going to be something to work on, developing better communication skills between us all. “I’m sorry. Maybe we should work on our signing more to where you can tell me in sign what happened.” She nodded her head. I had depended on lip reading for so long with my kids, and signed on occasion, especially when I didn’t have my hearing aids. It wasn’t until a few months ago I started signing a whole lot more with them. They love it. Just the other weekend, my son tells me to take my hearing aids off so we could sign more when we had come home from a deaf craft fair. He even tries to sign songs with me. My daughter is also picking up on that as well, and she was so proud to be able to sign to me that she was going to sing Silent Night at her Girl Scout caroling as she gathered up into the crowd of girls to sing. She’s only six, so her signing skills are still progressing. Fingerspelling is something she is recently getting better at, and it is cute how she spells words as she’s in first grade.
As my son gets ready to go to school this next Fall, we’re in the process of getting a hearing dog for myself. With no one here to help me hear things like the door or my phone going off, it is hard for me to imagine coping on my own. My husband is going blind and we had thought about getting dog for him originally, but he rejected it since the city isn’t very seeing dog friendly with the closest place for him to take a dog to relieve himself is about three to four blocks away from his work.
Having a dad who is blind and hard of hearing is different for my children, but that’s a whole different blog to share…
One of my favorite discussions we had about the dog situation was when I told the kids we would be very possibly getting a hearing dog for me when Paulie goes to school. Mairi speaks up, “But what about Daddy? Isn’t he getting a seeing dog?” We explain to her that it is harder for their dad to care for a seeing dog than it is for me to care for a hearing dog. My forthright son speaks up loud so we can all hear, “What about a talking dog? Can we get one of those?” We all laughed and explained that we called dogs “seeing” and “hearing” for the fact they would do those things for those who can’t see or hear. “Mommy can’t hear and needs to have someone help her not miss the door knock or the phone, and a dog can do that.” They are all excited about the prospect of having a dog in the family, but it will take some practice to get them to understand not to play with the dog when he/she is working for me. The little jacket they put on the dogs when they work will be what will help them know it’s working. I am excited as well, as it will help reduce some of the loneliness of having both my children at school.
I know as they grow older, the adventures of raising C.O.D.As (Child of Deaf Adults) will continue to be eventful and have many stories to share as time goes by. I’m excited and looking forward to it.