Identity

Yesterday it was all over the news…another college campus tragedy. Although, thankfully this one did not result in fatalities, it was still tragic. What first caught my attention was the fact that I knew people teaching at this particular campus, and two years ago my daughter and I sat in the auditorium on that same campus to take in the Miss Deaf Texas pageant for the fun of it. Beautiful campus.

This time, the assailant attacked 14 people, not with guns, but with an x-acto knife or scalpel. The big news among the Deaf community was that this young man wore a Cochlear Implant Processor. Vlogs and Facebook posts were all abuzz. 

Some say the CI messed up this young man’s head. Some say the fact he was homeschooled was a problem. Others say it was the hearing impairment that caused him to act out. Then I read a comment where one word jumped out to me and I’ve been holding on to that ever since. Identity. My mind dwelt on that a bit. I looked it up:

i·den·ti·ty  [ahy-den-ti-tee, ih-den-]

1. The state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under 
varying aspects or conditions
2. The condition of being oneself or itself, and not another
3. Condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is
4. The state or fact of being the same one as described.
5. The sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over 
time and sometimes disturbed in mental illnesses, as schizophrenia
 
Interesting…number 5…sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time…identity can be disturbed in those with mental illnesses according to the description from dictionary.com.
That led me to thinking even more…if mental illnesses could disrupt someone’s identity, could lack of identity contribute to mental instability? Possibly. Where is identity formed? In childhood, of course. How we relate to our parents, how we are guided, instructed, and shown love (or not). We have a sense of security midst the sameness our family unit offers us, but what happens when that sameness isn’t so…same? For example, when parents are deaf and their children are hearing, or vice versa, parents are hearing and the children are deaf? I look back on my own childhood and admit that although my parents were extremely supportive, accepted my deafness, accommodated me to a fault, and went above and beyond to ensure that I was included in everything, something was still missing. I felt loved and accepted, yes, but I struggled with my identity. Was I a hearing person trapped in a deaf body or was I a deaf person stuck in a hearing world? Did it matter? At the time, it was a non-issue. I didn’t have hangups over my hearing loss, and I functioned well in the hearing world. My issues, instead, were subconscious, only to surface at such a time as now (or last year, actually, during a conference in which the focus was on….yep, identity!). 
I had a conversation with my oldest who admitted at the age of 22 that there were identity struggles as a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult). I would never have known because he was a happy, well-adjusted kid growing up who participated in life and did well in school. But it makes sense. Whenever we have a mesh of two cultures in one household, there is bound to be identity confusion. How do we work around this? I believe the key is in accepting the differences, being open about them, and acknowledging the fact that those differences serve to enrich the family, not to contribute to identity issues. We can teach our children that they have something that we, the parents, do not have (and vice-versa, actually!), and that’s OK because it is those differences among us that make the family complete, functional  and contributing. We can learn to embrace our own identity as well as that of others and take caution to never promote one over another, especially since we know all men were created equal, and God loves us all the same. 
I found an interesting journal article that addresses the issue of identity between the deaf and hearing cultures. Read it here.
Now I’m even more intrigued…I’m off to research more about Deaf/Hearing/Identity! Maybe this is the key across the board to reducing all these incidents of young adults on killing sprees! Give someone an identity they can be secure in and watch that crime rate decrease…one can hope, can one not? 

Trying to get back into the swing…

I have been away from the blog again…unfortunately, I had another modem crash and getting to other locations to borrow internet service has not been easy to come by. On top of that, I have also had phone issues. I used to get excellent signal strength at my home and now I get none. Very frustrating stuff for a deaf parent who depends on technology to maintain communication connections with the outside! Due to my internet being down, it also meant that my home phone was down (I use a Caption Call and also a Video Phone and both require connection to the internet to work). So between all things internet and my cell phone, the only connection I had was with people I saw in the course of my day. Very difficult way to live, and took me back to my high school days when none of this existed and all my friends were making phone calls and I felt left out. I reflected on how this affects my parenting and it affects it a great deal. For example, last night, my daughter was emotional due to some relationship issues with several people and as a mother, I tend to check up on my kids after they’ve experienced difficulty to be sure they’re okay. I had to leave my home and go elsewhere just to get signal on my phone to text my daughter and make sure she was okay today. I feel so disconnected from my kids. I have no idea what I would do if this were a nationwide thing not as simple as a modem replacement to fix. I imagine people with the ability to hear would just pick up a landline and make a phone call. Deaf parents would be in for a shock today if that were to happen, and I often wonder if hearing kids would take advantage or if they would be just as frustrated they couldn’t reach their parents as easily. 

I guess this tends to happen to almost everybody from time to time. I think of military families separated by the call of duty and sent to remote areas with no access to telecommunications for a period of time. They certainly understand how I have been feeling these last 2 weeks! :) 

If anyone out there is aware of advancements and technology that might benefit someone in my shoes, shoot me a message (or comment here). I’d like to be prepared in case I ever face this disconnection again! Also, I believe usually when one is prepared is when one never needs to be prepared…get it? :) 

Will post some stuff I found before my modem died when I can get back on my own computer where everything is bookmarked!!! I also need to add my twitter link to this page. Lots to share coming soon as I can get back into the swing…

Deaf History Month

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We have recently come upon Deaf History Month and one of the things that comes up every year is the desire to educate those outside the Deaf culture to view the culture differently than what one has traditionally been taught. This reminded me of an incident many years ago when one of my boys was in kindergarten. I had accompanied him to school one day to give a demonstration on sign language and show off some products then used by Deaf individuals such as Telecommunications Devices, doorbell flashers, baby criers, and the like. I had access to a captioned television and played a portion of a VHS movie without sound. Being in kindergarten, many of the kids thought the TV was broken. It was a fun time with my son and I thought nothing more of it after all was said and done.

Fast-forward 13 years later, my son is working and I show up to visit him. I notice one of his co-workers staring at me and start to think I have spinach on my teeth, a squashed bug in my hair, or something equally disgusting on my face. I am almost afraid to look at her but when I finally do, she asks, “Aren’t you David’s mom?”

“Why, yes. Is that obvious?”
“Well, I remember you. You came to our class once and taught us sign language. I remember a little bit. I remember everything about that day when you were there.”

Ironic that I came across this picture while scanning through folders on my computer. This picture is from that day, and I discovered it at a time I was thinking about how the most effective education to influence change starts with children. Back in 1988 I represented the state of Texas at the Miss Deaf America Pageant and the on-stage interview question for the finalists was, “How do we keep deaf culture alive?” This was the year of the big Gallaudet University “Deaf President Now” victory that captured national headlines and which was touched upon in a recent, all-ASL episode of “Switched At Birth” on ABC Family channel. The winning response was along the lines of educating today’s children because they are the leaders of tomorrow. 

So how do Deaf individuals encourage a change in the thinking of the hearing culture towards how they are perceived and what they can and cannot do? Deaf parents with hearing children have the advantage in forging a path towards this change. We have a connection between two cultures through our children and by starting with our own child and rippling out towards our child’s friends, they, in turn, can take information to share with their parents and their friends, but it starts with us and our child. 

Who would have thought that after High School graduation I would see someone I had not seen in 13 years and be informed that a simple willingness to demonstrate during “Five Senses” week in a Kindergarten class stuck in the mind of this individual? I don’t know about any of you, but for me, it reiterates the point that we need to live out our beliefs always. One never knows who is watching and really paying attention!

Playing Catchup!

Well, it’s been a while since my last blog and I apologize. Sometimes this funny thing called “life” happens and blogs get put on the back burner until issues can be dealt with. My life has not been uninteresting, but this blog is not designed to be all about me and my personal daily struggles, so I’ll put THAT on the back burner.

I WILL state, however, that deaf parents of hearing children seem to have to work twice as hard to get things done without relying on their children to communicate for them. I avoid asking my children to make phone calls or pass along communication on my behalf, instead choosing to keep the power order intact. I am the parent and they are the children. They should be coming to me for help, not vice-versa. My oldest two kids are now out of the house and there are times they’ll notice an issue and offer to help, but I rarely, if ever, ask for their help. I will accept offers, but I will not ask. Instead, I ask my own parents. Weird, huh? 

I have come across some hearing children who seem to be in an authority position over their parents based on the fact their ears “work” better than the parents ears. This is a risque situation. I believe when parents ask their kids to make phone calls for them, exchange messages, fetch things, they are putting the child in a delicate position. Some kids may take advantage of that and resort to telling their parents what to do. Others will just be uncomfortable and try to avoid being around at all. I think as a deaf parent, showing my children that I can do it myself, regardless of struggle teaches them that there is no excuse to not get something done, obstacles or not.

My home issues are underfoot now, and this is Spring Break week, which for me has evolved into Spring Cleaning week, but part of that “cleaning” is to catch up on things in general (like this blog) and work on Facebook, twitter, Google +, and other social media sites. That’s right. Before long, you’ll find links to connect with me right here on the blog so you won’t miss a thing!

Stay tuned…