On being the Parent

Things have been hopping in our house lately. I won’t bore everyone with details, but I did want to share something that was on my mind in the process of all that was going on.
As Deaf individuals, when we walk down a public street, or in a shopping mall, or just anywhere among other people, we miss out on a lot of opportunity to learn things as we go. Our hearing children, however, are picking up all the sounds around them and many times it may be a lot for them to process without assistance. Recently, there was a tragedy in my community. The only means I had to keep “in the loop” about it was to read what others typed up on Facebook, or in the news. My children, on the other hand, were exposed to what people were actually voicing about it. Being that I didn’t hear or understand what was spoken when we were out and about in the community, I couldn’t help process it all.
What is a parent to do? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that even children with hearing parents have access to information unbeknownst to their parents they may struggle to process without assistance. Obviously, many children left on their own to figure things out turn out just fine, so maybe we shouldn’t worry about it too much. On the other hand, there are some children who NEED that extra help to sort through the information they’ve come into possession of, but maybe they don’t realize they need help, and we don’t realize they hold this information in their thoughts.
This is where constant communication becomes important, or at least one of the areas where it is important that communication between parents and children be effective. If we know our children well enough, we will be able to identify when they seem “off” or just not their normal selves we are accustomed to seeing.
My child’s quieter-than-usual demeanor was my first alert that something may be weighing that mind. My first course of action was to ask how the day went. I didn’t get a response that satisfied my query as to what was really going on inside my child, so my next course of action was to ask what kind of things people were talking about out there. This is when I realized my child probably needed to sort through a few things overheard and find a way to process it and file it away. By allowing my child to tell me what was heard out in the open, at school, etc., I was able to search my child’s facial expressions for possible difficulty with the issue and pinpoint exactly where to direct the conversation.
It is so important to study our children, their behaviors, their responses to events and statements, and train ourselves to identify when something just doesn’t seem the norm. I think of very young children, possibly toddler age, overhearing things we would rather they didn’t yet know about (think: cuss words), but if we cannot hear the words they’re exposed to, how do we begin to teach them that those are not appropriate terms to repeat by our mere reaction when hearing and identifying them? Usually, for deaf parents, they first learn their child has voiced the undesired terms from teachers or grandparents.
I recall a time shopping with one of my children as a toddler where I was used to people stopping to compliment me on my child and began to just smile and say “Thank You” no matter what. This one particular time, when I smiled and said “Thank you” to this elderly woman, she left in a huff with an extremely disgusted look on her face. Embarrassed, I hurriedly finished my shopping and got back to the car, then proceeded to figure out from my toddler just what had transpired. Imagine my horror when I discovered my child had told her she was old and ugly and she, in turn, told me “What a thing to say!” to which I had replied “Thank You” with a smile on my face. Had I made more of an effort to be aware of what was really going on at the time, I could have used the incident as a learning and teaching opportunity for my child rather than coming across as supporting what my child told this poor woman.
That just goes to show how easy it is for us as deaf parents to be oblivious to communication around us involving our hearing child, and how hard it is as deaf parents to catch what our child is catching and direct them appropriately towards tactful responses.
For me, specifically, I make sure I stay educated on the community events, either through blogs, through friends, or through community calendars. I maintain a circle of friends who are willing to include me when they discuss things recently heard in the community that have an effect on my children. I also appreciate school communication, sometimes straight from the principal’s office, in the form of e-mail which address anything that parents in general probably need to know, such as contagious illnesses reported at the school, tragedies involving students, emergencies happening on/near campus causing lockdowns or close-downs, and sometimes even just general non-emergency information for the sake of staying connected as a community.
Parenting itself was never promised to be easy. Parenting a hearing child as a deaf parent can be harder, but there are many ways around those hardships, especially with current technology and increased awareness of the needs of the deaf community.
Needless to say, I have spent many evenings with my children this month just talking, giving them a chance to express whatever is in their head and helping them figure out where to file that information for themselves (or, in some cases, throw it out completely). It isn’t always easy, but it makes for a much stronger relationship and develops deeper trust in each other. Two things which may be hard to come by for many families out there, deaf or hearing.

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3 thoughts on “On being the Parent

  1. loly12313 says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am not a parent, but I understand what it’s like to need to have someone to talk to and not really knowing who to talk to and process. It is wonderful that your children feel that they can turn to you.

    • I believe children need good relationships with their parents which involves effective communication. I think good communication in families is vital to a child’s sense of well-being and development. I feel it is important that a parent be involved in their child’s life and guide them on the path to adulthood, not just birth them and let them raise themselves. Parenting is challenging, but rewarding as well.

  2. Parenting is hard. It’s tough for anyone, but I can’t imagine not hearing what they’re saying. In a way, you may be more in tune with your children than hearing parents. You probably are much better at reading nonverbal cues than most people. I enjoy your blog and am learning so much! Thanks for writing.

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