Why? As I sat, down to write, this I tried to list the things that made raising a Deaf child difficult and when I listed them, they just seemed ridiculous. While singing a song, having a conversation in the car and first words are all things we miss, the joys outweigh the difficult parts. I guess we have not always felt that way. It has taken years of getting to know Heath as a person and understanding the culture he is a part of, to not care about the things we used to put a lot of energy worrying about. Adjusting your life as a parent to your child’s life is really something parents no matter what their child is or is not, do to accommodate that little person.
And I guess the real difficult part about our raising a Deaf child with ASL only has been on us as parents not for him as a child. He’s had a positive experience being raised this way and it’s really what we wanted for him from the beginning of this journey. But I guess even though we find these things I’ve listed below a little ridiculous, they are somethings people just don’t talk about.
We aren’t going to get “rid” of our hearing friends and so finding a balance of making time for our friends we’ve had for years and making time to make new Deaf friends has been a challenge. There are times when we choose to hang out with our hearing friends. Most of our friends children like playing with Heath but now that they are older it’s harder including him in activities because he doesn’t understand what’s going on. While Presley herself tries to make sure he’s included being 7 herself sometimes he gets left out. It’s a tremendous responsibility for her and so sometimes he ends up playing by himself because he doesn’t want to wait for her to interpret or he watches tv. We are guilt ridden when this happens and we pay attention to him as much as we can. But it’s still hard. It was easier when he was a toddler, babies just figure it out somehow together since the way they play is different. Now he’s a little more aware of his surroundings and understands the differences between hearing friends and Deaf friends.
Going to a family gathering and being able to communicate fluently with everyone and not being able to…It’s just sad! And for a family gathering that happens once year, you can’t expect 75 year old “aunt sarah” who you yourself only see once a year, to learn ASL fluently, it’s just unrealistic. And then there’s all the questions at said gathering…. why doesn’t the boy talk…. why haven’t you implanted him yet…. yada yada yada…. it’s all just so sad. Oh and the ever ASL is such a beautiful language comment, even though I just spent the last 5 minutes telling Heath to behave himself and if he doesn’t he’s gonna get a timeout. Not any ASL poetry going on in that conversation. Annoying but sad since you have explain these things every year. Sometimes you just don’t go because it’s easier not to.
And there are just times when your hands are full and yelling to the people in another room is just more convenient and easier but your Deaf child is sitting there looking at you like…. I know you said something what was it. Guilty! We are guilty of doing this and then after we feel guilty about doing it. There are times when for Presley it’s just easier to tell us what is going on with herself than to sign it. So we let her. Guilty! We are guilty and we feel guilty. Communication in our home is just one of those things where we have a rule. If a Deaf person is in the room, we sign. But we do break the rule with Heath and it sucks. ASL isn’t our first language and there are times when it’s just easier to say it. Doesn’t make it right but we do it.
But with those things said, I’m not sure I would change anything about our lives now. In order to build a relationship with a Deaf person, you have to look them straight in the eyes. People don’t do that much anymore since we are all connected by our technology and by our devices. It’s easy to talk to Presley over the phone or in the car or even just sitting next to her without ever looking at her in the face once. But with Heath, we have to sit him in front of us, look at his face and give him our 100% attention. We have the privilege of looking at him straight in the face to get to know who is he as a person. Looking at him straight in the eyes and knowing when he’s lying to us because his face says it all. Looking at him directly to communicate how much we love and care about him is truly unique and I’m not convinced we would change anything about this experience. While it can be difficult at times it truly is a blessing to have him a part of our lives. He’s made us better people by just being him.