I’m shopping in the store. I can feel the staring eyes before I look up. American Sign Language seems to be a magnet for it. Most of the time, the stares are curious. Many times I get questions.
“How old is she?”
“18 months” I reply.
“Can she hear anything at all? How is she already signing?”
The first question I simply answer, “Not much, she’s Deaf.”
The second question, I love. I love explaining how American Sign Language allows babies to express the language that is growing and developing inside of their heads long before vocal chords develop enough to form words.
Sometimes the staring and the questioning has a hidden tone, a tone of pity, sympathy, sadness.
It is those stares and questions I wish to address today.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to be a part of a Deaf family.
I am hearing, and I am grateful for my hearing. My husband is Deaf. I am grateful for him, just the way he is! I have four children: two boys, two girls; one hearing and three deaf, all amazing.
I love that Deaf isn’t a disability in our world, it’s merely a part of who we are.
I love that we can sign with our mouths full and from across a large room. I love that we can have private conversations in the middle of a room full of hearing people. I love that we are a part of a rich culture that continues to mold and change over time. I love the Deaf jokes, the stories, the richness of ASL. I love exploring my own skill in ASL as I read books and tell stories to the children.
I love how my hearing son started signing at age 6 months. His education, language, and personality has been developed by being bilingual. His ASL has grown by leaps and bounds this year. He supports his siblings in amazing ways and is a great big brother.
I love all of my children’s expressions, their stories, poems and ‘songs.’ I love that they feel free to develop their language and their many different abilities. In their eyes, there is nothing they cannot do. I love the “We Succeed Because We Can” poster that hangs on their door. They know about other Deaf adults who have succeeded in life, using ASL and their unique talents. Nothing stopped them. Nothing will stop my children.
I love that my children know they are Deaf, and are proud of it. I love that my son is hearing and proud of that.
I love the conversations we have had about identity and who we really are. When you describe yourself, what do you say? The focus has always been on likes, dislikes, abilities and talents and character. When we really get down to it, hearing and deaf… doesn’t really matter. The concern of, “He’s Deaf and I’m hearing,” melts away when you focus on who we are inside.
We ARE people.
We ARE AMAZING.
All of us.
We are put together on Earth to learn and grow.
I’m grateful for my family.
I’m grateful for the journey.
I’m grateful for our place in the Deaf world.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be the Mother of my amazing children.
I’m grateful each one has a place in my home and in my heart.