Saturday, December 26, 2009

Silent Night

I love Christmas. It is the one time every year when the entire family on my husband's side commits to be together. This can also present challenges for us. My son sees his grandparents often even though they live almost three hours away. My kids are the only grandchildren so they get lots of attention. When he was very little they took ASL classes and even though they are not fluent they can communicate and were taught about Deaf culture. His aunts and uncles don't sign so here lies the challenge.

When my son was first identified I did tons of research and discovered many deaf kids of hearing families didn't fully enjoy family gatherings. Families would leave the deaf child in the dark about conversations. Maybe the whole table would be laughing and when the child inquired about why the family for many reasons wouldn't clarify. We just couldn't accept this.

I read about different ways people approached this. One family hired an interpreter. This just didn't seem like something that would make the gathering natural and comfortable for my son. So we decided to always invite Deaf people. That is what happened for most of his life until a couple of years ago. Now it is just family but we have found a balance so he is always included.

Every Christmas my husband and I, as much as we can, interpret everything that is said at the party. Even if he is not in the conversation I sign. that way if he looks over he can decide if he wants to join in. Sim com is not easy for me so it can be a bit exhausting.

This year my son learned how to play the guitar,

For the first time in many years I didn't host Christmas Eve. My husband's sister has a new house and new boyfriend so she offered to host. This gave me the option to relax and enjoy! We were all so excited and on the way over my son kept asking how many more minutes until we would arrive.

So everyone arrived and the party started. My kids were antsy to open presents and soon my son was bored. This is where I figure out that of course he is bored, not because he is deaf but because he is twelve. I remember being bored at that age. So he settles on the sofa to text his friends. Turns out they are all bored too (they are also all hearing).

He then decides to join the family in conversation. After awhile six people start talking about a cake someone brought and the bakery it came from. Soon all six people were talking at the same time and I was a mess trying to keep up and sort it all out for my son. He was asking questions which of course were a beat behind. So I just told them to stop so I could catch him up and please slow down and take turns talking. For the most part everyone knows to do this but sometimes they forget.

After that he plays WII with his sister. This gave my brain a break form trying to communicate in two languages. After that for the rest of the night my husband and I took turns interpreting. Everyone was having a great time. He was involved.

My son had discovered a room full of guitars. We were talking with the new boyfriend and my son mentioned that when he had to pick an instrument at school for music he wanted the guitar. I asked the boyfriend to teach him a bit. We sat him on the amp and he learned how to play a scale. It was the most natural thing in the world. He can't hear a thing but he does feel music. I was standing there watching him concentrate. He looks like a surfer kid, he is the kind of kid that wears flip flops in the winter. He doesn't look deaf. By that I mean a stranger looking at this scene wouldn't guess he couldn't hear the sounds he was generating. He was having a great time and told me he is excited to take music at school. This is a good example of why I never assume he can't do something. He may get bored with the idea later but that will be his decision not ours. I can't begin to understand why he likes music and dance but I can encourage him to explore anything the world presents.

So the funniest part of the night was the ride home. We stooped at a store in a kinda creepy area. My husband ran in to get something and I locked the doors of the car from the inside. When he came back I unlocked the door for him and the alarm went off. It was so loud people came outside and stared. We couldn't concentrate and tried starting the car and flipping switches. My son tried to tell us he knew what to do but my husband was so flustered he wasn't paying attention. Nothing was working and we didn't have the set of keys with the remote buttons so we decided in a chaotic fashion to drive home and get the keys. The noise had rendered us useless. As we backed out my son again offered to help. We parked he got out and grabbed the keys. He calmly told us to lock the doors again. He put the key in the door and unlocked them. Duh.


  1. I have a feeling that music is as innate to the human brain as language is, and that just as a deaf person has full ability in language, so too with music, whether they receive through the visual mode and/or the tactile, vibrational mode. One woman I know is pre-ligually deaf who is also a folk fiddler, and even plays conserts and the like. She can feel the vibrations of the notes through her collarbone/chin.

  2. How hard you and your hudsband work to keep him involved is truly wonderful.
    I never thought about this situation before, understanding when you are with the family. No one signs but me (barely), and I usually don't bother listening in to 'adult' talk for I find it rather boring. But when I do, I follow along pretty well but do miss things. They will somethimes fill me in, or they will ignore me if it becomes to frequent. I never gave it much thought before...
    What you are doing is such a great way of supporting and helping him. Kudos to you guys!

  3. Kristi I love your blog. You are a gifted writer! My son does get bored sometimes but he also doesn't want us to decide what he sees. Thanks for the kind words. CapriUni, thanks for the insight. I think you are right.

  4. How do you deal with the extended family not signing? Emotionally, I mean. This was one of got our hardest parts. It profoundly hurt me that our family didn't learn much ASL. I gave them videos, signed them up for classes, had our Deaf mentor come to their homes...EVERYTHING! But they never got further than about 50 basic signs.

    Thatis one major plus to her being able to communicate in spoken English now. She is able to spend more time with her extended family, because they can all communicate well. She did fine before, she would gesture or draw pictures, but now I feel much more comfortable. (She is spending 3 days out of town with Nana right now and that would have NEVER happened if she was still only ASL)

    But it still makes me angry, because I feel like the CI has given them an out. Now they don't "have to" learn because she can hear and speak. But, what would they have done if she couldn't???

  5. That is a great question we all think about. My response is long so I am going to write a post about it. Thanks!