Monday, 10 September 2012

Where is he?

One problem we have is sometimes locating Harry.  As we can’t hear his movements, we don’t have a clue where he is.  Time is spent scouring the house calling out his name.  Sometimes he appears, other times he hides thinking it’s a game and grinning widely when he is found by exasperated parents.

However, one time, my wife Jane was vacuuming in the front room.  Harry loves watching the vacuum cleaner, in fact he is infatuated by the machine and will spend much time clambering over it and generally acquainting himself with its surface and dimensions.  Jane stopped the cleaner to talk to me.  Whilst we were talking, there was a growing awareness that Harry was missing his favourite activity.  We began to wonder where he was.  We shouted his name and looked.  The more detailed rummage through the house both upstairs and downstairs and in the garden drew a blank.  It was close to that time where puzzlement starts turning into anxiety and concern.

Then, with the search at a more heightened pitch back in the front room, I looked through the window that connects the front room with the hallway leading to the outside.  I instantly spied a head bobbing up and down in a frenzied manner.  We opened the door and a sweaty, hysterical little boy fell into his Mum’s arms sobbing with a mixture of relief and frustration.  It turned out that Harry had gone into the front hallway area, and then closed the door on himself.  Unfortunately at the time he didn’t have enough strength in his hands and arms to open the door again independently.

I can’t imagine what was going through his mind when he heard us moving around but without responding to his frantic screaming and pleadings for us to open the door.  Jane thinks he was locked in there for just five minutes, but we honestly don’t know how long it was for.  I’m just pleased that he’s too young to remember that little incident and that he quickly settled down after much cuddling and soothing from his parents.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Yes Please

Harry has finally got around to stringing two words together verbally.  His first was “Yes please” which he enunciates with much face pulling and expression.  He refuses to say any more, which is typical of his independent streak.  This is despite much encouragement and suggestions of other pairings with the “yes” word.  I have a grudging admiration for his free thinking though, as he knows what he is supposed to be doing but has decided to perform it at a pace of his own choosing.  At least he is going to be a polite little boy.

Green Eyed Monster

I thought I’d kick off this blog and discuss an issue that isn’t talked about much in the Deaf community.  The fact is that jealousy from hearing siblings towards their Deaf brothers or sisters has a really big impact on family relationships.  It seems that some hearing people resent the extra “attention” that their Deaf siblings receive from their parents, this animosity can carry into adulthood and wreak havoc on the kinship structure.

This subject was triggered by a friend who visited recently.  Somehow the topic turned to the dynamics within family structures for Deaf people and their hearing relatives.  Bear in mind that the majority of Deaf are born to people in hearing families and normally never meet any other Deaf people within their family structure.  Our friend told us all sorts of upsetting stories about the treatment that was meted out to her by her siblings.  She had been kept in the dark about family events like parties and not invited until the last moment to important milestones such as a baptism.  Because of the different communication needs of Deaf people, it is really easy to cut them off from what is going on.  Just make a few phone calls rather than using text based communication or social media and you’ve just exercised your power to exclude your sibling from a family event.  This is exactly what happened to our friend, who only found out about one social event as it was mentioned on Face Book.

From a Deaf person’s perspective, the jealousy over the extra attention is really unfair.  We didn’t choose to be Deaf.  The extra support was absolutely essential, in order to compensate for all the barriers that are thrown our way by a hearing world.  And what our parents were doing was absolutely right and we are grateful for their support.

Many years ago, I worked with a wonderful CODA, who was brought up by Deaf parents in Wales during the 1940’s.  He would regale me with these wonderfully textured stories of his upbringing that embraced his parents’ Deafness.  One story he told me was about how he would greet his hearing uncle with a cheery “hello” on the street, only to be completely ignored.  Being a stubborn person, he persisted in acknowledging his uncle, despite the lack of response.  When he was much older, another uncle explained to him that the lack of response was because the hearing uncle resented the extra attention that the CODA’s father had received as a child because he was Deaf. 

We have a similar experience, in that there is a sibling who talks really quickly on purpose at family gatherings, even though it is really obvious that we can’t follow what is being said.  That is just one small example for us personally, but I think I’ve spent sufficient time making the point.

So what has this got to do with being a Deaf Dad?  Well, this toxic soup of resentment and envy from siblings has a direct impact on young Harry’s relationship with his wider family.  He fortunately doesn’t understand that his cousin wasn’t able to attend his second birthday because of a “dispute” that was directly motivated by the green eyed monster.  He also missed his cousin’s party, because apparently he was “too young” to attend the function that was organised.  His cousin doesn’t seem to have been told of our hearing disability and becomes confused when we make any reference to it.  It saddens me that the resentment by some adult siblings towards us within the family networks spills over and affects Harry’s relationship with his cousins and also wider family.  And in the future, I am not sure how I will explain the situation to Harry if he becomes aware that the conduct of family members towards him and us is somehow not quite right and starts asking some difficult questions.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


I'm a Deaf dad with a two year old hearing son.  I wish to remain anonymous and Harry is not my son's real name.  This way, I can blog in a more honest style without worrying about what other people think.

Before Harry came along I worried incessantly about being a father.  I think a lot of dads-to-be fret about the added responsibility and wonder how their lives will be changed when they have a child to look after and bring up.

I actually hoped that our first one would be a girl and was amazed when it turned out to be a boy.  The moment I saw Harry as a new born I know that everything would be OK.  He would fall asleep on my chest for hours as a baby, with his wee legs tucked up under his chest.  This dad to son contact really helped us bond during the first few months. Both Mum and I knew that Harry would be hearing, as he would kick in Mum's womb if he heard a loud noise

Harry is now two and I just couldn't imagine life without him.  One thing that I now understand is that parenthood is universal.  Harry doesn't perceive me thought the prism (or should that be prison?) of my deafness like many hearing people, instead he accepts me as his father.  That is both liberating and also in a funny way quite terrifying.

What I am going to do in this blog is describe how I cope with being a Deaf father attempting to raise my hearing son.  My role is very different from most fathers, as I have to raise Harry to become a fully participating member of the hearing world that he will one day join as an independent adult.  Most parents bring up their children to embrace their culture or key aspects of what is important to them.  In my case, I am in a minority group and have to raise my son to be part of a community that I can never join, the hearing community.

I prefer to communicate with Harry via oral speech, same as his Mum.  I do know sign language and sometimes use sign with Harry.  The only reason we talk to Harry is that speech was our first language.  Even though I am oral Deaf, I still strongly identify as being in a minority group with its own language and culture. 

Harry is what is called a Child Of A Deaf Adult, or CODA.  Here is a wikipedia link that describes the CODA experience:

It is interesting to see that many CODA's share common experiences about being in between two cultures, even if the household they grew up in was oral or signing.  Harry is part of a special group, hearing yet with Deaf parents.

I hope you enjoy the stories to come.