Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not Rising Up.

The Mad Science show was held in a function room of the hotel.  Thirty or so children sitting on the floor at the front of the room, thirty or so parents in folding chairs behind them.

The Mad Scientist is a little big magician, little bit comedian, and huge bit science smartypants.  He is geekily excited to engage this group of children in some fun learning about air pressure. His table is filled with balloons and tubes and beakers.

He has the children's attention and lays down the ground rules;  only speak if you raise your hand and are called upon, only touch his stuff if permission has been given, only post attractive pictures of him on Facebook.

Owen is unsure, but I coax him and Bea onto the floor where they sit amongst all the other kids.

The show starts.  The kids behave beautifully, raising hands and keeping their mouths shut.

The parents relax into their chairs, sipping from Red Solo cups, ready to enjoy some kid free conversation.

Bea raises her hand, and doesn't get called.  Owen turns back to me;

*Can't hear man.*

Because the noise of the adults is making it impossible to hear the man.  He's sitting there, right in front of him, but can't understand his words.

So.  I calmly get up and walk to the front of the room.  I whisper to the Mad Scientist and he gives me the floor.  I get every one's attention;

"You may not be aware, but there is a child here who is Deaf and wears hearing aids."

Owen stands up and proudly waves to the room.

"He would very much like to enjoy the show as your children are.  He would like to know what your children are laughing at.  He would love to learn what your children are learning.  But he can't.  He can't hear this incredibly smart and funny man's voice over all of your loud voices.  So if you could please cease all conversation, that would be greatly appreciated."

Of course every adult in the room feels like a jackass, apologizes to myself and Owen, and keeps perfectly silent for the remainder of the show.

No.  That didn't happen.  I'm not That Mommy.

After Owen complains a few times that he can't understand, and before we both start crying, we leave the Mad Scientist show and head for the pool.

The pool isn't very big, there is an illegal amount of children in it, and every table surrounding it is filled with chattering, Red Solo cup toting parents.

I'm the only parent in the pool, playing with Bea in the shallow end and trying to keep an eye on Owen who is all over the place.

I panic when I can't see him for a second.  I can't call to him if I need to redirect him.  Kids constantly bump into him and scare the crap out of him as he can't hear them coming. A few kids talk to him but he just stares at them, shrugs his shoulders and swims away.

So.  I leave the pool, whisper to the lifeguard who gives her whistle a hearty blow, and I have the attention of the room;

"You may not be aware, but there is a Deaf child in the pool.  Without his hearing aids, he cannot hear a thing.  I've noticed some of your children try to play with him which makes me very happy.  But since he cannot hear your children, I'm going to teach you all a few signs that will make this pool experience a much better one for my son"

Every eye is on me as I demonstrate the signs for swim, ball, play, jump, friend, boy, girl, your turn, my turn, help, and the alphabet for finger spelling purposes.

Every hand practices until the signs are perfected and the remainder of Owen's pool time is spent laughing, splashing and horsing around with new friends who are eager to learn his language.

Nah.  That didn't happen.  I stay with Bea, keeping an eagle eye on Owen.  Kids stare at us as we sign to each other. Parents stare at us.  Nobody talks to us.

Owen has a great time.  Or at least he thinks he does.  Swimming is his favorite.

Part of me wishes I could be that Mommy.  But the realistic part of me knows.  Even if I could be that Mommy?  I couldn't force the world to rise up and meet Owen, to tap him on the shoulder and flash him an I Love You hand.

The world is too busy, too big.

So.  The best I can do, is to join him in his world, and welcome in those who are willing.  His world may never as big, and it will be surely be more quiet, but so long as it is a happy one, we'll be OK.


  1. Gah. I say you could have been THAT mommy during the science guy but then again I totally see how you couldn't be.

    It's funny, the only real sign language I know is the alphabet and I'm teaching the kids now. Basic language skills, wether Sign or Spanish just seems like something I can give them to help them be more ready to meet people and communicate.

  2. At least you WANT to be that mommy.That's more than a lot of us can say.

  3. I would totally be that mommy for you. Especially in the science magic show. Yes, it's a big world out there, but when you're sequestered in a room with a finite number of people, the world suddenly gets a lot smaller. Usurp the norm.

  4. Oh, boy. This got me today.

    I just want to say that people suck most of the time. And, I'm just sorry that we do.


  5. You do your best.

    And remember, he turns off those hearing aids when he has had enough of you all chattering away. Maybe he preferred the silence of it all.

    Or maybe he would punch me in the face for suggesting that.

    Either way, I've got your mommy back.

  6. yup, i bet you have had plenty of fantasies about being that mom. but you are probably making the right call and handling things well since owen is HAPPY. and that is what matters most!

    i almost got into it with someone the other day. i flashed her looks that said SHUT THE FUCK UP, but of course she was oblivious to them. i had time to think of all sorts of things i could say to her, but i stopped myself. sometimes we live in an annoying world, and it is hard to take on every problem that confronts us. i guess "choose your battles" is a decent way to live. at least some of the time. :)

  7. I know he knows you do your best in a world that is ignorant most of the time to those around us. I wish for your sanity you could be that mommy.

    PS do you by chance watch Private Practice? this woman on there was preggo with twins & having an ultrasound and one of them was diagnosed with a Diaphragmatic Hernia & I immediately thought of Owen.

    pps I totally went to your "what" page & looked up how to spell it right cause I didn't want to look like an ass and misspell it :)

  8. Ha! If I lived near you I would totally be "that" friend, that surrogate mommy who yells at everybody for you. 'Cause I do that. I do that at work all the time. Only gets me in trouble once in a while.
    But that's okay. I honestly don't care! :)

  9. I was ready to stand up and cheer for you when I thought you were really making that speech at the science show! Can you ever sign for him to translate what he's watching? We have a huge deaf community where I live, so there are tons of events with interpreters.

  10. What would Owen rather you do? I bet your instincts are right on most of the time, and yeah, happy trumps righteous, even if it would feel good to educate (or smack) some folks. Wait: never mind about the smack. Best practices and all.

  11. I seem to be doing a lot of sighing today.

    Big sigh.

    Carry on.

  12. Oh, I could totally see you being "that mom," and I could totally see Owen having some sort of breakdown at being singled out.

  13. Ironic that I sit here reading the blog of the mother of a deaf child, having just finished reading the blog of a sign language interpreter. Sigh. I'm glad Owen ended up having fun in the pool.

    And for the record, I was ready to applaud about the science guy - I was completely believing you! I still applaud that you have the thoughts to do it :)

  14. I think it's wonderful that you have thoughts of being "that" mommy. And even if you aren't "that" mommy, you sound like a wonderful mommy, which is all that matters anyway.

  15. I say be that mommy anytime. A lot of people just need information to be able to engage. Wonderful post!

  16. With all that love you have for your son, there's no doubt in my mind that you two will come through this with grace and empowerment.

    We cannot do for others, but we sure can be loving support!

    Bravo, beautiful mom!

  17. it's good to always have "that mommy" in your back pocket -- your intuition will tell you when you need to whip it out. sounds like you handled this beautifully, even though it didn't go entirely the way you planned. i get a lot of inspiration out of your mama-ing.

  18. This was so beautifully written. So glad to have clicked over from Julie Gardner's tweet about this post. I often feel the same way when it comes to my daughter (who has Autism), but I do exactly what you do because the world is so big and there are so many times we'd have to explain, ask, convince people to get it. *Faceplant* Anyhow, just wanted you to know another mom is cheering you on and gets it.

  19. Oh, Tulp.

    ANother arrow straight to the heart.

    You are something else.

  20. I was following along fully engrossed in the belief that you had gotten up and asked all of the parents to be silent.
    I thought it was perfectly acceptable.
    Maybe because I would do it for my child and would applaud you for doing it for yours!!
    I would stand right beside you!

  21. This makes me want to stand up. I have hearing issues myself and that kind of noise would make it hard for ME-- but for a child who can't make it out at all? At the same time, I can kind of see why it would be hard to stand up in the first room...and perhaps impossible to do it at the pool. I think you will know when "that Mom" is necessary. And she will be, just as you are, amazing.

    Thanks for following me, by the way-- did you read this one?

  22. i'm sure you're just the mommy that Owen needs!

    P.S. - It is my first time reading your post... came over here by way of If the Lampshade Fits because I liked the title "bad words". Wonderful, honest post.

    check out Momastery ( when you get a chance. It is a wonderful community of Mommies, Daddies and everyone else, supporting each other as they do hard things.

    Sister on!


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