Wednesday, January 30

Did I Hear You Correctly?

I am naive. I admit it. I did not think that we would have to deal with ignorant people so early in Drew's life. I knew the time would come with others would look at him differently, but I thought the days of teasing and such would come in elementary and middle school.

On Saturday our friends called to see if we would join them for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Drew's Dad was working, but I happily agreed. I love the opportunity to get out of the house when I'm watching the kids by myself.

We were seated right away and immediately waited on. The waiter instantly noticed Drew's "different" ears. Instead of asking politely or not mentioning them at all, he said, "What's wrong with his ears?" Now, that wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't said in the tone in which he said it. Having four impressionable children sitting at the table with me, I could not tell him what I really wanted to say, so I just said, "He is deaf. This helps him hear." We all restrained ourselves well, but I know my friends were equally as mad as me. Oh, if only I could have told him what I was really thinking. I wonder if he liked his tip?

Then, later that night I found myself in another uncomfortable situation. We attended the wedding of some friends from college. It was great to see Drew's Dads' fraternity brothers that we had not seen in years! We enjoyed catching up with friends from Denver, San Diego, Chicago and New York. It's hard to keep in touch with everyone these days. Many of our friends did not even know that Drew was born with profound hearing loss, so I found myself explaining our situation on more than one occasion.

I was telling a couple of our friends all about Drew's hearing loss and it's cause (Connexin 26) when I was once again confronted with an ignorant, and that is being nice, person. A friend of a friend was listening in on our conversation. I was explaining all about Drew's cochlear implants and our friends were fascinated by the technology and how well Drew is doing. Just as I was explaining that Drew's Dad and I carry a recessive gene for hearing loss the friend of a friend says, while turning his ear to the conversation, "What's that, I can't hear you. I'm deaf."

It took every ounce of me not to punch him in the face. I looked at him and said, "I find your comment to be very, and I mean very, offensive." Then I turned and tried to continue my conversation with true friends, but I was unable to even remember what I was talking about. He made everyone completely uncomfortable and ruined and otherwise enjoyable conversation.

I understand that there are ignorant people in the world. I am used to being stared at in the grocery store, at Lowe's and at Target. It really doesn't bother me, and I enjoy the times when people will actually ask me about Drew. I enjoy telling people how blessed we are that Drew can hear. But I have a hard time with arrogant, ignorant people and their asinine comments.


Yana said...

Yes, it hurts. I wish we didn't have to deal with such people and comments.

I especially hate the impatient question "What are you? Deaf?"

MB said...

Unreal! What a jerk. Luckily I have not encountered anyone like that yet. A few old ladies who pitied us but no jerks.

Next time just say, "Well he may be deaf but he can learn to talk. You will always be an a$$!"

I appreciate when people talk to us and ask rather than just staring. The more shy ones will say something very loudly to their child like "Look, that little girl has hearing aids just like your Uncle Tim." It's obvious they are testing the waters to see if I want to talk about it, which we always do.

If only adults could be curious like children without being jerks about it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, unbelievable! I admire your self-control and don't know how I would've responded to those people. The world is full of such folks, if only there were a handbook on how to deal with them.

Laurie said...

Oh boy. . .why do we have to work so hard to "educate" people? I'm sorry this happened to you. I'm so used to it that I just let it roll off my back. But, sometimes I can feel the heat rising up in my cheeks and all the old insecurities returning.

I learned early on that if I don't let my hearing loss bother me, it doesn't "bother" other people either.

I'm so proud of you for being so graceful! You are an excellent role model for the children watching you and it will pay off. I promise!

leahlefler said...

The world is full of idiots. I don't know how I would have handled the waiter- I'm still (and probably always will be) really protective over Nolan and his comment would have made me want to sock him (though I probably would have just been polite and cried later). I'm glad I haven't run into anything like that yet. I've had people pull their kids away from Nolan once they realize he has hearing aids, and that hurts enough.

Jennifer said...

I've had to deal with jerks, too. As an adult, it's OK...I can accept the fact that they're just rude or that they don't know any's not about me...this is THEIR character flaws.
However, for my child...I'd wanna smack those jerks. Children have their own insecurities without other people adding to it!! I don't see how you held have my admiration!!

Abbie said...

It does hurt when you have to hear comments that are made by people that come across in uncivilized way. Most of the time I find it to be a result of a personality trait that they possess, nothing to do with us. I use to be really sensitive but I learned to kill with kindness and it usually works but I have ran into a few that purely clueless.

Anonymous said...

Years ago there was a t-shirt that said, "I'm not deaf, I'm just ignoring you." If I were making one today, I would say "I am deaf and I AM IGNORING you."

I lost my hearing twice; first as an infant and then again in my 20s. After the first loss, I became profoundly deaf and wore the strongest hearing aids made on the market. The subsequent loss took what remaining speech comprehension I had and today I hear with a cochlear implant. It's amazing how much more I hear with the implant but it's still not normal hearing in the sense that hearing people hear. For me -- I can't remember much different other than a sense of needing people to slow down a bit more on the telephone.

Keep the faith and keep working with the children. Learning to speak is both a cognitive and muscular activity. If speech is not done early enough, there is no going back to fix things. However, learning to sign can be done at any age and I learned to sign in my 20s as a way of dealing with my second loss. All in all, if I didn't speak, I would not have been able to attend the schools (all hearing) that I did nor graduate law school when I did. Thanks Mom and Dad!