152MC – A Daughter of Deaf Parents

My name is Charlotte and I have deaf parents. I have two older brothers and one little sister who is hearing. I never thought having deaf parents effected me until I look back on my life right now and compare it to other peoples parents. My parents were born deaf, so therefore I’ve known them to be always deaf. I know the basic words in sign language but I don’t know how to communicate through sign language. In a way thats a good thing because having deaf children helped my parents understand the hearing.

Up until I went to school, the only other kids I hung out with were the kids of my parents’ deaf friends. They, like me, were hearing but their parents were deaf so we were exactly alike. But when I got to Primary school. I was the only one who had deaf parents. So I questioned myself ‘what is wrong with my parents?’  It wasn’t until I got a bit older when I realised just how different my family was and just how hard it was living with deaf parents. When I was younger I didn’t have that much thought about having deaf parents. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I understood my parents and most of the time, they could understand me. I did take advantage of it sometimes. For example, creeping into the kitchen and stealing some food when my Mum was in there. Having my music too loud when i shouldn’t. It was just simple things which my parents didn’t acknowledge. There were times when I had to help my parents. I thought it was normal to help my parents phone banks and solicitors when I was around five years old. I was scared to do something like that because the person on the other end of the phone couldn’t take a little girl talking about bank issues seriously. In some ways it has given me confidence as I kind of brought myself up. I had two older brothers who took the role of my parents most of the time.

As I’ve said, having deaf parents does have benefits. I got to experience another culture than most people never see. Deaf culture is a very vibrant and dynamic entity, mostly because their language is always changing and new words are always being invented. The culture is hugely varied and very complex. From the power of deaf poetry and performance art, to the little known cult of promiscuity that exists, and to the major deaf organizations in every town. Also, like I said before, I was granted privy to many adult things long before I needed to know about them. I understood how to set up a bank account and why I needed to start saving early and planning for retirement and even how to buy a house. I knew all of this at age 14 and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Having deaf parents gave me an unique skill set that looks great on a resume! It’s also made me more tolerant. But for the most part, I’d have to say it forced me to grow up a lot quicker than our peers. Being dragged everywhere your parents went so that you could interpret for them (everything from doctor’s appointments etc. ) tends to have that effect. I was learning how to spell appendectomy long before I mastered the word house. We were part of very grownup things and witnessed all those painfully boring things adults do behind closed doors that most people never see until they’re in college. It’s definitely prepared me for the paperwork that is involved with adulthood. It’s a blessing and a curse.There are some funny aspects of having deaf parents. I used to get sore feet from stamping the floor to get my parents attention. I used to get so annoyed when my parents come in my room and walk out again without shutting the door properly (typical teenage issue) and there wasn’t any point in shouting at my mum to close the door behind her. Whenever there was a sales call the conversation would go something like this,

Salesman – Hello can I speak to a Mr or Mrs Hare

Me – Their deaf so they can’t speak on the phone, can I take a message?

Then the salesman would hang up.

I remember not wanting to answer my parent’s home phone simply because I just knew it’s going to be yet another customer service advisor on the other end who can’t comprehend that my parents are deaf. ‘No, you can’t speak to Dad to confirm his name and date of birth, he can’t hear you.’ (for the 1,456th time). My brothers and I always used to laugh when one of my parents would ‘let one go’ because my parents wouldn’t say anything because they’d thing that their smelly secret was a quiet one, but in fact we could all hear it! I used to think Father Christmas was deaf, because whenever I went to Deaf Club Christmas Parties, Santa was always deaf. Of course, Ho Ho Ho was in sign language. Happy days!

When I got into my teenage years, my parents deafness got on my nerves! My friends would try and talk to my parents as if they were hearing. My friends didn’t understand that if my Mum was not looking into their face, she couldn’t hear them. So sometimes my parents would come off as rude! This is very common when we went shopping. When my Mum and I would walk into a shop, a shop assistant would say to my Mum, Do you need any help? Of course my mum wouldn’t take any notice because she simply couldn’t hear the woman. So I always have to reassure the shop assistant that my Mum isn’t being rude, she’s just deaf. When I say to people that I have deaf parents, they automatically assume that I know sign language. Which I don’t. In a way, this upsets me. If my parents were French or Italian, would I know how to speak their language? Sign language is my parents first language. Is it not right of me to not know my parents first language. I almost feel selfish that I don’t know how to communicate with them properly.

Being a 18 year old now, I am very proud of my parents and where they are now. Although my parent aren’t the same to other peoples, they still provided me with everything I needed! I would never say that having deaf parents is embarrassing. Yes, when my parents talk to each other in public, they do get stared at by people who have never seen deaf people communicate before. But I wouldn’t change my parents for the world!