FEARS ARE EDUCATED INTO US, AND CAN, IF WE WISH, BE EDUCATED OUT.” KARL A. MENNINGER
Evidently some words are for sale. Or at least a few I recently learned. “Deaf” “Deaf Education” “ASL” and “dDeaf”. WTAF?!✌🏼
Last night I watched the movie CODA for the third time. The familial conflicts and the hurt and distrustful feelings expressed throughout cut close to the bone. Really close. Every time I watch a movie or a show like CODA I can relate and I find myself longing to step inside their world to expand my own family’s world. This time when I watched CODA I tried to focus more closely on the brother’s character, the actual words, and the sibling rivalry and the overall relationship.
CODA is getting a lot of attention. As it should. The actual lived experience of families like ours may seem exotic to most people. We are quite naturally misplaced into a “standard Deaf” cultural box. Believe me I know. I have lived experience now raising a child born deaf so that means I have a deaf heart. The truth is that the question I dread is the one I am asked most frequently. “How do you sign _____?” I actually have a trauma response to this question. Please God (7SF1s) make it stop for the love of OZShalom and peace in our lifetime.
The truth is that I myself have been saddled with the responsibility of being a resource for all things deaf related for almost two decades now. Much like Ruby who is the CODA character in the film, this is because I am a MODA in real life and it is quite apparently a commandment. I must do this job…or else. I suspect this label MODA that I’ve given myself will piss some people off. It’s unavoidable, so let’s see how that acronym flies out in the world. MODA = Mother of a Deaf Adult. Please understand that I am trying really hard (as I have been for several years) ONLY to relate my OWN experience and perspective, especially when it comes to the big D. I am only human. So here’s my take.
When I became a mother to a deaf baby I was automatically thrust into a no win situation. Damned if I do ____. Damned if I don’t ____. It’s been a horror show, quite frankly. AND I SAY FUCK THIS. 🖕🏼✌🏼⚕️The politics in the Deaf Elite circle (and this includes the Cued Speech community) are FEARSOME and FEARFUL and FIERCE. It is awful to be thrown into a culture war that I have no interest in. The truth is that I feel very confident that I made SOLID decisions based on our family’s circumstances and the support and information I had at the time. The ONLY decision I now regret is the cochlear implantation at such a young age. It wasn’t necessary and I sincerely wish I would have been counseled to take more time to consider the cochlear implantation when my deaf baby was not even three years old. We could have been supported to commit fully to learning how to communicate more effectively and inclusively as a FAMILY. I needed much more counseling and personal experience before making that decision and I do regret that I didn’t have enough of those BUT looking back the professional recommendations and a PERVASIVE AUDIST world that overvalues hearing privelege heavily weighed against me and my deaf baby on that one decision. I can say now that at the time it really seemed like a no brainer. Now I know much more through my OWN lived experience. I can also say that my child who is now a young adult has assured me and even thanked me for giving them all of the opportunities I could, including the cochlear implants (which I’ve had to fight medicaid like a laywer/mom for recently). All of that said, I wish now is that I would have waited on the implant. Waited until there was more information about my child’s development. I wish I would have trusted my own instinct to just stay the course and keep learning and using English and ASL and Cued Speech and written words and and and and.
I am a good mother. I am an inclusive person. These things I preach. In fact, I have been labeled EVANGELICAL about linguistic freedom and inclusion. I ACCEPT this label because it feels true. I fulling understand that hearing is an unnecessary privilege. It’s the whole world’s FUCKED UP views that is the problem. That’s how I see things anyway.
Last night after watching CODA again I was recalling my own babies. One born deaf. Two who were not. My twins were learning ASL before we even knew we were in the deaf part of the world. My kids were being raised almost singlehandedly by me. I was their first and full time teacher. When we weren’t making our usual rounds to storytime at the library or bookstore, swimming, playing at the playground and gardens, reading and singing, doing puzzles and traveling around with friends and family, we were watching Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, and SIGNING TIME videos. Truth. I have frequently credited SIGNING TIME videos created by another mom just like me with not only teaching us some ASL, but with also inspiring my children to learn to read. By the time we were labeled as a deaf family, the twins were both already fingerspelling and using and making up their own signs with each other. Neither child was speaking and both were happy. And then when I began cueing fluently the whole world opened up wider because now they could both understand what their own mother was saying. At the same exact time. Naturally. Only one without access to the actual sound of my voice. Cueing came easily to me and I still think it’s brilliant. I also think signing is brilliant. Both are ingrained into our family culture. It is the way in which we communicate whether our deaf family member is present or absent. The truth is I think and dream in visual language and I have raised three children who cue and sign at different levels. Two who are native cuers. One deaf. One not. Many of the people we know who are deaf are cuers and signers. It’s our community. https://stuckinmybra.com/2021/07/12/its-called-cued-speech/
I’m in Houston, Texas today sitting down outside the central library at a public reflecting pool resting and gathering my thoughts. My twins are now nearly twenty years old and are separated and both far away from home right now. The truth is I am grieving their rough childhood and our damaged family life. The truth is I am disappointed in the world and I am disappointed in myself because I couldn’t keep them safe from life. I have failed at my primary objective, which is to keep my children safe. I wish I would have known how hostile it would really be when I had my babies. I’m also not sure that it matters how much I knew. It only matters that people are hostile. That’s the problem.
Much gratitude to a sweet and spiritual man named Larry who sensed my pain and stopped to pray for me right as I was photographing this tree. I loved that. A perfect stranger stopping to focus his prayers on me. Now I am off to daycation by myself before I head back home to my youngest and my husband who I love dearly. I have a beautiful fractured but loveable little family.
My one last thought is that I hope that my kids love and care about and will be able to support each other to grow and stay connected in love. That’s what I saw on that screen watching the movie. CODA portrayed a rough life for a good little protective and isolated family. And I hope that film will change the world for the better. Tangibly. Not fleetingly. We certainly need it.
In Peace (1M3s)✌🏼⚕️Revolution.
MODA (People seem to love acronyms)