My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex.
They say being deaf makes the eyesight better, but I had no idea what that meant until I took American Sign Language classes. Not hearing doesn’t improve the quality of a person’s eyesight – no one is going to from 20/200 (being able to only read the giant “E” at the top of an eye chart) to 20/20 because they are deafened. “Having better eyesight” simply means the brain works faster with visual stimulation. Take, for instance, the alphabet. Say it out loud as fast as you can possibly say it, and then consider a native signer can fingerspell it as fast as you can say it, and the average Deaf person can understand every letter as well as someone who hears can understand your speaking of it. Mindboggling, isn’t it? I used to come home from my three-hour classes once a week exhausted like I’ve never been exhausted before, and just because of the level of concentration required.
A to Z in ASL
What this means for me as a parent is that Alex doesn’t miss much. Even as a toddler, he was far more observant than the average kid. His attention to detail was such that, even before he knew what the letters of the alphabet were, he could match seventy-odd black VHS tapes by the labels together with their covers. It also means that he can easily pick up on facial cues.
Alex watches the show Ellen every day. He loves the way she dances and often mimics it. Sexy hip-grinding stuff? He’s on it. He’s also the size of a six-year-old, even though he’s fifteen, so he looks very cute doing it. This makes it very difficult for me to tell him to stop dancing like that in public. No matter what I sign, (stop, that’s rude, etc.) there’s a part of me that finds it funny. It’s easy for him to ignore what I’m saying with my hands, when the slightest twitch of an eyebrow tells him that he’s amusing me.
Believe me, you never want your teenagers to be able to read your mind. Mine can.