Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Daughter, My Deafness

"You can't be deaf," my 3 year old daughter says into the rearview mirror at a stoplight. "You have to be my mama."
The light turns green and I readjust the mirror so to see the traffic behind me.
My daughter's face disappears, as does her voice. What I want to do is pull over, get out, crawl into the seat next to her carseat and insist that my deafness has nothing to do with whether or not I can "be" her "mama." I don't want the drama though. I don't want to frighten her. At the very least I don't want her to think she can drop bombs like that and get me to pull over every time.
"I am your mama. Nothing changes that."

The conversation began because I was practicing my signing at the stoplight. She asked, "Are you signing?" Then she started waving her arms in the air, "I'm signing, too." As we pull onto the Interstate I tell her that once we both can sign it won't matter if I can't hear everything. I tell her that this is why it's important to practice. In my mind, I'm signing this.

As we drive home, in the far corner of my eye, I see her little hands making words in the air. Her words. It is the same as the gibberish she first spoke when as a baby she realized mouths are important for more than nursing and crying. This is sign language baby talk, and I encourage it just as I encouraged her early attempts at speech.

In my heart, I'm breaking a little. I'm feeling the urgency of establishing her trust that I'll always hear her in one way or another. It's also trust in myself that I'm trying to establish. She knows I love her. She'll always know that.

"I'm deaf too," she says when we get home, her hands moving the air between us. She then asks, "Why are you deaf?"

Here are the answers to this questions: (I've tried all of them, and each time they form the why-loop toddlers are so good at creating)
"I am deaf because my ears don't hear everything."
"My ears don't hear everything because your great-Poppee was deaf."
"Great Poppee was deaf because his body's ears didn't work."

"I am deaf because God thought I should listen more."

And then we get onto God and then on and on and on.


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