In our home, you never quite know what to expect from my son…Like Sunday morning after watching movies, I made the bed and asked him to please clean his mess off the floor. His response, an aggressively loud “I’m first parking my bike…”
I really didn’t understand why the sudden change in his demeanour. The one minute everything is okay, and the next he’s shouting at me?
Me: “Why are you shouting at me? All I’m asking is that you clean up this mess”
Kai: Aggressively loud shouting voice “I know. I’m just parking my bike first”
Me: “No need to shout at me Kai. Why you getting so upset?”
Kai: Throwing his bike to the ground, arms folded in front of his chest, he looks me in the eyes “I’m not shouting mom! Remember, I’M DEAF!”
Me: “Excuse me, what did you just say?”
Kai: “I’M DEAF!” Pointing to his ears, I noticed that he is not wearing his hearing aids.
Me: “Hey, don’t you ever use your hearing loss as an excuse for NOT listening to me! If you don’t hear me then you say excuse me mommy, but don’t you use it as an excuse, ever!”
Kai: “I NEVER SAID I DIDN’T HEAR YOU! SOMETIMES I JUST CAN’T HEAR IF MY VOICE IS LOUD OR SOFT. OKAY!”
This stopped me in my tracks! My son was telling me something that I never gave much thought to. How loud/soft does his voice sound to him? How many times have I not mistaken his inability to judge the loudness of his voice for rude behaviour? How many times have I not been at fault…
I savoured the moment. His assertiveness. For the first time he was giving me information about his hearing without any probing from me. Standing in front of me, my assertive 7 year old, advocating for himself and voicing his challenges!
My son, using the term deaf with such conviction, was very new to me. You see he has a hearing impairment (mild/moderate), he is not classified as deaf…but understands that most people ‘get it’ when you use the word deaf.
I picked him up, held him ever so tight, and thanked him for sharing this with me. I told him how proud I am of him advocating for himself, very proud! Then I reassured him that I will let him know when he is using his “shouting voice”. I apologized for not knowing…I apologized for my ignorance…
My first assumption was that he was using his hearing impairment as an excuse to NOT listen to me, even though I knew he heard me. Unbeknown, he struggles with knowing whether his voice is too loud or too soft when he’s not wearing his hearing aids.
I really should know better. I’ve lived with my dad’s deafness for more than two decades. When unaided my dad speaks very loudly and sternly, he may even sound rude to those who don’t know him well. And if his voice is not loud then it is inaudible! Unaided, my dad can’t hear me at all…whereas Kai can still hear me, providing that there is not much noise or distance between us.
Later, I shared this epiphany with my dad and Kai just said “mom, you won’t understand”. My dad looked at him and they smiled at each other, the kind of smile that says “only we will understand”.