JimFormation · I’ve Been Thinking …


The father of one of my 4-year-old’s friends is deaf. I’ve seen him at several functions and spent time with him at a birthday party today.
Even though we share little more than a friendly smile and a knowing nod, I find the man to be engaging. I pay attention to him and wonder what he [...]

Posted
26 October 2008

Loud and Clear

The father of one of my 4-year-old’s friends is deaf. I’ve seen him at several functions and spent time with him at a birthday party today.

Even though we share little more than a friendly smile and a knowing nod, I find the man to be engaging. I pay attention to him and wonder what he does to make it in a world that is so full of sound. I was surprised by something I realized and a little sad that I haven’t quite pulled it off in my life.

He and his daughter, mutually, were always in visual awareness of one another. She knew dad was watching her, not just babysitting or “watching out for her”, but visually aware of her at all times — absorbed by her; similarly she was visually aware of him. They shot constant glances and reassuring smiles at one another. They are in each others moment. It’s not like if she needed him, she could call to get his attention by calling his name. Ditto for him to her (even if he can make noise, it probably isn’t instinctive for him to use it to get someone’s attention).

And when they talked (in sign language), they were also in each others moment. For those of us who can hear, conversation is often distracted and disjointed — attention is taken away by television or by haste or the ringing telephone, all sorts of things. There seems to be no room for that when you are conversing using sign language–you have to stay there, in the moment, and pay attention. These two have that in spades. And, you know what, I was a little jealous of it.

They were also very physical with each other. There was a lot of touching — it’s how they got each other’s attention or directed the other to see something. And when they laughed, they would touch the other’s face or shoulder. They often talk close, sometimes touching the other’s hand gently in the middle of a signing stream as if to say, “I know” or “You don’t have to say anymore.” I was a little jealous of that too.

Maybe I don’t give people (particularly my children) enough of my undivided, visual attention. Maybe I don’t touch my children enough.

When I came home from the party I looked up how to say, “Hello. My name is Jim.” in American Sign Language. It’s pretty easy.

The next time I see my deaf friend, I’m going to touch him on the shoulder to get his attention. And then I will tell him my name.

I’m looking forward to his company.

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3 Comments

Posted by
Jim
25 October 2008 @ 9pm

No, thank you for leaving your comment, Jim. It’s appreciated. I too have 3 kids, but I spread them out: 17, 11, and 4. Two boys and a girl. The last one snuck up on us.


Posted by
Jim
26 October 2008 @ 2am

That’s beautiful! As a father of 3 girls, aged between 4 and 8, it certainly makes me think about how I interact with them. Your description of how your deaf friend and his daughter are with eachother… Thank you.


Posted by
BWG
26 October 2008 @ 6am

Excellent story, and it reminds me of how frustrated I become when I speak to someone who can hear and my words go in one ear and out the other.

Being listened to is more important than being heard.


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