Cats meowing and children.
Cats are just silently opening their little furry jowls at me – except when I have my hearing aids in and then they make low meowing sounds that I find quite fantastic but no one else hears the same way – but children, while I can hear the noise they are making, it very rarely makes sense.
I noticed it greatly this weekend – FJM and I met with friends who all had children. There were double figures of children. All under 8. And I personally spoke to none of them.
I realised as we drove home that I've almost stopped attempting to interact with children as they are so hard for me to hear. And this makes me a little bit sad.
It's something I've thought about before. In fact, when Elle magazine ran a competition for a 500-word piece on Relationship Goals, this was what I entered with. It wasn't selected. But that was OK, because what these 500 words do is remind me that the children who are important will be heard by me. Now and in the future.
So here it is:
DG on Relationship Goals
It’s 4pm on a Saturday and I’m surrounded by a gaggle of children (four to be exact) in the country kitchen of one of my best friends. My boyfriend is busy playing catch with the three boys as they chat about Minecraft, spiders and farts. At least that’s what I think they are talking about, because I can’t hear them. My nine-year-old goddaughter is quizzing me on whether I’ll let her design my wedding dress. I am not engaged. I’m hoping my boyfriend can’t hear her.
But in truth I can’t really hear her either. And it’s not because she has a lisp or talks fast. It’s not even because she looks down to fiddle with her loom band bracelet or that the conversation bounces from one unpredictable subject to another. It’s because I am deaf.
Having lived with my disability for much of my life, I don’t often feel sad about it anymore. I’ve learnt to get by with lipreading, clear explanations to others about my needs and an almost bullish determination to get what I want. When it comes to relationships, it takes me longer to form them. I can’t get to know people easily in a group setting. My best friendships are formed over dinners for two, chats with coffee and cake, FaceTime and text messages. This works very well in the adult world. But with children it’s different. You can tell them you don’t hear. But expecting them to understand what that means is quite a tall order.
When I look at my nine-year-old goddaughter I am filled with terror that I am missing out on getting to know her, that I could be a better godmother and that my deafness is causing me to miss out.
This weekend was no different. Watching my boyfriend effortlessly interact and seeing the kids chase after our car when we left yelling how much they loved him, I felt both a pang of pride for him and heartache for me.
With children you get back what you put in. So I just have to find different ways of interacting with my goddaughter, of getting to know her. This includes giving her an old phone of mine that works over wifi, so I can ‘What’s App’ her and say hello at no expense to her mum. That way she can keep me updated about her world and then the next time I see her I’ll have the right questions and a better ability to follow her quirky, intelligent train of thought.
I know as she gets older, so her understanding of my deafness will get better. But I want to make sure that the promise I made, to be there for her always is honoured. I want to make sure she can talk to me about anything. But most importantly, I want her to remember that just because I don’t always hear her, doesn’t mean I’m not listening. And certainly doesn’t mean I don’t care.
Happy Monday peeps