Matt Dixon: Ten things everyone should know about being a child of deaf parents

Posted on December 13, 2014

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My name is Matt Dixon and I’m the grown-up child of deaf parents. My parents, my brother and sister are all deaf and use sign language – I’m hearing and can talk but my first language was sign language. My first word, which I signed, was orange. So I had deaf parents. Here’s ten essential things to know about it.

1. I felt physical pain. 

Sore heels and hands. Why? From stamping and banging on the floor so hard to get your parent’s attention.

2. There’s somebody at the door … Who doesn’t know what to do.  

If you have deaf parents, when the door goes, its always for you, even if its not. When door-to-door salesmen turned up, desperate for a sale, they would still give the sales pitch even though my dad was looking at them with a blank expression pointing to his ear and mouthing ‘dddeeeaaaaffff’.

3. You think its OK to rudely interrupt people’s conversations 

Children of deaf adults end up thinking that its fine to interrupt people when they’re talking.  Deaf people just wave and cut right in and so do their kids. Many children of deaf parents never learn that it’s rude to int… Oh don’t worry, please go right ahead with what you wanted to say, you over-animated child of deaf people!

4. Thinking when the phone rings … ‘You get the phone Dad because it’s probably for you. No, actually, I’ll get it, because it’ll never stop ringing otherwise.’ 

I remember not wanting to answer my parent’s home phone simply because I just knew it’s going to be yet another customer service advisor on the other end who can’t comprehend that my parents are deaf. ‘No, you can’t speak to Dad to confirm his name and date of birth, he can’t hear you.’ (for the 1,456th time).

5. Sitting in your bedroom and saying ‘what now!?’ through gritted teeth

Hearing kids always do the running around the house. When the parents call their name, the hearing child has to get off their backside and go and see what the deaf parent wants. No shouting back. There is no way around it. It’s the equivalent of the Lord of the Manor ringing a bell. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ my parents would say to me on seeing how annoyed I was after making me run downstairs for the 10th time that day.

6. Being privy to secret breaking wind 

Children of deaf adults are the only ones who know for sure who let one go at Deaf Club, except the person who actually did it. So it becomes your little smelly secret. I also heard plenty of Deaf granddads who would pass wind constantly when out and about, and it was always really loud.

7. Remembering that you don’t have to tell people when you go to the toilet. 

Getting up and announcing “I’m going to the toilet” is something we do. Why do we do this? Well, all my family do it so I thought it was normal. For some reason they always feel the need to announce the fact they are off for a number one or two. I think it’s because deaf people need to let other deaf people know that nothing actually happened to cause them to get up and leave the room. Like the doorbell or an air raid siren.

8. Trying and failing to sneakily mis-interpret your teacher at parent’s evening 

The teacher’s negative report about me never quite got conveyed at parent’s evening. I remember one of my secondary school teachers saying that my grades were below average. So I translated ‘Matthew is doing well.’ My Dad smiled and reminded me that he could lip read! #fail.

9. Wondering why your parents seriously overdid the buffet at parties 

I was often embarrassed by my deaf dad and granddad at the buffet table. Why? For some reason deaf people love free food and pile it up like a mountain! I remember looking at my Dad’s plate once and I gave him a shocked look. His reply was. ‘It’s Free!!’. I think it has more to do with minimising the amount of time standing about with one hand out of action holding a flimsy plate. Only making one trip is sensible because buffet time is an awkward time to have a conversation for deaf people. Figure it out.

10. What? Santa isn’t deaf? 

I had my vision of Father Christmas smashed to pieces because I thought he was deaf, while all my hearing friends in primary school insisted he was hearing. Why did I think that? Well, because all the Santas at the Deaf Club Christmas parties were deaf (and could sign, of course). Ho Ho Ho! Or H-O H-O H-O as it was in sign language. Happy days!

By Matt Dixon. 

You can follow Matt on Twitter @foreverbsl

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