In the first 3 months of raising a child who is deaf, I’ve heard my fair share of unsolicited parenting advice, and although well-meaning, the comments can be both ignorant and hurtful. There have been times when I have had to practice self-control and kindness because I’m tempted to lash out at times.
Some comments come from complete strangers, while others come from family and friends. Instead of saying anything I’d probably later regret, I use it as an educational tool to educate and take initiative to learn more about the deaf community and how to communicate it back to those around me.
I have found, and accepted, that most of the hurtful comments tend to come from family or close friends. Although I do wholeheartedly believe people mean well and are not trying to be hurtful, it begins to feel demoralizing and overwhelming. It becomes this way because we’re still navigating through this very new-to-us season, so we naturally do not have all of the answers. We’re still learning ourselves.
Here are some of the things myself, and I’m sure I can speak for others who have a child with a hearing disability, do not want to hear:
- “God gives special children to special parents” That’s a nice thing to say, but lets remember that we are ordinary people. Doing whatever is necessary to help our child is not what “special” people do, it’s what we do as parents.
- “I’m sorry” This is said with good intentions, but it suggests that the disability is bad. We didn’t get the “short end of the stick” or “less of a child”. Our child is a child first and foremost and their disability doesn’t and will not ever define them. Our son is loved beyond measure, and we will celebrate him regardless of his hearing disability.
- “But he looks normal!” Some disabilities are invisible, and when a parent hears this comment is suggests to them that the doctor who diagnosed their child with a certain disability is incompetent and misdiagnosed them.
- “He’ll grow out of it” Trust me, that is certainly what we’re praying for but after 6 failed hearing tests, we’re being realistic. It’s hurtful to hear this, and we’ve accepted that this might be permanent. Our son might never regain his hearing, but there are medical devices that potentially can help him hear, so we have that hope.
- “Have you tried____” or “You should/shouldn’t do _____” We have done all that we can do at this point. He’s had an MRI, met with an ENT specialist, we’ve tried chiropractic, had several hearing tests and recently got a second opinion from Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. He has been fitted for hearing aids, though they may not work at all, we’re still trying. We are being as proactive as possible. We’ve had people tell us not to do something and then we’ve had people tell us to do this or that, but I think it’s important to understand that we’re looking into everything and considering our options. We don’t have all of the answers, but rest assured, we’re doing our research every step of the way.
- “I don’t know how you do it!” I love my child, so we do what we have to do, no questions asked. My son is not unlovable and the fact that he is deaf doesn’t change a thing.
- “It could be worse!” Just because someone has more challenges doesn’t mean ours are not valid. Raising a deaf child is terrifying, and I’m so worried about failing. Our son was sick when he was born and his hearing may have been destroyed due to medication. We know that without the medication, our son might not be here, but he is deaf now because of it. It sucks. Period. So, yes, we know it could be worse, but this fact doesn’t make it easier.
- “Didn’t you know before birth?” How could we have known? Of course we didn’t know, but it wouldn’t have changed a thing had we known he was deaf. He wasn’t born deaf, and our son was in NICU and on some pretty strong medication that we’re being told might have taken away his hearing. Refraining from asking this question, especially because it’s hard to truly know what he went through unless you’re family or a close family friend, would be advised.
- “God only gives us what we can handle” Although I agree with this, it still is a tough pill to swallow. We dealt with years of infertility before we had our children, we had a miscarriage, then our youngest son was born and was almost immediately put into NICU with a pneumonia. Following his stay in NICU, he lost his hearing. We’ve been through a lot as a family, and although we’re “handling” it, it doesn’t make it any easier.
- “How do you feel about it?” Of course I’m terrified and fearful of what’s to come. I’m sad. I’m angry, and I feel horrible for my little boy, but I have to be strong. I’m going to do whatever I can to give my son as much of a normal life as possible without hesitation.
What comments or questions have you heard or been asked that have been hurtful? How do you handle them?