When kids realise

Karli Dettman
I have two sons and a daughter. I want them to be happy and healthy. My husband and I are Deaf but my children are not. I had wondered when they would realise they are different. My eldest son was nine when he began to realise. He told me he felt different at school. But he realised he has things other children do not. He has parents who love him. He has a safe and loving home. He is becoming aware of his identity. I hope he will grow up feeling good about himself.
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Karli Dettman on 19/04/2011
mother and dog sitting on porch watching son fix bicycle

I hope my son will grow up feeling good about himself

I have two sons and a daughter. I want to raise them well so they are happy and healthy. My husband and I are Deaf but my children are not.

I had wondered at what age they would start to "emotionally realise" they are different to their parents. Recently my eldest son began to realise. I want to share what happened when he realised he was different.

The moment

It happened when my eldest son was about nine years old. We were driving home from visiting friends. They are Deaf parents with three hearing children. We have known this family for a long time. We often go camping together.

On the way home my eldest son looked very upset. He was sitting in the back seat of the car with his younger siblings. I asked him if he was OK. He just said that he did not want to leave so early. I explained we needed to come home early as his sister needed her sleep. I wondered whether my son was already missing his friends. He is close to them as they share the same identity as hearing kids of Deaf adults. They share the common experience of using Auslan and experiencing Deaf culture at home.

When we got home, I tucked my daughter into bed. I also gave my sons a warm bowl of lovely vegetable and bean soup. They enjoyed the soup. I think it tasted even better because they ate it in their warm beds. I loved serving and spoiling them.

Feeling emotional

The next morning my eldest was wandering around the house. He looked lost and unhappy. He does not usually like to stay at home. He loves to go out, socialise and remain busy.

I encouraged him to go for a bike ride to get some fresh air. Suddenly he became teary. His lower lip was quivering. He quickly signed to me that he could not control his emotions when he sees me.

Full attention

I could not stop to talk about it at the time. I was still busy doing errands. So I encouraged him to go for a short bike ride. He went for the ride. But it didn't help. At lunchtime I dropped everything and I gave him my full attention.

My son told me that he is busy at school but at home has more time to think about his "issues". I wondered what they were. Then he found his words. He told me he felt different as he has Deaf parents. He said he couldn't pronounce some words as we didn't speak English much at home. He said he often asks his best friend at school how to pronounce some words.

Felt lucky

I nodded and encouraged him to go on. Then he thought about it more. He said he felt lucky to have good parents, a home and school. He said he felt sad that some children did not have good homes or enough food to eat.

After our talk he asked if he could have a cuddle. We held each other for a few minutes. This appeared to clear his head. He played happily for the rest of the day.

Expressing fears

It was important to allow my son to express his fears and worries. And it was important for me to accept his feelings without judging him. I feel this will help him develop a healthy identity. One that has clear values and beliefs that are important to him.

I wondered whether the experience was the turning point for my son accepting his identity as a child of Deaf parents. Or will he have many more similar experiences? Will it be a long, complicated path to discovering more about his identity?

Celebrating difference

I think other factors will also help my son to accept his identity. For example, I have positive relationships with his schoolmates' parents. We can also celebrate the difference in our Deaf culture. We can share Auslan, Deaf jokes and other aspects of Deaf culture. I hope my son will grow up feeling good about himself. I am also hope he will be proud of his Deaf cultural background.


How have your children reacted to difference? Let us know in the comments section below.

Readers comments (1)

I must say I was very impressed and moved by what you wrote. Thank you for directing me to it. Yes, 10 would be about the age when we're able to stand back a bit and look at our own situation and perhaps compare with others. I can understand that before BD was able to articulate what and how he was feeling it was causing him distress but once you and he were able to talk it must've been a great relief. I consider your kids to have the richness of different cultures and they're lucky to have two such intelligent parents. Kids at school can sometimes unthinkingly pick on differences and hurt other kids.

Although it's a different genertion (mid-1950's) and a different context I remember coming home from Catholic primary school when I was about 9 or 10 very very upset. Some idiot adult had told me that as my mother wasn't a Catholic she would go to hell. Can you imagine how upsetting that would be to a child apart from the fact that I very soon also realised that the person was talking rubbish. I always remember Dot's (mum's) answer to me. She said, "A leopard can't change its spots." And as I got older I became much more involved with her church and knew the people there much better than my own church so it all turned out to be rather a lot of nonsense.

It seems to me that many of the world's problems come from the fact that we concentrate on the differences between people (and what we don't like about those differences) and fail to look at the similarities and those things that draw us closer together. I don't know what you think about that? I imagine your website will serve to help other people who find themselves struggling with daily issues that can cause misunderstandings.

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