Conquest of the Back Seats

by Bewildered CODA
(Ohio, United States of America)

Last week, Farah and I went out on a trip. A long trip, in the family mini van. A long trip, in the family mini van, with the kids. A long trip in the family mini van, with the kids, without any mind numbing video entertainment for the blessings in the back seats.

It started out easy enough. Farah was driving and I was riding shot gun...that is, I was riding in the passenger seat, locked and loaded for the inevitable behavior melt down from the back seats. I was tense with anticipation of the moment when all civilized behavior evaporated, calling forth the blinding flash grenade of fatherly discipline as I move in to dispel the sibling riot.

It is a scientifically proven fact, from the moment the starter engages the engine, meshes gears and the family mini van begins to move, it is only a matter of preciously short time before the idle minds of children will mesh brain gears and engage their hands in all kinds of unimaginable destruction and annoyance in the back seats. ( Einstein wrote one of his most famous theoretical physics papers on this phenomenon of this exact Relativity. I kid you not.) Many a family outing has been smashed on the rocks of sibling riotousness and rivalry when left unchecked. I for one, was not prepared to permit this from happening.

Then it started...

 "Ah Dad, Jaden is back here touching me. Tell him to stop.", came the first shot of sibling war from my little Amazon Princess. Her voice carried that tone that only females can manage to produce and make grown men break out in a cold sweat. (Oh how I envied Jaden at that moment. Deafness was never a more pure blessing then at the moment Kisha used that tone.)

For those of you who haven't been raised with deaf parents, or spent much time in the deaf community, front to back seat conversation isn't a comfortable experience, let alone front to back seat discipline an effective parenting technique. ( Let me tell you, both deaf and CODA children learn early that the heavy sword  of parental discipline is greatly blunted from the front seat to the back, when parents cannot readily assume the  proper obedience demanding stance. Its a sad sight to see a parent break down and weep from the loss of total parental dictatorial power.) 

Suppose you only turn your hear to look at a passenger in the back seat, getting one eye fully focused on the person, while the other eye is struggling to find a focal point. No child can resist breaking out in uncontrolled laughter when they see their father looking like a chameleon, eyes all wonky, looking in all different directions. Let me tell you, this just plays havoc with your stereoscopic vision.( I won't even get into the serious muscle strain caused to your back and neck, or the fact half of your buttocks instantly falls sleep from this position. No, somethings are better left unsaid.)

There are those who try to have a conversation in signs with someone seated in the rear seats though the mirror on the underside of the visor. I don't think this works well. Just stop and think a moment, all things look backwards in a mirror. That causes all kinds of misunderstanding with signs. Why I remember very well a signed conversation gone bad from the mirror problem. The signer kept finger spelling "live" and the person looking at the signer through the mirror kept thinking he finger spelled "evil". What a linguistically mess that was.

No, the full body shift is the only way to talk to a deafie in the back seat. It is an illegal way to sit in the front seat in 49 states, seeing how you have to unbuckle yourself to do it. ( I'm sure none of the people who wrote those laws were deaf or a CODA. If they were, they would have known better.)

Let me take a moment to say that I am a strong believer in brevity, therefore, let me just explain that all signed conversations from this point forward have been interpreted for the signing impaired. Now back to the blog.

Shifting my body so as to see Jaden, I give him one of my Dad looks. ( A dad look is a look that can stop paint in mid drip, not to mention stop children in mid misbehavior. Freezing all bodily movements in the exact space they were when the gaze of the Dad look fell upon them.) In my briliance I said, "Why are you touching your sister? Stop touching her."

"What?...Who touched her?", he said with a mock look of astonishment.

Mustering my most authoritative facial expression, "You Jaden, you touched her and I want it stopped now."

As an incredulous smile slowly crept across his face, Jaden said, "Stop what?"

"Stop touching her", I signed with both eyebrows raised and eyes popping.

"Stop touching who?", he said as he looked around quizzically.

You know how some people have a vein that pops out on their foreheads when they get excited? That's what happened to me when I signed, "Stop touching Kisha!"

After I had spatially/gesturally/visually sparred with Jaden in signs for ten minutes,   Kisha had had enough bouncing her head back and forth between Jaden and I and said, "Yeah, stop!  Don't touch me. (Brushing off her sleeve as if some dirt were there.)  I don't like to be touched by boys...boys don't wash and smell funny!" In an attempt to add a visual exclamation point to her last statement, Kisha stuck out her tongue at Jaden.

Unknown to me, since I was facing the two cherubs in the back seats, and getting absolutely car sick, Farah was watching us through the rear view mirror the whole time. Quietly, with one eye brow raised, taking in all that was going on. (Deaf mothers have this way of knowing whats going on at all times. Doesn't make any difference if they are paying any attention to whats happening around them or not. I have seen Farah, freshly awaken from a deep nap, way up in our bedroom, come down stairs, go out into the back yard where the kids and I have been for half the day without her, and comment that what we had been doing. How does she do that?! How did she have any idea what we were doing? Some how she did know and told us so. Personally, I believe it is sub sonic, misbehaving vibes that deaf mothers are acutely atone too. The thought right now makes me go all goosebumply!)

"Father, I strenuously lodge a formal protest and urgently insist that she be made to stop extending her muscular articulation appendage at me. It is exceptionally unbecoming in a young lady ...if I DARE use the term 'lady' in association with Kisha", countered Jaden, sarcasm and contempt dripping off every sign. (What? Oh, you don't understand the interpretation "muscular articulation appendage"...that means her tongue. Hey people! I'm just interpreting what he said.) 

"He said I'm not...(Kisha's eyes widened tearfully)... I'm not...(Lower lip started to quiver)... I'm not...( Chest began heaving)... a LADY!", and with that Kisha let loose a wail I thought would shatter all the van's windows let alone my ear drums.

Round and round we went. Kisha wailed, Jaden not comprehending what had happened to who, and all the while I was bouncing between speaking and signing. Speaking to Kisha in my best consoling Dad voice, only to have Jaden tap me and question how he was to understand who was touching whom, if I didn't sign? Turning to Jaden and starting to sign what could only be a lost Abbott and Costello skit concerning who touched whom, led Kisha to break forth with renewed wailing. On and on, over and over, speaking then signing, signing then speaking, the entire violent cycle kept repeating,  till it all suddenly stopped!

Snapping around, all I see is the fleeting remnant of a coolly constructed, yet highly effective, short sign made by Farah. With just one quick sign, she silenced what to me had been an unending round of uncontrollable adolescent shenanigans. (Once again I ask you, how do deaf mothers do that?!) Turning back to the kids, I saw what can only be described as total submission and obedience...something I had never seen in my children before. Never had my Dadness invoked such instant respect and fear. Nay, this instant silence and behaving can only come from the hands of a deaf mother.

I just sat for the rest of the trip in deep in awe and perplexity. I was awed by my wife's sheer power over, and total command of, the unruly back seats. Perplexed with the effortless manner in which she wheeled such unthinkable power and yet never did a single hair move on her head as she let forth unparalleled authority. (Mind you, I sat up straight for the rest of the drive. I wasn't having what she just did unleashed on the kids turned upon me. I saw what she did to the kids and she never even touched them, let alone look directly at them.)    

Believe you me, deaf mothers are the most powerful beings on this Earth. No doubt about it.

(Ok all you deafies and CODAs, I know finger spelled words don't look backwards in a mirror, but the NERDAs don't know that, so don't tell them. Let's just keep it our little joke on them, ok? ( What? What's a NERDA? Oh, that's short for "Not Even Related to a Deaf Adult"...NERDA. Hey, if they are going to label me CODA, "Child Of Deaf Adults", why can't I name hearing people NERDA's? Yeah, I like it too.) Now remember, don't tell the NERDA's our joke about finger spelling in mirrors.)

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