Birthday Blues: Deaf and Hearing Parents Unite (sort of)

If you’re a deaf adult with hearing kids, sooner or later you develop a new set of survival skills. While the kids themselves are a joy, the hearing world they straddle can sometimes put you in an awkward situation.

Nothing defines “awkward” more than the birthday parties hosted by my kids’ hearing classmates and their families. Every week, someone’s having a birthday. And every week, I’m standing there lost in a sea of chattering parents.

If I’m lucky, I might know some of the parents well enough to pull off a one-to-one conversation. But I can only do this for so long. Eventually, I get back to my job as Human Wallflower.

Fortunately, I’ve come up with some creative ways to make it through these parties. Feel free to use any of these strategies if you need them:

• A week before the party, cease all forms of personal hygiene. Don’t shower, don’t shave, don’t change underwear, and don’t use deodorant. At the party no one will come close enough to even think of starting an awkward conversation.

• Adjust the sound setting on your pager to “Klaxon.” Have a friend page you five minutes into the party. After everyone jumps, say “Oops, excuse me—gotta run!” Drive to nearest bookstore and enjoy a nice magazine. Return to the party just in time for the last ten minutes.

• Ask someone where the restroom is. Head for the bathroom and spend 40 minutes reading the sports scores on your pager. When you return, make a comment about the chili dip and irritable bowel syndrome.

Okay, so I’ve gone overboard. But guess what happened when it was my turn to host a birthday party, a party attended by several other deaf parents?

Yes, some of the hearing parents felt awkward. I totally understood. Most of them said a polite hello, dropped their kids off, and returned at the end of the party. Others bravely stuck around and got to know the “other world” my CODAs live in. We all tried our best, but…

Predictably, deaf parents wound up on one side of the room and hearing parents on the other. As for the kids? They didn’t care. All that mattered was having fun. I think grown-ups should learn from this. Twister, anyone?

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