Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Built-In Personal Interpreter

Patooties Photography

My VP (my phone; videophone) had been out of commission for a week and half. I had to go through a hassle of customer service in order to obtain a technican to come to my house to correct the issue I had with my VP. The technician, I'll call him R, was really nice. I really liked him. He was personable, warm, and put me at ease for having a stranger in my home. He spoke about his grandchildren, and inquired about Forrest. We talked about children learning sign language because of their Deaf parents. It was a good conversation. I enjoyed it. Then it came to a screeching halt. 

"It is nice to have CODA (children of Deaf Adults) that can sign fairly well because then you can rely on them to interpret for you anytime." He said.

Mentally, I went like this while I had a smile plastered on my face:

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Um. No. No. Nope.

I have always been a very firm believer that kids should remain kids. Parents are there to take care of them. Not them taking care of their parents. Just because I happen to "speak" a different language does not mean my child, especially that he is a bilingual, should automatically become my build-in interpreter.

I internally cringe when a parent rely on their CODA child to interpret what is happening at the doctor's office, in the public at a store, or relaying the information what other adult is attempting to tell Deaf parent. There is a likelihood that the kid will mistranslate, change words, or even completely drop what is being said. I am reminded by this Youtube video of a famous CODA brothers; one of them accompanied their Deaf parent to a customer service, and his Deaf parent was angry. The Deaf parent was all up in the air, signing furiously, and commenting less than kind things to the representative behind the desk. The kid knew exactly what his parent was saying, and simply said, "Oh, he is saying that you have a really nice tie".

It is a funny story. I do get a chuckle out of that. It is to show a glimpse in a hearing child's life with a Deaf parent. Trust me, CODAs have plenty of funny stories to share about their childhoods. I am sure that Forrest will end up having several by the time he is an adult.

However, my child is not my personal interpreter. And he will never be.

I have seen, among my Deaf friends with hearing children, several situations where adults have tried to talk directly to their children with a hope that they will interpret for their Deaf parents, and thankfully, my friends did not take that. They were able to bluntly tell the hearing person that it was not acceptable to use their children as their interpreter. If they had something to say then write on a piece of a paper, or wait for an interpreter to arrive, or find a way to communicate without using the child. I applauded them for that.

Sometimes, bless their heart, the kid will pipe up rather excitedly, and be like, "hey mama or daddy, he is trying to say--", and only to be interrupted by their Deaf parent with a reminder not to worry about what the hearing person has been saying all along. They will take care of that themselves. The kid learned that oh, okay I am not responsible for my parent, and go on their way of being a kid.

Those two situations are very common. It is not only found among Deaf people, but also of those foreign parents with children that can speak English. I am not here to judge the foreign parents. They have their own lives, therefore their own decisions with whatever they wish to do. However, when it comes to Deaf culture; Uh-uh, not cool. I find that I am tempted to strangle some Deaf parents for allowing their children to become their interpreters. Not so cool, I tell you. It prompts that belief among Hearing people that we Deaf people are helpless, and have no ability to be able to direct ourselves in a conversation with a hearing person through finding alternatives if a professional sign language interpreter is not present.

It also teaches our CODA children that they are the bridge between Deaf and Hearing worlds. They are blessed with a privilege of being in both worlds that many Hearing people are not automatically privileged to. Most hearing people have to work at it by becoming our ally, and prove their worth of our trust to become a member of the Deaf world. CODAs are already born into this. Lastly, it is a sign of disrespect to the Deaf parent when a hearing person ignores him/her then communicates through a little child to translate for his parent.

I am not the one to shy away from situations. I demand respect. For a person to ignore me entirely or hope that Forrest will interpret for me is just rude. It places a huge burden on my child to become my "provider". I don't tolerate that. I am his mother. Therefore, I take care of him. It is my job. It is NOT his job to take care of me. I find it selfish if I expect that from him.  I may be crucified for this, and I am okay with that. So yes, I find it selfish of certain Deaf parents to expect that from their children. It's a form of pure laziness. Oh, I don't feel like going through a hassle of trying to tell the hearing person that I need a piece of paper. I'll just ask my kid to interpret for me. Again, No. Not acceptable.

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It really does boil my blood when I see Deaf parents take advantage of their children like that. You are giving rest of us a bad name. You are causing an extra work for me to educate Hearing people NOT to do that. Thankyouverymuch! 

It also boils my blood when hearing people try to do that to our CODA children. You are preserving the belief that Deaf people are unable to stand their own. You are also being extremely disrespectful to us as people when you do this. Of course, I am not going to snap my fingers, sway my hip, and be like UH UH no. I'll be firm, and kind at the same time to explain why it is not cool. If you don't get it then sure, I'll go all that on you. My child is not someone you can mess around with, period. 

I'll take this as #3,057 on the list of pet peeves in the book of Ashley's Pet Peeves, and that is that.