Growing up with deaf parents.

Growing up with deaf parents is a funny thing.

I’m thankful sometimes that my parents can’t hear us when we siblings squabble or scold each other with bad words. But on the flip side, there is a sense of loss knowing that we can’t just chat or talk to our parents on the phone, or that they don’t know how loud they snore sometimes. The convenience of shouting across the living room to talk to your parents is also lost. We have never even held a Singlish conversation together before. What is Singlish? They won’t really know. My parents also can’t understand what accents, tones, or slangs sound like. All races would therefore “sound” the same to them - deafness equalises everyone in that sense.

Growing up with deaf parents is a frustrating thing.

Yup, I’m being honest here. There will definitely be frustration on both sides. From my parents’ point of view, they long to connect with us and to ask about our day. But we siblings always end up talking to each other over the dinner table. We forget that our parents can’t hear our stories. They watch our faces as we talk animatedly to each other, wondering what on earth is making us roar out in laughter.

They miss out, and this can be in so many ways. Deafness isolates a person from the rest of the world; and unless the rest of the world engage them, they are shut out. It slips my mind sometimes when we leave our parents out of the conversation, but the lesson here is that if you love your parents, show them love in their own way. If you have deaf friends or relatives, talk to them. Engage with them not like they are 'conversation-burdens' but as normal human beings.

From our point of view, it’s frustrating to always explain what the TV or salesman is going on about, or when they don’t hear the doorbell. There was once when we even went so far as to climb the balcony to get our parents’ attention by waving a swimming noodle outside their window when they've locked their room door.

My parents have been loving us in the best they can. When my sister and I were young girls, our mother bought us a piano. I remember distinctly one day when I was playing the song “titanic” on it, and my mother told me it sounded beautiful. I hadn’t really realised that she couldn’t have heard a thing, but it meant so much to me. I was six when I asked her silly things like if she knew the famous songs “Mary had a little lamb” or “Twinkle, Twinkle little star”. She would’ve loved to listen to all these tunes, and to music. During an interview at the Singapore Deaf Association, an interviewer asked my mother: "If you can hear any one thing in this world, what would you like to hear?" My mother replied, “My children’s voices.” <3

There are so many little things and quirks that my siblings and I have gone through together with our parents - most of them humbling, some patience-rearing and some downright frustrating. If you ask me though, I wouldn’t change anything about my parents while growing up. It’s been such a beautiful journey, albeit painful and frustrating sometimes, but that is also what makes us appreciate them so much - their never-give up attitude as parents and as individuals.

They really are the best pair of parents - never lazy, always ready to listen to us, to spend family time, cooking our favourite meals, giving us gifts. I can’t imagine life without them, not one bit. I love my mommy and daddy very much.
Grace Phua