No, You Come Here
by Tina Blue
March 27, 2004
My daughter was visiting me here in Kansas last week. She is in medical school in Washington, D.C., but it was her spring break (and mine), so we were able to see each other for the first time in almost a year.
Neither of my children has ever been exactly great about accommodating my hearing impairment. Most people with hearing loss will admit that it's close friends and family who are often the most careless about that.
But my experience has been that no matter how good or bad someone is about adjusting his speaking habits to my hearing needs, if that person is away from me for any significant amount of time, he will forget how to talk to me.
Even my best friend Michael, who is so thoughtful that I don't even have to wear my hearing aids when talking to him, has to readjust to my handicap when he has been away for more than a few days. When he went to Japan for 2 ½ weeks in January 2003, he came back all soft-voiced and forgetful. It took a couple of days for him to remember how to help me hear.
One of the things family members do that friends usually don't--and that is only because we don't usually live with our friends--is start conversations from another room. My ex-husband used to do that. "Tina!" he would call from somewhere else in the house--almost always upstairs when I was down or downstairs when I was up. And then he would expect me to drop whatever I was doing and hasten to wherever he was calling from.
I finally decided that it was a power play. His reason for calling me was almost never important, and he never once stopped what he was doing to come and talk to me. Once I decided that, I quit coming at his call. Whenever he would call, I would call back, "You know I can't hear you from there. Come here if you need to talk to me!"
Interestingly enough, he never needed to talk to me enough to come to where I was. I don't think it is surprising that he is my
Children are always engaged in a power struggle with their parents, no matter how loving the relationship is otherwise. One way my kids would try to control me when they were children was to call to me, just as their father had done, and expect me to drop what I was doing and run to hear what they were saying. If we were in the same room, they would turn away or walk around as they spoke, or they would cover their lips somehow, so that I was always in the position of having to ask them (usually more than once) to repeat what they had said.
In other words, they not only had my full attention, but in a sense had me "begging" for theirs. What child would not relish having that sort of power over a parent?
It took a bit longer for me to realize how I was buying into this nonsense with them than it did with their father. After all, they were my children, and we do tend to bend over backwards to accommodate our children--until and unless we see that they are manipulating us.
Finally, when they were about 9 and 10 years old, I told them that from then on, I would not respond to them if they started talking to me from another room, or with their backs to me (or my back to them), or with their mouths covered. They knew I was severely hearing impaired, and if they wanted to talk to me, they needed to talk to me, not at me.
They had their lapses, plenty of them, but on the whole my ultimatum had the desired effect. For the most part, they spoke to me in a way that made it possible for me to understand them.
But my kids love to travel. Both of them did not one but two study-abroad semesters as undergraduates, and in both cases, by the time they came home they had forgotten how to speak to me.
I retrained them and all was fine. But now both of them are in school on the other side of the country. My son Michael is getting his MSM in business from the University of Florida, and my daughter Becky is finishing up her first year of medical school at Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. From now on, I am likely to see them only for occasional short visits. That means that most of the time they will be rapidly unlearning the skills needed to talk to a nearly deaf (and getting deafer) mother.
I am pretty self-assertive, and I don't hesitate to remind people of how they must speak to help me understand. So when I was working in the bedroom on the computer last week and I heard Becky calling from the living room, I called back, very firmly, "Becky, if you want to speak to me, come in here. You know I can't understand when you talk to me from another room!"
And then Becky politely came to the bedroom door and said, "Mom, I know that. I wasn't talking to you--I was calling over to your neighbor!"