No, I’m not going to inflict Depeche Mode on you. It’s tempting, though. I remember it as being a damn good song, and I’m sure I could find a clip on YouTube somewhere…
Even so, that’s not what this post is about.
I was somewhat bemused today to pick up little man Bas (nine years old now) from school, to find him gesturing with perfect clarity and shared meaning to a teacher as he waved goodbye. All fine in principle, except that the gestures didn’t resemble Sign-Supported English (SSE) in any way, let alone BSL. I kept my distance, curious, as they exchanged hand-flurries, and waited for him to bound up to me before voicing my “what the hell was that about?” bewilderment in slightly more warm and maternal tones than might be apparent in this blog.
Here’s the thing… I’m only now learning to sign, and I’m still shit at it.
I’m learning sign language online gradually (for free and at limited speed), because although I’ve become increasingly deaf within the profound bracket for some time now, it’s only been in the last few months that my left ear has become useless through infections, making me fear that my stronger right ear might go the same way. So, to get ahead of the worst case scenario, I’ve been doing an online course in SSE, which is good enough for me to pass on enough useful signs to Bas for us to engage in mutually acceptable pre-school communications:
- I want toast
- cereal, please
- I can’t find my shoes
- seriously, where are my bloody shoes?
- Why are you asking ME where your shoes are, you shoe-deserting berk?
- what’s for lunch?
- I think what you mean is, ‘Mummy, please could you help me pack my lunch?’
- What do you mean you don’t have Peperami?
- But I LOVE Marmite
- If we don’t have Peperami/Marmite, then you can’t have it! Stop raging and pick something else!
- Just popping for a pee, join you in the car…
By now, my son has some grasp of situational signing, but he’s hardly a hardened signer, and he won’t be one until I’ve found a British Sign Language (BSL) course which is both affordable and taught at a time and in a place which makes family engagement possible.
Anyway, I seem to have veered off on a tangent…
My point is this: I’m slightly terrified of other parents thinking, courtesy of Bas’ wild improvisational SSE, that we use BSL at home as a matter of course. It’s been put about by friendly mums that I’m profoundly deaf (so that people email, rather than try to call me), but there are quite a few people who still assume that profound deafness = fluent, native BSL signing. It’s almost like I’m letting the side down by still speaking. The curious looks, as I continue to largely rely on lipreading, make me feel paranoid and hemmed in at times.
Anyway, today, Bas sustained his peculiar silence until we’d left the school gates, and then explained, with no gaps between his words, “I did a sponsored silence today and raised loads and loads! It was fab! Everyone was in on it! I mean, I might have accidentally spoken a couple of times, but I don’t think anyone held it against me.”
I frowned, trying to remember if a sponsored silence event had been mentioned. I really had a good memory dig, and came up blank. I’m pretty good at school events, so this one had me scratching my head.
“Sponsored silence? Since when?”
“Oh, I mentioned it this morning as a possibility for cancer research, and my tutor signed up immediately. Said he’d put a tenner in, and set up an online page, and that he’d tell the other teachers that I was trying to keep quiet all day for a good cause.”
“Hmmmm,” I said, suppressing my unmotherly instinct that his teacher had leapt onto a rare opportunity to teach a class uninterrupted. I could picture the teachers in a huddle, agreeing on the principle of the sponsorship feat in a heartbeat, but squabbling over the most noble cause.
I love my son to the ends of the earth. I do. He’s a kind-hearted, bright lad with lots of ideas. He has innumerable human qualities, but sustained periods of quiet reflection aren’t generally within his comfort zone. Offering an opinion on anything that moves is generally more his forte.
“He was really helpful, because I was allowed to stay silent ALL DAY,” Bas added keenly, skipping alongside me on the pavement.
I grinned cheerfully on the basis that a day of impromptu silence and fundraising couldn’t really raise any harm. “So,” I ventured, anticipating a nice quiet drive without repeatedly reminding him that I could only talk and lipread at the traffic lights (or in jams), “how about another tenner to remain silent until the England Match?”
“God no,” he spluttered, rolling his eyes as he made a sharp right turn towards the sweetie shop. “Today was a killer. Tell you what, give me a tenner, and we’ll sponsor Harry’s silence tomorrow.”
I just smiled as he got stuck into the noisy business of trying to negotiate sweets as well as funds for a small slushie.
I’ll cough up for Harry’s silence when I see a sponsorship form, and not before!