I have spoken a lot before about the fears that rocketed to the front of my brain the moment Will was diagnosed. And about how, mostly they have been unfounded.
He was recently on the BBC, with his friends from school, talking about how to behave around deaf people in order to make it easier for the deaf person to understand you and, more importantly, be included.
There were some comments on the article that were hard to read. Comments that I shouldn’t have engaged with but I did. Comments that I, as a parent, have done a terrible thing having my children implanted without their express permission and am essentially undermining their deafness. Deafness, with a capital D. Denying them the right to be who they are.
This week we made another short film, this time for Unicef, about children’s rights and my hopes for my children’s future. I didn’t get to say what I wanted to say because my amazing, talented, brave, clever children behaved like little shits the whole time. How hard is sitting on a sofa!?
Anyway. I am going to say it here.
For me, the most important thing in life is friendship. To be able to be a good friend to people. To be kind, empathetic, generous, understanding, gentle, encouraging, and loving. To have someone do the same for you. To be able to rely on someone, for them to be able to rely on you.
I could not have survived adulthood without my friends. The past 7 years in particular have been very, very hard. There are people who have literally and metaphorically picked me up off the floor. People who have, genuinely, saved my life.
This is what I want for my kids. That sort of friendship. Friends who can make you laugh, are excellent company, bring decent wine, take you on adventures, but ultimately, will bring you back from the edge. Because life is fucking horrendous at times. And that’s okay if you’ve got good friends.
When Will was diagnosed I honestly thought he might never make friends. How could he?
We made the decision to teach him sign language. And we made the decision to teach him speech. We made the decision to have him implanted. We made the decision to send him to a school that teaches both speech and sign. A school that promotes inclusion and acceptance, kindness and tolerance. A school that promotes the kids’ Deaf Identity, no matter how they choose to communicate.
And here he has made friends. Deaf friends and hearing friends.
But his school isn’t local. His friends aren’t local. And we don’t see any of them in the holidays. And this is hard for him. Which is hard for me.
This past year I’ve seen a big change in Will. He’s started making friends in the park. He’s managed to confidently attend mainstream sports clubs. He’s comfortable enough with his deafness and his cochlear implants to answer questions about them. His identity is still wavering but it’s made a huge leap forward.
And that makes me confident that we made the right decision implanting him.
And that gives me hope that my one wish for his future can come true.
And with one friendship it already has. His best friend moved to Denmark last summer and recently came back for a fortnight. I don’t think I saw Will the whole week they stayed here. They have so much fun together; can make each other properly belly laugh. They care for each other on a deep level. They share a love of music and a love of football. They really are the best of friends, even after a year apart.
My hope for Will is that he maintains this friendship, that they enter adulthood holding hands, even if it ends up being metaphorically. But if not, that he’s capable of forming similar bonds. That he is capable of offering support to someone and of them doing the same for him. That he learns to love and be loved.
And that he doesn’t leave offensive, inflammatory and unnecessary comments on the internet.