10 Minutes With: Elizabeth Edgar
Meet Elizabeth Edgar, mom to two children and just about to celebrate 12 years with her partner. Elizabeth lost her hearing as a young child and her partner was born Deaf. Both of their children are hearing. Below, as we are in the middle of the International Week of the Deaf, Elizabeth talks about what motherhood is like through her eyes, how parents can teach their children to develop an inclusive mindset toward the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, and a few tips for interacting with and developing friendships with people who are deaf when you yourself are hearing.
MTEAM: Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
ELIZABETH EDGAR: My family and I live in Sarasota, FL, about 45 minutes south of Tampa! My daughter, Coral, is 6-years-old and my son, Ocean is almost 2-years-old! We LOVE going on new adventures around Florida. We enjoy being outdoors (swimming, going to the beach, biking, hiking, going to natural parks, etc). If the weather is not cooperating, we enjoy playing, reading books, playing board games, doing crafts together, watching movies, building LEGOs and play hide and seek (the kids’ absolute favorite!).
MTEAM: You have a blog called Mommy Gone Tropical with the subtitle “Deaf Mom Exploring Life Visually”. Can you talk a bit about the goal of your blog, what you hope to accomplish or communicate through sharing your stories?
EE: My goal for the blog is to spread awareness about Deafness and sign language, mainly through my eyes: my opinions, experiences, and what I’ve learned from others in the Deaf community. While doing so, I share my experiences with motherhood, with my family and our journey through my eyes. I am hoping to reach more people, especially people who are around or will be around Deaf people, so they will go in with an inclusive mindset. Also, to reframe people’s stereotypical thoughts about the Deaf community, like we can’t have successful lives, we are broken and dumb, or we all have to have cochlear implants to be cured. All of these are not true.
MTEAM: Your children are both hearing. How and when did they each come to understand your hearing differences and what was that moment like for each of you?
EE: My daughter, Coral, didn’t really realize that her parents were Deaf until probably when she was 4-years-old. Our life is her normal, so she doesn’t know of another way of life. Once she started preschool, she realized that other kids couldn’t sign and their parents couldn’t either. She started preschool strictly signing because it was what she was comfortable with. There were tiny moments when she was younger that made her pause, like yelling behind me and I didn’t turn around. My son, Sawyer doesn’t really know yet. He knows he has to tap on our shoulders, communicate with us via ASL, and things like that but he still yells for us.
MTEAM: Is your partner deaf or hearing, and how did you meet?
EE: My partner is Deaf, too! He was born Deaf to a Deaf family while I was born hearing to a hearing family. We met when I was 18 and he was 19, at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Can’t believe that this October 1st will be our 12 year anniversary! He was from New Jersey and I was born and raised in Arizona. We moved to Florida about 8 years ago to start our life together. It has been a grand adventure so far with our kids!
MTEAM: What are two of the most common questions you’re asked related to the crossroads of motherhood and being deaf, and how do you answer them?
EE: One question I get all the time is, “How do you hear your baby cry?” Eventually, I decided to write a blog post about this so if people decide to search online, they will have their questions answered right away. Back to the point, I will tell them we have vibrating alerts, flashing lights, bed-share, mirrors, and simply using our EYES. The sound of crying is not the only way to know if a baby is crying or not because it is also visible (face turning red and tears). I’ve also included in the post how people knew when their babies cried at nighttime back in the old days.
Another question is, “So, you don’t talk? Well… how can your kids learn to talk?” We live in a hearing world full of noises, people talking, TV sounds, music, etc. They are constantly exposed to spoken languages. They are also around our hearing family and friends. Now my kids are bilingual in English and ASL.
MTEAM: What are one or two of your memories from your own childhood that were moments you may have felt the challenges of living without sound?
EE: I remember one memory from when I was maybe 10-years-old. I went for a bike ride with a Deaf friend on the way to her community swimming pool. She was ahead of me when I fell off my bike. I tried to get her attention by waving, but she never looked behind. She continued biking, turned a corner and disappeared from my view. It was one of the moments when I thought, “I wish my friend could hear then I would’ve caught her attention right away.” Instead, I got up, gathered my swimming stuff and got back on the bike. I rode for a bit when my friend reappeared to see what happened to me.
MTEAM: How do all parents, deaf or hearing, teach their children to grow up with an inclusive mindset toward those who are deaf or hard of hearing?
EE: I’ve actually written a post about this - teaching children how to be inclusive and embrace diversity. This is really important and is something that ALL parents should teach, because no two persons are the same. Everyone has something to offer. One common thing I’ve experienced many times is kids staring at me. I am fine with that, but I don’t like their parents’ reactions to their kids staring. I’d encourage them to ask their kids about why are they staring at me and take this opportunity to create a learning experience. If you tell your kids to look away, it is teaching them that being different is bad. The short version of the blog post linked up above is: accepting Deaf or hard of hearing people’s differences really starts with the parents. If they show their kids that they are embracing the differences, the children would, too. Allow them to ask questions even if it is uncomfortable. If you don’t know how to answer their questions about Deafness, go find the answer together. Do activities together like watching a movie about Deaf children, ASL music videos, go to events where you know Deaf/HoH people will be, buy from Deaf-owned businesses, etc.
MTEAM: Do you have any tips for hearing people (beyond learning sign language) for building a friendship with someone (say, for example, a mother of a child’s classmate) who is deaf?
EE: Yes! I’ve actually wrote a post about how to interact with Deaf moms but really the post applies to any Deaf person. Basically, make sure to maintain eye contact while you both are conversing. Avoid making treatment suggestions like, “You should get those cochlear implants or you should do speech therapy.” We’ve heard it all constantly so we know which methods are best for ourselves. Encourage your children to play with his/her children. Ask to exchange numbers or to be friends on social media so you all could get together. If you know a little bit of sign language, don’t be nervous to show it off!
MTEAM: What would make this world a more inclusive place for people who are deaf or hard of hearing?
EE: Simply put, make everything accessible to Deaf people. We deserve the same treatment hearing people get. Captions/subtitles on everything and everywhere. Provide an interpreter and/or other methods immediately when requested. Have the ability to order at a drive thru like a touchscreen menu, Recognize and accept the Deaf community’s culture, history and language. Appreciate and respect ASL, not appropriate it for your own benefits. Do more with your part as an ally for Deaf people . Also, spread the word and share anything that would reframe the Deaf community like heartwarming videos and/or stories of successful Deaf people or our rich history, culture, language and community. Follow me on Facebook because I share a lot of this and also I do ASL storytelling videos with my kids!