Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Silence Golden?

People watching is as much of a habit for me as nail biting is for others, and some of the best people watching can be done at the grocery store. For instance there are few things as entertaining as that little kid that is way overdue for his nap, pitching the mother of all fits because his mother has denied him the box of fruity snacks with Lighting McQueen on the box. Mothers usually react in one of two ways. Some grind their teeth and quietly threaten death and dismemberment upon arrival at a less public venue, while others loudly discipline their children right there in the store. When my kids were that age I tried to avoid trips to the grocery store all together, instead leaving them at home with Steve. When I had to bring them, I was of the quiet threatening camp. Neither method is all that effective which is why I was so struck by a family I saw at Safeway yesterday.

As I was picking out just the right onion and potato to put in soup later this week, I became aware of a group of three people who were collecting various items in complete silence. A deaf mother and her two children. Being careful not to stare, I watched as they moved through the store, communicating with gestures alone. Wordlessly, they managed to converse just as well as all of their fellow shoppers who were still able to hear. The older son, goofed with his mother, taunting her with a selection of junk food she clearly did not sanction by holding it out and shaking his head near her face. Surrounded by the dissatisfied sounds of greedy toddlers, and overtired babies, this family seemed to exist in their own little tight, happy, but silent bubble.

This brought me to wonder, how the rest of us could manage in our day to day lives, if we were forced to interact with our children silently. Would children continue to pitch those ear-splitting fits in the grocery cart if their parents couldn't hear their shrieks? If we could never raise our voices in anger, would we form a stronger family bond? A few months ago I saw a little boy, no more than seven years old, signing into his deaf, blind mother's hand as he helped her across a busy street. If I was disabled, I wondered, would my kids do that for me?

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