We love Solihull Town Centre, it’s our New Town Centre. Most importantly, it has a Giraffe! Which is quite possibly my favourite restaurant ever. So we go to Solihull if we want to shop now. You can’t go wrong with the Duck Stir Fry, ultimately yummy.

Anyway I digress. While we were waiting for the lift in the Car Park, I noticed some familiar hand waving a short few yards away. If there’s anybody signing within a 50 metre radius of where I am standing, you can guarantee my radar will start prodding me (well, it’s not going to beep is it?). Standing, waiting for the same lift as us was a little girl who must have been about 3, or perhaps a young 4 with her parents. She had beautiful blonde curls and the most adorable glasses over wide, curious eyes. This little girl caught my attention, not only was she very cute and was signing incredibly well, but she had a cochlear implant.

My first reaction was to stiffen, as although I’ve come to terms with my CI not working out for me, it can still sometimes hit me rather hard when I see one unexpectedly.

I quickly regained composure though, and tried to sign discreetly to my big girl; “look, there’s a little girl who signs like Mummy too”… only I signed too quickly and she didn’t catch what I said. I am SO disappointed in myself because, so not to draw attention to myself from the little girl and her family, I simply said “I’ll tell you later”. I really wish now, I had just signed it again, I have no idea as to why I didn’t, and would it really have mattered if they had seen me?

I think this may have come from years of private communication in public between me and my Deaf friends when in hearing dominated areas, and realising that it wouldn’t necessarily be private on this occasion. I normally don’t mind in the slightest, about signing in public – why would I after all. But I became self conscious all of a sudden and I’m regretting it now.

I did indeed talk to my big one about it afterwards though. We talked about how Mummy signs sometimes, and how I need to sign more often and I’ll start doing so from now on. We talked about how my youngest daughter’s first word was “rabbit” in sign, and how my eldest’s first sign was “light”. I came to the conclusion that I really do not sign enough. I’ve said it before but it seems so much more important now. I don’t need to sign with my family, but I often need them to sign to me. If want them to sign to me, I need to sign more to them.

What really touched me about this little girl, was her Mum and Dad. Obviously Hearing and obviously very learnt, in their signing, I felt an enormous amount of respect growing inside me for them. They were both such friendly looking people, and obviously had a lot of love for their daughter. They signed consistantly and clearly with a softness that only a parent could provide. They repeated after their daughter’s words, clarifying the instructions to wait. I was in danger of looking a bit strange, staring at them when thankfully the lift door opened.

Seeing that moment, has really stuck with me, even 2 weeks later just how lovely a sight to me it was. What was so wonderful for me to see, was that these parents had embraced their daughter’s deafness in such a way that it was their life. I imagined them finding out she was deaf, and the enormity of the information reaching them. I imagined that they learnt to sign, the very week they discovered she was deaf. I imagined that they researched long and hard into her Cochlear Implant, and I imagined how tough it must have been to see their daughter have an operation at such a young age. I imagined the challenges they faced post op, helping her learn while she was tiny, how to hear and how to talk. And here they were, in a shopping centre, signing as if it was absolutely normal to them. And it really was – of course it was. Their daughter understood every single word they said in answer to her inquisitive questions. As we drove away, in my head, I wished them well.

It’s the simple things that please me. I know that there are many wonderful parents who embrace their children’s deafness and throw themselves into making the needs associated with that deafness, normal for their home life. My Mother did just that, back in the 80s when I was diagnosed Deaf and I know others who do the same now. Some parents, even go the extra mile to put their experience to use, working voluntarily for wonderful charities which support new parents of children dealing with disabilities. (Yes Nicola Corazzo, I’m talking about you!)… these people are around, and they are the backbone of the support networks and happy families. But it’s still lovely to see it in person, and I suppose, unexpectedly.

I am determined to sign more at home now. It is incredibly precious when my daughters sign to me so I need to encourage it more. I can sign well, but I’m getting rusty somehow and tonight I realised that when I’m nervous, my hands go to pot. (I signed Dead for Deaf! For goodness sake!) I drove home from my meeting wondering when on earth did that happen? When did signing become second nature to me? It should come to me naturally.

If you’re in Solihull sometime, especially if you’re near Giraffe, and you see some waving hands on a woman with dark hair and blue glasses, come and say hello. It might be me Smile