CODAS. Children of Deaf Adults. There are deaf CODAS and hearing CODAS. Some can sign, some cannot. Some love having deaf parents. Some struggle while others may simply hate it. CODAS are a special and tough bunch.
My three boys are CODAS. They do not fully appreciate how they are part of a large network of CODAs worldwide. Only recently have I begun talking about it. I explain to them that just as the Deaf community share many experiences and history that binds them together, so do CODAS. To them, they are just the Kerridge boys who love soccer, PlayStation games and their AFL. Oh, and that they have deaf parents. It is an afterthought for them, most of the time.
Afterthought or not, they do have their fair share of issues being CODAs. A thing like going to the movies with their parents is not possible. We cannot access the local cinema due to lack of captions. Taking part in their school assemblies and soccer presentations is difficult without interpreters. They are aware that we cannot fully be a part of the experience although we all try our best.
The good times are plentiful though. We are like any other family. We have our fights, our laughs, our tears, our hugs. The boys have enjoyed experiencing the Australian Deaf Games. They have been part of a wider and rich fabric that is the Deaf community and met many wonderful people this way. They have met international Deaf people. They have seen a community at work and their mother and father working within that community to keep it existing vibrant and alive. They have an appreciation of the struggles and reward that come with being deaf. They co-exist easily in both the deaf and hearing communities. They really do have the best of both worlds.
But recently I saw the ugly side of being a CODA. I saw my 14 year old son reduced to tears. I saw the confused and hurt look on my 12 year old child’s face. My youngest son aged 10 slumped his shoulders in a defensive stance and scowled. My two youngest boys’ soccer coach had deliberately targeted my three boys to say offensive things about us, their parents, knowing full well we were deaf and could not defend ourselves if we did not hear him. He also counted on his position of authority to keep the boys from standing up to him.
It hit home to me. Life for kids who have deaf parents must be bloody hard work sometimes. It must hurt like hell hearing comments made by others about their parents. Comments made deliberately in the knowledge that their parents can’t hear them. But they never think of the kids and what they hear. Or do they? Perhaps it is a deliberate knife in the back for the kids.
People just say things without thinking. They may think it is just a joke but when CODAs hear these comments it can be shattering.
“Bloody deaf people”.
“Can’t talk properly.”
“Hope you don’t play soccer like your father.”
“Stupid family – always late for soccer.” (When in fact we had been the fourth family out of a possible ten or twelve families to arrive).
Comments made in the vicinity of my children. Comments made deliberately towards my children. Comments designed to maim and hurt. Comments made when neither of us were there, or were looking away. These are acts of a true coward. Bullies are often cowards. The coach was and is a bully.
How often do our kids try to protect us? How often does this happen? I hope that it is far and few between but it must happen more than we think sometimes. What of schoolyard taunts? There are comments that demonstrate people’s misunderstandings and lack of compassion. CODAs hear it all and many bear it silently. We tell the boys to share anything they hear with us. It is not their burden. We show them that we have thick skin and shrug off the taunts.
We try to lead by example. Sometimes though, a more proactive and aggressive approach is called for. We confronted the soccer coach and asked him to direct his comments to us at all times. He was definitely uncomfortable. It was not a pleasant experience and some angry and choice words were said by me and by my husband. It was not our finest hour but we defended our children. We defended our CODAs and asked that they be allowed to be children and not a target for the coach’s dislike of us and ignorance of our deafness.
Go to your kids. Hug them. Love them. Know that they have bad times. Know that people out there can be cruel. Show them that you will stand up for them. Remind them that for every idiot out there, there are ten wonderful people they will meet. Make sure they don’t see being a CODA a burden, but a life experience that has its bumps in the road. A life that is mostly positive. Most of all, show them that they are not alone.
I know many CODAs. Many are good friends. Many I know through interpreting for me. Others through connections to deaf sport. Some are children of my Deaf friends.
My children are CODAs. Gary and I have worked hard to try and minimise any responsibility they might feel in having deaf parents. We have heard from others how they had to interpret for their parents growing up, how they grew up too soon, how they shouldered more responsibility.
In the age of the NRS and access to qualified interpreters, mobile text messaging amongst other things, there just is not any reason to subject our children to being our communicators. Despite our best efforts sometimes, we do fall into that trap. The phone rings and it is not a text based call. The boys have to answer it.
I might be talking to someone at the shop and not understand a particular phrase. Sometimes the boys step in. It is not ideal and we try to minimise it. They should be children and not taking on any extra responsibility just because we are deaf.
I have always known that by being Deaf, my kids will receive their fair share of discrimination and teasing. When I was teaching at my boys’ primary school as a Teacher of the Deaf and Auslan LOTE teacher, the students would mock my signing and speech at times. I would shrug it off and encourage my boys to do the same. Such hurtful and ignorant behaviour I would expect from children but not from adults.
Unfortunately such an event did happen and from an adult. This is an incident that hit close to home for me. Many Deaf/deaf parents will share my pain. Many CODAs will nod their heads and perhaps add to our experiences. Straddling the divide between the Deaf and hearing worlds is never easy, especially when some people are just downright ignorant and unpleasant about it.
On a more positive note however, CODAs are working together in Australia and overseas to recognise the uniqueness of their group and heritage. In Australia, the CODA Australia organisation has been organising the KODA camp. A camp in Sydney was held with much success for kids between 10 to 16 years old. Each of those kids were CODAs.
Just imagine how fantastic it is for these CODAs to meet each other. More importantly, they meet older role models. People who are CODAs themselves and can identify with the kids with the similiarites in their lives.
We all know how important it is for Deaf kids to meet other Deaf role models so they can get an idea of how their lives and hopes can pan out. It is no different for CODAS. Some of their experiences are different from their regular hearing peers. Some things they cannot explain or share with their friends. This is where knowing older CODAs and having role models is beneficial. They know they are not alone and that others, like my boys did, have experienced hurtful taunts and comments.
The Queensland camp is being held on the 24th to 26th June. The Victorian Camp is from the 1st to 3rd July. Get your child involved if he or she is a CODA. Check out CODA Australia’s website on:
Even if you can’t make the camps, try and keep in touch with this website and any events that your child might enjoy. After my children’s experiences, I am very aware how important CODAs will be and are to their lives. Some experiences they simply cannot share with non-CODAs and their Deaf parents.
I mentioned before that I am a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). I was born a CODA, I’ll die a CODA, and the life I’ve lived in between has been largely defined by the fact that I am a CODA.
And I LOVE it!
9 thoughts on “CODAs”
What a wonderful article! As a CODA I know all about the negatives and yet there are so many positives!!! Yes I am one of those that was their parents chief interpreter growing up and I have continued into it as a career. I can say that I love my parents and I would not change a thing (even the negatives). Ignorance is awful but those bullies will never have the closeness in their lives that I have with my parents. I have loved my life it has made me who I am 🙂
Thanks mum my coach is an idiot thanks for sticking up for me Aden an Tyler and all the codas out there. =) Love ya from Finlay
Most importantly, encourage your CODA not to take in any verbal abuse. We, Deaf parents, have the right to know what others may have to say behind our back. Imagine the shock when they are being confronted by a Deaf person. ;-D “How the heck did they manage to hear what I said???” It would be priceless walking away from that person and leaving them in a deep confusion. Thanks Marn, for the wonderful article. Isn’t there a law against verbal abuse during sports events in Australia? There is in Canada – verbally abusive parents or coaches do get charged.
Very heartfelt column. I am Deaf of Deaf parents (DOD) and am proud parent of a KODA (Kid of Deaf Adult) and DOD child. I have two CODA sisters. The only thing I disagree is Deaf CODA – I don’t look at myself as Deaf CODA because I haven’t really experienced what CODA went through, except what I have seen my sisters gone through.
Back then, I did a lot of “interpreting” when situation arise, such as doctor visits, I would interpret what ASL interpreter said for my parents so they understood more clearly. Sort of CDI role but not certified.
Both of my parents were dropouts from school but they did fabulous parenting with my sisters and myself. My parents did the best they could. There are stories that today, some Deaf adults, would find appalling. But back then, there were no choice. My sister did a lot of legal interpreting during court when she was about 12 years old – because my Dad didn’t believe in having outside interpreter come to interpreter – “It’s not their business and they will tell other people”. Dad didn’t understand the meaning of Codes of Ethics. 🙂
I do hope my CODA sisters truly appreciate the differences I try to make with my KODA. I don’t rely on her to communicate for me – she knows she could volunteer if she wants to. I’m so glad with today’s technology – pager, VP, email, that my CODA doesn’t have to endure what my sisters went through.
My daughter also has another CODA child attending same school with her – that is awesome so she doesn’t feel like an outsider.
I absolutely love CODA people – they ROCK and they are the BEST. Oh, those stories I hear from my daughter. 🙂 Their sense of humor, their perspectives and too many to list.
I am not a CODA, but a Deaf person. I have experienced similar situations as you have described in your article, except it was with hearing friends and family members who heard other people make comments behind my back. It sickens me to my stomach that there are people out there, who would do that, especially people in positions of authority. CODAs need just as much support as Deaf people do, because of their unique social positions in both the Hearing and Deaf world. We can help them by being understanding and encouraging them to stick up for people who they love, regardless of their hearing status, and say “No” to abuse. I am sorry that I live on the opposite of the world, but I’ll be cheering your camp on in spirit =)
A moving article Marnie. As a Deaf father of three hearing children, I can relate to many of what you have said. I’m a Team Manager for my son (Alex) local Under 13 Football Team and often the boys in the team often question him about how he communicates with me and initially he wouldnt respond as a mark of respect to myself and not wantng to say the wrong thing. But the players have eventually learnt to come to me at times. But unfortunately last year my son was subjected to bullying by a student who persistantly use me as a sign of weakness within Alex’s own family whenever Alex has aspirations or achieved positive results.
This has been occuring for many months but he never shared this to me until one day he broke down in frustration and eventually told me what this boy said. The words this person use to describe me didn’t bother me (as many Deaf people have become accustomed to the many misconceptions and percieved inabilties of our lives) but it strikes to the core of his heart when these words are said. He didnt want to share this with me knowing it would hurt me and the family nor did he know how to respond appropriately and effectively. Fortunately we have developed a strategy and it has stopped but he is now entering into high school so who knows what will eventuates and what my other younger children will endure.
Not withstanding my supportive loving wife, never did I realise that my own deafness would eventually play a discriminatory impact on our own hearing children lives. Never did I realise the severity of my deafness would become a major burden to them due to the lack of knowledge, awareness and appreciation from others non-deaf people/children and also as part of our everyday social/family lives. We are often directly or indirectly discriminated across various aspect of our lives but there is a third layer – being discriminated / bullied directly/indirectly to those who are associated with us.
Then we D/deaf people want to be seen a independent capable (and hopefully inspiring) people but at times our children can be uncertain whether to step in or not. Lets all be frank here, we D/deaf people can posses (or develop) a strong personality and/or have very strong morals and principles about how the life should be lived. We can be stubborn only because we are and continue to be subjected to oppression but we value being who we are as a person and our dignity. But for the CODA/KODAs, the constant challenge can be just what are the boundaries, especially when they are invisible?
But there are positives. They can inadvertently become advocates for the future. They become more tolerate and receptive knowing where the line is drawn. They gain a greater appreciation of the challenges we have as well as those such as them. They can also have a lower tolerance of any form of discrimination / victimsation and saviour human rights againist any other person whether they have a disability, race, colour etc = quickly knowing what is right and what is wrong.
But they should not be taken for granted. They should know that the journey that they are on (until we pass over) is a worned path that is often travelled by others who also share similar challenges and experiences. It is important for our children to be able to one day say “I have a situation’ or ‘I feel frustrated’ or “Have you ever..” and know the response from a CODA/KODA will be “I truly understand” and more importantly “I know just what you mean”. They should know they are not alone.
I have so many comments here .. that I’m going to let myself think about it for a bit. As a coda, the comments I heard that were scarring not only came from coaches and teachers, but from family members. In fact, I’m sure I blocked them all out.
However, as an lady in her 30s it doesn’t really stop. I’m married to a Deaf guy. We have a neighbor that happens just to be an idiot all the way around. He was talking to my husband, I walked to join them and as I did, this jerk made sexual comments to me, knowing my husband can’t hear him. I’m a bit sassy and put him in his place. It doesn’t stop really. BUT … I commend you for noticing.
While I was growing up, I don’t even think my parents thought about it. I was hearing and therefore “normal” and there would be no problems for me since they had only their hearing parents lives to learn from. I cherish my background, the good and the bad, it’s made me who I am. LOVE will squish the hurtful comments.
I know those Aussie Codas put on a good camp. For now, I will close, but I have so much more to share. Thank you for your post!
Liysa – Family members have done the same to my children. Commented on my husband and myself in our presence ( but when our backs are turned etc). The things my children tell me! It all gets a bit messy and difficult sometimes.
Dean – it is all a learning curve isn’t it!?
It is well put in article, these situation sadly goes around and around for many years, I have witness it firsthand with my only CODA sister and I am DoD and have been called myself DoD for years and do not use the ‘deaf CODA’. We have two DoDs and a CODA and we are raising them to be bilingual in signing and spoken languages.
To be honest these thing being said comes from the family does hurt more than it does from the strangers. I dont mean these comments are being only made by hearing but deaf relatives too. That’s why I am being careful with some comments about my in-law family front of my kids which can does some harm.
I agreed that need to be more awareness about CODA’s wellbeing, I am wondering if there is one for DoDs too? Just because I grew up in difficult environment at school being ‘ghost writer’ or interpreting for non-DoDS because they could not understand the teachers and in the return I get punished a lot from teachers. I dont dwell on it because it was in 1980s and it somehow moulded me into stronger person.
But we are living in 2000s and I have experienced working in Deaf school I have noticed that Teacher of Deaf (being non-DoDs or hearings) occasionally ‘attacked’ or scrunitising DoDs more they does with non-DOD children. I think that we need to set up the awareness or encourage the wide community to understand the deaf families and different upbringing.
Once again love your article to the ‘bond’ for taking care of the kids, once again they are only kids and they should be encourage to be kids.
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