Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Talking to children

is something I seem to do often. I don't know why. It just happens.  On most occasions it is rather mundane but sometimes the experience is memorable.Yesterday there was one of those anything but mundane occasions, especially since it occurred while waiting in the queue at the bank. The little girl was the sort of child you can't help smiling at because she was so well behaved.

Her mother was writing a long text message on her phone. The little girl kept looking at me from behind her mother's knees.  Eventually I pulled down the mask I was wearing and smiled at her properly. That sent her hiding still further and then, slowly, looking out at me.

This was not just a game she was playing. She was obviously curious about me, perhaps because I still had my bike helmet on. (It looks more like the hat of a French legionnaire than anything else.) I said "hello" and she didn't respond but she kept coming back for another look.

Her mother stopped writing the message but she didn't send it. Instead she looked at me. She gave me a rather wary smile too so, from behind the mask, I said, "She keeps looking at me."

And then her mother indicated she herself was deaf, profoundly deaf. I could see the weary resignation in her face that this was likely the end of all conversation so I pulled the mask down and repeated the words. I signed them as I did.  My ability to sign anything is very limited. I have forgotten so much of it but I did my best and she obviously understood. Her smile said far more than her attempt to respond in a way I would understand. I signed "hello" to the child after the mother had signed to her that it was acceptable to talk to me and did she want to say "hello". The response to that was to hide her head in her mother's knees. Her mother and I smiled at each other.

But her mother was still looking at me in a sort of bewildered delight.  She told me her daughter was learning both sign language and to speak. I said and signed it was "good" and "know both".  

And then it was her turn to see a teller. As she held out the phone with the message she had written on it she indicated that, if he did not understand her, perhaps he could ask me to help. It was my turn to see the other teller and I went about my business there. The teller I spoke to is someone I know slightly. She wanted to know if I could really use sign language. I shook my head and said, "Only a very small amount. If that woman really does want some help I doubt I could do it but I would try."

I would try too however difficult it was. I didn't need to do it but we left the bank together. The little girl waved a shy goodbye but her mother signed, "Thank you for talking to her."

It was a pleasure.  

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