No voices

This week on Small Moments Mondays, I am thrilled to have Tulpen, from Bad Words, as my guest poster.

Tulpen is a newer friend, a woman who I admire for her tremendous strength, sharp wit, and unfailing honesty.

I am drawn to writers who are multi-dimensional, who are real and raw and forthright. Tulpen is all of these things.

I am keeping my words here to a minimum so that you’ll follow Tulpen over to Bad Words once you’ve read her words here.

Thank you, Tulpen, from the bottom of my heart.

No voices — by Tulpen

A couple years ago, I was approached by a Mommy on the playground.  She’d noticed Owen’s hearing aids, and pointed out her son, who had a cochlear implant.

One would think that we’d have much to talk about, having such an important aspect of our lives in common.

One would think.

But. She’d made a choice for her son, that made the boys very different indeed.

She explained to me about her decision, and how very difficult it was to make, to mainstream him in a public school.

She finished her spiel, and prompted me to take my turn at expressing the difficulties I’d faced in choosing an education for my child.

She didn’t get what she expected.

There was nothing difficult about my decision.  In fact, it never felt like a decision at all, just another gift.

Of course, our situation was unique in that normal was never going to be an option for Owen.  Before his hearing loss was discovered, I’d wondered how he’d fare in school, amongst ‘normal’ kids; as the kid with all the scars, with the developmental delays, with the feeding tube.

We’d been warned that he would likely lose his hearing due to massive amounts of Gentamicin given to him in his first weeks of life.  But still, I was shocked when at 15 months he was diagnosed with a mild to moderate hearing loss (which has since progressed to profound). I was handed a thick folder full of resources for raising a child with a hearing loss, and pointed in the direction of a woman who ran a school I was lucky enough to live near.

Within the week, she was sitting on my living room floor, signing to Owen.  And telling me about her school. The school he’s been attending since he was 15 months old.

A private school for the Deaf that rents out space within a public school system.  All academics are in ASL, group and 1:1 speech therapy, English language instruction, with a staff that are all Certified Teachers of the Deaf, 50% of them Deaf themselves.  Students may, if and when they wish, attend mainstream classes with an interpreter, or an FM system. Lunch and recess are with the Hearing kids.

This magical little bubble gives him a place to belong that, if not for his Deafness, he wouldn’t have.

A place where each child, though they may have varying levels of residual hearing, all have a language in common.  A community, a culture.

Though he may be able to get by in the Hearing world, it will always be with some struggle.  Any background noise interferes with his comprehension of spoken language.  A crowded room, store, playground?  He’ll struggle to hear.  He’ll try, and he’ll get some, but he’ll miss plenty. And that will be a fact of his life.  He’ll deal with that always.


He’ll also have access to a world without those struggles.  A community of Deaf people, who speak his language; one he won’t ever have to struggle to understand.

Watching Owen with his Deaf friends melts my heart.  They all speak.  Some better than others.  And?  They all sign.  Better than I do.

I’m mostly a self-taught signer, and seeing that Owen and his friend’s skills’ have surpassed my own, I signed up for an ASL class. An advanced, voice off class.  I was nervous, and attended the first one alone. The instructor is an animated, funny, fluent,  Hearing signer.  The atmosphere of the class was very relaxed and welcoming, with mostly Hearing students, but a few Deaf as well.

The next week, Owen begged and begged, and I let him tag along.

As we made our way down the aisle, the class being held in an auditorium, heads turned.  Faces lit up. First the students’.  Then Owen’s.

Hands and arms and faces welcoming him.  Asking him his name.  How old is he?  What grade is he in?

No voices.  Only bodies.  And faces.  Big smiling faces.

At first, his hands were small, shy, signing close to his body, close to me.

The teacher focused her lesson on Owen, as he was the only Deaf person there at the time.  Checking with him to make sure she’d done the sign correctly.  He’d let her know if she did, or if she didn’t.  A good enough teacher she is to make a mistake and give him the chance to correct her.

A half hour into the class, Erik showed up, animatedly apologizing for being late.  He was welcomed by the teacher and the rest of the class and took his seat right behind Owen and introduced himself.

Recognizing Owen as a fellow Deaf person, the two of them took off into an ASL conversation that left every Hearing person in the room a puddle on the floor.

I didn’t even bother to try to follow along.  Though It would have been a futile attempt through the tears in my eyes.

I was peering into the little world I’d given him. The world where he isn’t disabled.  Where he isn’t different.  Where he is loved.

Where he just simply belongs.

If I’d ever doubted my ‘choice’ to give my son this world,  though I never have, this moment would have convinced me that I’d done right.


Please, if you are a fan of Small Moments Mondays, go visit Tulpen on her blog. While you’re there, don’t miss WhenAnother Goodbye StorySitting, and With Me, But Not Belonging to Me. I don’t typically point you toward four posts, but each of these is amazing and not to be missed.

I believe that you’ll walk away with a new appreciation of life and, if you’re like me, you’ll just love her.

You can also find Tulpen on Twitter.


  1. I think back to the classes and classes my ASL teacher spent leading discussions about deafness and cochlear implants and the controversy and I wish SO much that I could go back in time and have everyone read this.

  2. Jayme

    I love Tulpen. She's one of my favorite bloggers :)

  3. Nancy C

    This is such powerful stuff. So pure and raw and gorgeous. This makes me so happy for Owen and his mother, because all you want to have is a safe place, a place where you belong.

  4. Jessica

    Goosebumps, I don't know how you do this Tulpen but you always do. Your writing spans so many areas but you always, always tug at my heart. I am so glad Owen has the world you have given him.

  5. Klz

    Tulpen you make me want to, more and more, learn asl. I hate thE idea that I couldn't talk to Owen.

  6. Alexandra174

    Nichole, you have done a perfect job of describing Tulpen.

    Multi dimensional.

    She is one of the more compelling bloggers I've met.

    I followed her home after a blog we both follow, Ellen Seidman's, Love That Max. I was intrigued with a comment she left there, and her wonderful Elephant avatar.

    With my first visit there, I spent 20 minutes going through post after post.

    She is a one of a kind friend to have. And she has listened to me and the hard times I sometimes have.

    She is a wonder.

    I adore Tulpen.

    That, I keep no secret.

    So wonderful to see you here, Tulpen, and the posts pointed out here are amazing. I reread them again, and each time I leave with a lump in my throat.

    She cuts away the excess, and leaves you with what counts.

    I love Tulpen.

  7. Renee

    Tulpen, this is one if the most beautiful posts I've read. It made tears come to my eyes reading about him joining you at the class. I believe you gave given him a wonderful gift.

  8. bywordofmouth

    Like The Empress, I too followed Tulpen back to her haven in the blogosphere and pored thro her posts.
    So glad she is featured here today, she lives and breathes the small moments and then blesses us with her take on them.

  9. My daughters have both learned "a little" sign- sort of conversational sign if you will. It alwys makes person smile when they are in need of sign and then someone is around to offer it- more people should know the "basics" … I mean if we know html and Spanish can't we learn sign? Found you over at The Purse Blogger- and I'm following you- hope you can stop by my place and return the favor soon ;-)

  10. A nice little surprise! I didn't know when you were going to post this!

    Thanks so much everyone for reading, and such lovely comments…

  11. Oh! And thanks Nichole for the title; "No Voices"… I couldn't have come up with a better one.

  12. This melted my heart

    Made me smile

    You've given your son a gift

    I suspect he's given you one as well

  13. Sherri

    Nichole, I can't think of a better writer to feature here! I love Tulpen, however I happened to stumble on her blog I certainly can't remember.

    But her words can be hilarious and searing, so raw and real, that you're just left (as she said above) in a puddle.

    And she's warm and reached out, commenting on a comment.

    I love this being the first thing I read before heading to school this morning. I will carry this with me all day.

  14. Oh that's just amazing! What a beautiful post.

  15. Natalie

    Tulpen, this is really beautiful and I'm so glad Owen has his own place to belong….we all need that.

  16. I have been a longtime reader of Tulpen's, though I, too, cannot remember how I found her. But boy, am I ever glad I did.

    She's wicked funny, brutally honest, and a great writer.

  17. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I love how you found the perfect place to give your boy what we all need: a place to belong, a place to feel part of a community that "gets" you. A beautiful piece.

  18. Rebecca

    What a great mom you are. Thanks so much for all you do. Owen is an amazing boy because you advocate for him so well.

  19. What a lovely post! :) I felt like I was right there in that world with them. I love when that happens. I have known a few deaf people over the years, and have consequently learned to finger spell…so I could have very, very slow and deliberate conversations with people…assuming they can spell. I also taught my son some signs when he was little & it was a really awesome way to communicate a little before he could talk. :)

    But really? This post is just tingly with good stuff. :)

  20. kim

    You're the most instinctual mom. You did the most beautiful thing for Owen. Why 'get by' when you can blossom?

  21. My daughter is not deaf, but she has cerebral palsy and a chromosome disorder. I have never wanted her to be mainstreamed and I have always felt a little guilty about that. Here, you have put into words my feelings that I have struggled with for years. I never realized that I gave her a world where she was accepted, and comfortable and had other kids who are like her. It feels so amazing to think of it this way, instead of feeling guilty for not wanting her to be mainstreamed. Thanks so much for putting this into words and helping me to see clearly!

  22. Joy

    Oh how I love Tulpen, I have followed her blog for longer than I can remember and on many occasions have been rendered almost speechless as no comment I could come up with could ever do justice to the post that she had just poured so much of her heart into.

  23. businesslorelei

    Many many sides to this issue. What feels right to one would not to another. Where one parent struggles another sees a path clear as day.

    Beautifully told. Very beautifully told.

  24. Kristi

    What an incredibly beautiful testament of a mother's love for her son, his resilience and finding his true voice. Well done!

  25. Nubian

    There are days that Tulpen will have me snorting my tea and truly laughing out loud, there are days where she gives me the right kick in the ass off the pity pot and then there are days that she leaves me totally verklempt. Today would be a verklempt day.

  26. Mad Woman

    I love me some Tulpen. Her words always drop me to the floor, with laughter or tears. That she found this safe place for her child, just amazing. What a wise and wonderful and yet so very human mother she is.
    Thank you for sharing her here. Tulpen you are my goddess, you know!

  27. tulpen

    The controversy still goes on, or so I've heard. I haven't encountered it in my experience with the Deaf yet. I am thinking that as this coming generation of Deaf children, who use both ASL and spoken English will be the 'norm' among the Deaf community. Or maybe I'm just hoping that will be the case…

  28. tulpen

    Thanks Jayme!

  29. tulpen

    That's all anyone wants right? A place to belong.

  30. tulpen

    Awww. Thanks.

    Am glad I've given it to him too. And hope that by the time he is a teenager, I am able to decipher what he and his Deaf friends are scheming…

  31. tulpen

    You could talk to him. Very slowly and clearly in a quiet room. He'd hear ya.

  32. tulpen

    Shut up.

    I mean thanks Empress.

    Still working on that gracious accepting of compliments thing.

  33. tulpen

    I was a mush ball that entire class. The ones we've gone to since have been easier.

    It still kills me to see Owen and Erik communicate.

    Gotta remember to bring my Flip to the next class…

  34. tulpen

    Thanks…if you pored through the old posts, you must have stumbled upon my latest profanity laden rant… and don't hate me. Awesome!

  35. tulpen

    I try to teach everyone a little sign. My coworkers are used to seeing me sign and have picked up a few signs.

  36. tulpen

    And now I'm trying to comment on all the comments!

    Not easy!

    Thanks Sherri. I think we met through Twitter somehow, even though I suck at it.

    Or through Empress. That is more likely.. that chick is EVERYWHERE.

  37. tulpen


  38. tulpen

    It is more than I hoped for him when he was born. Much more.

  39. tulpen

    SITS I'm pretty sure.

    And our love for Mr. Craig has seen us through the years….

  40. tulpen

    A community and culture all his own… someday I will be an outsider to that world… and that will be ok too.

  41. tulpen

    I just follow his lead really…what other choice do we have?

  42. tulpen

    Happy to provide the tingles… (there's a 'That's what he said' joke in there somewhere…)

    Deaf people fingerspell so fast their fingers are a BLUR! There is a website ASL Pro that has quizzes to practice… I've never progressed beyond the SLOW level.

  43. tulpen

    Exactly. Getting by is not good enough.

  44. Tuplen (I'd like to call you by your real name b/c I mean this from the bottom of my heart but I know your are all mysterious now),

    You made me cry.

    This was the most beautiful thing ever.

    I have no much love and admiration for you that there just are not enough words to tell you.

  45. tulpen

    Your Welcome!

    I never cared one bit if he ever goes Mainstream. He may one day attend academic classes with Hearing kids… but I if he never wants to, fine by me.

  46. tulpen

    I think you were one of my first readers… thanks to Bad Mommy.

  47. tulpen

    It was clear as day. The answer was handed to me and I never questioned it.


  48. tulpen

    Resilient is the word too. What that kid has been through.

  49. tulpen

    I got a little verklempt re-reading that too.

    And I got a nice post card from South Africa the other day too!


  50. bywordofmouth

    of course, and rants like those are deserving of awards such as the esteemed 'memetastic' ;)

  51. Owen's not disabled. He has a world that most of us can only hope our kids find something similar to.

  52. Beautiful post! My cousin volunteers at a school like Owen, and she ( a hearing person) volunteers in the deaf community. I think sign language is a beautiful language, and an amazing community.

  53. MelissaDrMom

    What a beautiful story. "the gift you gave him". How I love this. You gave him his wings so he could fly. I hate to sound too corny but oh my…this is exactly what you did. You are an amzaing mother. Your son sounds amazing too.

  54. I am in tears once again! I could blame it on hormones, but I know it's really just because you are an awesome mom.

  55. drollgirl

    you made the right call, for sure! glad he is thriving. very glad. :) and glad you are such a good mom to him! :)

  56. andygirl

    I'm a puddle! what a great moment.

    I have a very good friend who is hearing disabled. and he's always struggled with his place in the world. he has very good friends who love him very much, but I've always wondered if he would be less bitter about his disability if he had a community of people who share that. community goes a long way.

  57. Annabelle

    You know, it's not cool to cry at work.

    I love Tulpen, I've read her for a long time. I'm always guaranteed a laugh or a tear, sometimes both.

  58. LiBBy

    Honesty & courage are Tulpens hallmarks. I took 3 years of ASL and it is true that signers are a community all their own. There are even slight variations or dialects if you will from one community to another ( I learned this when I traveled out of state) . What a wonderful mom Tulpen is! Being a great mom is so hard and often very painful. God Blessed Owen.

  59. Tracie

    I love Tulpen. She is a treasure in the blogosphere. She shoots straight from the hip, can make me snort my morning coffee yet she can write the most heart warming posts that leave me in a puddle of tears.

    I'm so glad that Owen has her for a mom and that he has a peer group where he is so happy.

  60. erin margolin


    You. Amaze. Me.
    Each and every day.
    I cried for the wonderful woman you are, and the wonderful way you wrote about your son in this post.
    Thank you so much for sharing this beauty with us. We are lucky to know you.

  61. Jamie


  62. Random Blogette

    This is so beautifully written. Erin sent me here and I am so glad that she did!

  63. I haven’t met Tulpen before. I’m glad I met her today. I know the isolation the burden of a hearing loss brings, and I’m so happy that Owen doesn’t have to suffer that isolation. That’s the beauty of the online community though. I have more friends and supporters through the written word, and have the best conversations all via social media, all of which are a uplift to my very social nature. If only I had that in the real world though. As another with a profound hearing loss, I really really REALLY should learn ASL.

  64. Stacey

    I absolutely love the deaf community. I became fluent in ASL in college and spent a lot of time amongst the deaf community. It is amazing. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing!

  65. THis is just such a beautiful post. It's amazing!! I started to tear up…I can't imagine mama!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  66. Such a beautiful post! I think I shouldn't read Small Moments Mondays until I am alone, because I generally cry. Good tears, because Tulpen has given Owen such an amazing gift and community and place to belong. We should all be so lucky, because everyone needs a safe place like that.

  67. tulpenelefanten

    Ok. I tried.

    But I just got home from a crazy shift at work, running around all day tomorrow, and then working again.

    I wanted to respond to all your nice comments. But I gotta go to bed. And I'm not sure how much computer time I'll be getting for a couple days.

    So. Thanks Nichole and all you nice people here.

    And for those who ventured over to my blog, welcome there too, pardon my potty mouth. Is just who I am.

    Good night!!

  68. Yuliya

    I already know of the treasure that is Tulpen, and this post is so special. Thank you for sharing it. Something is missing though…a certain four letter something…. ;)

  69. Robin

    As always, I love her posts. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  70. only a movie

    Love it. xoxoxo

  71. amanda

    Beautiful post. We all want that kind of world for our kids — where they are loved and accepted. And, happy.

  72. pajamadays

    This post is so emotionally charged. You are an amazing mom who gave your child the best gift ever – inclusion. I wish more families would understand the need to be around a community that really gets you.

  73. ash

    Oh girlie – tears with you. I picture Owen as an incredibly gifted musician, creating a work of art with his hands.

    The gift you all have both been given.

    If any of you who read this do not run to this woman's blog and read the whole thing post to post, you are missing out.

    Love you Tulpen dear.

  74. wantapeanutblog

    I've been a Tulpen fan for a while and am so glad to see her here. I have learned a bit of sign language myself, taking a few online courses, to try to help my son with autism communicate. It always leaves me wanting to learn more, and perhaps someday I will have the time to take some more advanced classes. It's so wonderful to find a community. I hope that my son will be able to do that as well, though of course with autsim, it is a bit more challenging since social delays are a major factor. Still, to find people who see (or hear) the world as you do is a precious gift.

  75. MommaKiss

    I have loved Tulpen for a long long time. She's my kind of people. This? Just makes me love her more. Tulpen, you're an incredible mother. That's all I've got to say about that.

  76. This is . . . I have no words and I NEVER run out of words. I am awed by this, this incredible gift Tulpen has given her son. It's all we can ask for, acceptance and love and here this sweet boy stands in both worlds, getting exactly that because of a mother who knew and understood.

    Man, just beautiful.

  77. That brought tears. Owen is lucky to have you for a mom.

  78. ksluiter

    this post is absolutely beautiful. I love that as a mother, Tulpen, you could give…GIVE your son a community. that is huge. how many of us struggle into adulthood to find people who are like us. you have given him a gift. and you have given US a gift by sharing this. thank you.

  79. Tonya

    Tears! Beautiful. Every child needs to feel loved and special and like they have their place in the world. Wonderful.

    Also? Why haven't I been reading Tulpen?! Off to follow now.

    Thanks, Nicole.

  80. MommaKiss

    I've been trying to comment from phone, wouldn't work. Tulpen. You are an incredible mother. I promise not to tell anyone.

  81. GingerB

    Man I love that lady. So fucking much.

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