Living in a family where people communicate differently can already be a difficult endeavor. It’s another situation altogether when part of the family refuses to change.
Redditor oohehheeyeoh is having an issue getting her sister’s family and her daughter to communicate. While the original poster (OP)’s daughter is deaf, her sister and her family refuse to learn any ASL.
On top of that, they think things should go the other way, and the sister has shamed OP for not getting a cochlear implant for her daughter.
OP isn’t sure if she handled the situation with her sister well and decided to ask the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit about it.
“AITA for setting an ultimatum with my sister over sign language?”
The issue revolves around her sister and her daughter.
“Hi all. I (30F[emale]) am hearing, married to a deaf man (32M[ale]) – I’m going to call him Walter – and we have a deaf daughter (6F) – I’ll call her Cora. Walter comes from a primarily deaf family but my family is all hearing.”
“We have chosen to raise Cora with sign language and not go for an implant – this is simply for context, I am NOT seeking judgement on this!”
“Before Walter and I got married, my parents began to take classes to learn ASL, as did my brother and his family. My sister, Emily, took them for a bit but ended up not continuing due to ‘lack of interest.’”
“She and her husband have not taken any lessons, nor have their 3 children. Walter tried introducing their daughter to baby sign when she and Cora were both very young but my brother in law asked him to stop, as he didn’t want to ‘confuse her.’”
How is Cora handling this situation with her cousins?
“Cora and her cousins play as best they can with the language barrier but it’s extremely frustrating for her to feel like she isn’t being understood.”
“When my brother’s children (who visit only a few times a year) visit, they interpret for her, or Walter and I have to constantly be looking over their shoulders to help resolve their miscommunications, which is too helicopter parent for me.”
“When we learned Cora was deaf, Emily pestered me about getting her an implant and continues to send me shame-y Facebook posts about the benefits of the implant and those videos of babies hearing for the first time.”
“She constantly says it’s ‘better than having to learn two languages.’ She’s been very pushy about it, to the point she and Walter got in a heated argument over it. Since then, she has not pestered him about it, only me.”
“My last straw was this past weekend. Emily was with all her kids, teaching them a game. I noticed that Cora wasn’t joining, so I brought her over and Emily outright told me that Cora couldn’t play, because it’s a game ‘for people who can speak.’”
This was the last straw for OP.
“I was fuming and pulled her aside. I told her that my daughter can communicate, just not how Emily wants, and said that I won’t have my daughter excluded for something so petty.”
“I told Emily that we will be cutting contact unless she starts putting in effort – learning ASL, teaching her kids, including Cora, and not being so disrespectful. We got in a spat about it, so my family left. Emily has not had contact since.”
“My parents think I’m being unfair to Emily but agree she should make more of an effort and my brother has completely agreed with me. Walter feels I’ve been extreme but I’m honestly frustrated that I haven’t been this extreme sooner!”
“I do worry that I’m being clouded by Mama Bear rage and this is actually super irrational, so I think I might be TA. So, who’s the a**hole?”
“AITA for setting an ultimatum with my sister over sign language?”
Some comments missed the bit at the beginning about the cochlear implant, so OP had to update and remind people what she was asking to be judged.
“ETA: Not asking for judgement on the personal medical decision MY family made for OUR daughter. She has not had an interest in an implant but if she does later on, the option is available.”
“We wanted her to have the choice, but also to grow up in deaf culture. I am not going to defend this anymore to Internet randoms, but please consider researching deaf opinions on the matter.”
“As a hearing person, I can only give a very limited perspective.”
Redditors judged whether OP was wrong to give her sister an ultimatum by including one of the following in their response:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
Opinions about the cochlear implant aside, many felt the sister was being obstinate in learning to communicate with her family. OP not only was trying to defend her child, she was setting very clear, and understandable boundaries.
The board voted that OP was NTA.
“NTA. Emily is ableist. Worse, she’s ableist, yet somehow thinks she’s better informed than you on implants and other options for supporting your deaf child.”
“If she doesn’t want to learn ASL, so be it, but she needs to at least acknowledge that choice means she’s the one creating obstacles to communication with her niece, not the other way around. Frankly, I’m surprised Walter is encouraging you to keep the peace here.”
“Keep her in time out and away from Cora until she changes her attitude, and if the rest of the family can’t back you up on that, they can keep their distance too.” – mm172
“If I knew how to to put a meme in here my comment would be nothing but the ‘Flames, Flames on my face’ scene from Clue.”
“I have no space or compassion for overt ableists like Emily.”
“Protect your daughter. NTA. Don’t back down.” – LimitlessMegan
“NTA. What your sister is doing is extremely cruel to your daughter and she is modeling a complete lack of empathy and compassion for her own children. Good for you for advocating for your daughter!” – Striking_Description
While some comments still brought up the issue with OP not getting her daughter a cochlear implant, these were quickly drowned out. The topic is a sensitive one, especially in the deaf community.
However, some comments offered perspective.
“The issue is that in many people’s eyes, deafness is not an immutable characteristic. This is in large part due to a very flawed understanding of how cochlear implants and hearing aids actually work, their limitations and the side effects.”
“Not to mention the failure to recognise that they don’t all work for all kinds of deafness. Many people believe that implants and hearing aids are a miracle cure for every deaf person and so it’s simply obstinacy or stubbornness that stops people from hearing.”
“I’m not sure about OP’s daughter’s circumstances, but the sister probably sees it as OP simply choosing to deny her daughter the right to hear.” – spunkyfuzzguts
“We all parent differently and make choices for our children that others might not understand. In families, in particular, we can have frank conversations or not but we have to respect boundaries.”
“As clearly as OP laid out her boundary here, I’m sure that she’s done so with her sister. It’s insulting both for the sister to assume she knows more but also to step all over OP’s parenting decisions.”
“And that’s just the first issue – that doesn’t even get to the sister actively excluding a child based on her deafness – regardless of whether the sister thinks she should or would still be deaf with a CI! It’s just malicious and to a child! Maddening.”
“This current climate of people thinking they are medical experts on topics they have no genuine subject matter expertise in – and then feeling emboldened to share and demand their views be respected – it’s terrible.” – SlinkyMalinky20
OP has set a well defined and healthy boundary with her sister.
With a little support from her parents, she may be able to change her sister’s mind yet.