The Chicago Sun Times: Marlee Matlin discovers she’s her mother’s daughter

July 27th, 2012

The Chicago Sun Times
July 26th, 2012
By Marlee Matlin

As a kid, during the school year, my head was often buried in a textbook or Judy Blume book; the words and pictures were the perfect, barrier-free environment for me. But with school out, I was out and about and summer just didn’t seem long enough for me to soak in the world around me — I always wished I could find a way to prolong it. I guess not being able to hear just made me adventurous and daring. And in most cases, that didn’t make my parents very happy with me.

By the time I was a teenager, my desire to be daring and taste everything got me in trouble. Too often, I was in the company of kids my parents would call “wild.” And though every week my dad would bring home a new used car for me to drive (he owned a lot in the city) just to prove to the world that no one should treat a deaf child differently and that I should be independent, there I’d be, taking advantage of his generosity, driving around at all hours, breaking my curfew. Once, at 11 p.m., I called home to say, “I’m stuck someplace without gas but I’ll be home as soon as I can.” After what I could safely assume was screaming on my dad’s part, I would add, “What? I can’t hear you, dad, I’m deaf!” and happily hang up the phone. It was no wonder that my parents had the cops waiting for me when I came home just to teach me a lesson. But I didn’t care. I just wanted the fun to last forever, even at the expense of terrifying my parents, who were simply trying to give me the freedom to explore a world that was hellbent on locking me up in a stereotype that they knew wasn’t true.

Just a few weeks ago, at the outset of summer, my teenage daughter — independent just like her mom — asked if she could throw a party for her and her friends. Trying (like every mom) to be her best friend seemed to blur my memory of how too much independence had gotten me in trouble. I still pride myself on being “hands on” and looking out for every detail. I said OK to the party. But as things went, “hands on” got out of hand. Soon, there were 250 kids in and outside our house, alcohol somehow got flowing and, not long afterwards, a host of police cars drove up at the request of our neighbors. I was suddenly transported into my mother’s body and found myself wondering what I did to deserve this.

And this happened in June, with two more months left of dealing with the crazy ups and downs of raising a teenage daughter. Summer, which ended too soon for me as a kid, now couldn’t end any faster. It was payback for sure.

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