Riding the swing

by Linda Miles

I held my newborn son in my arms and strolled through a big bookstore with my husband and 2½ year old daughter. A couple of days before, an ABR test had confirmed what the newborn screening suggested: that our baby had a significant hearing loss.

As we picked out our first book to aid us on our journey, we had an experience that was not duplicated with our daughter or second son (to come five years later). Another shopper, an older lady, approached my baby and me. Gazing sweetly at him, she said, "He's perfect." I couldn't bring myself to say what I was thinking, "No, he can't hear." For a long time I flip-flopped between believing that he is perfect and he is not quite.

How do I feel in parenting a child who is hard of hearing? Proud, scared, empowered, unsure, calm, frustrated, secure, or confused? I answer, "Yes to all of the above!" We parents have plenty of feelings to sort out. It is natural to go back and forth between feeling confident and insecure.

All parents have cause to feel vulnerable at times. News reports often strike a nerve, as we know our daily lives make us subject to certain dangers. But we step through our fear and do such things as driving our children in cars, sending them off to school, and arranging for sitters or day care providers to care for them.

There are plenty of ways to empower ourselves so we can give our children the best we can. We can increase our confidence and be strong advocates for our children as we:

  • Befriend other families with deaf/hh children. We can learn from each other and take heart in seeing other's successes.
  • Accept support from family, friends, and professionals
  • Trust ourselves
  • Learn, learn, learn - and implement ideas that work for our children

It is natural to swing back and forth in our confidence level. In time, the swings seem to mellow and life "normalizes" again. Then, POW, someone pushes our swing one way or another. Sometimes we have an experience that is a push forward, and sometimes a push back.

Other times, we just hang on tight. Transitions such as an IEP meeting, beginning a new level in school, or starting a recreation class, can bring mixed feelings. Confidence builds with successes and experiences from lessons learned.

Our son, Jared, has a transition on the horizon. Currently, he is attending the district's center-based school. This fall, he will be mainstreamed in our neighborhood school for first grade. We made this decision for multiple reasons, and the timing feels right. It seems like quite a leap of faith because the school will be brand new. His general education teacher has yet to be hired and his itinerate teacher and interpreters have yet to be assigned. As I make connections and coordinations, I am a little nervous, but also excited and hopeful for a great experience for Jared.

I have come to understand "perfection" as fulfilling one's purpose. No, our deaf/hh children are not "typical," but they are perfect!


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