In a Perfect World:
Objects May Be Clearer
in the Rearview Mirror
By Sara Kennedy,
Maddie and younger sis Abbey on first solo trip
Once the news of hearing loss was a few months old, progress was the order of the day in our house. A late identified child, I am convinced, gives a strong fertilizer to grow an overzealous mom or dad. We were all about progress in learning to sign, (parents today – you don’t know how lucky you are to have more live and video instruction than we had! My first sign for “more” was about four feet wide) progress in learning to put those darn hearing aids back in and back in and back in, progress in learning about language development, listening skills and how to teach a deaf child everything from table manners to abstract concepts like compassion, jealousy, and your-lips-are-blue--it’s-time-to-get-out-of-the-Colorado-pool learning moments.
Just as our daughter Maddie was nearing age appropriate language, and we began to relax, she dictated to her preschool teacher during “jobs week” that she definitely DID NOT want to be a mother, and not an audiologist. What to her must have looked like driving kids around and sound booth testing must not have looked like soulfilling work at the time.
There seemed to be nothing she couldn’t do, eventually. With enough repetition and meaning attached, we crossed language mountains and valleys. If she looked longingly at ballet skirts in tulle, I signed her up and the director and teachers and I figured out how to teach her the positions, the steps, and how to do those graceful hand gestures while counting in her head. When she finally got across to us that it was the full size Barbie jeep she wanted for Christmas (that took three years… we were a bit slow and she was delayed…) she needed one little instruction and she was hooking up the bicycle trailer and negotiating it backwards through the yard. She was Goldilocks on a Robotics team, won a spot on a middle school volleyball team, high school color guard, and she has a personal goal of attending every school dance. And yes, while she doesn’t like to read, she can. She definitely can read and write at age level and with spirit.
Now… just when parental influence is distinctly on the wane, our teenager faces those early decisions that will affect her future as a young adult. Transition plans. Searching for work. Exploring her interests. I can’t drive those frontal lobes to see the long term results of her choices today. Parents can’t do that for any child. For further proof, just take a look at my older two kids. Each must find their own road; their own signposts.
A plethora of resources stands dormant while she explores the social aspects of teenagerhood. While she has completed bits of her portfolio on College in Colorado’s website, tolerated some Itransition and my ongoing attempts at working through the Self-Advocacy Compensatory Skills checklist … the fascinating PLAN test results (PLAN is an ACT prep test for sophomore year which also takes a stab at suggesting potential careers based on interests and skills) sits somewhere trapped in her room. The high school tutoring center has yet to see her waltz in for some ACT prep time using some program they are dying to try. The one motivating factor we seem to enjoy is…: “Can I drive?” Hmmm. Can I use that as leverage for prep time? It is her decision to go to college or not, but that training might teach her something valuable about how how she learns in her last few years in high school. Can I use her “drive to drive”somehow to create opportunities to meet more adults in a variety of fields… so she isn’t stuck with what she is familiar with as a 16 year old?
While I wish I had the Delorean in Back to the Future, I know we were busy packing other things into her childhood. We didn’t miss the lessons on love, loss and letting go. Dreaming is a solitary activity though, and I can’t follow her there. Even if I could go back in time, where would we have packed more experiences in? (Plus there is no telling what I would screw up back in the 2000’s. What do we call that decade, anyway?) I hold my tongue for new parents, because there venue is the here and now. As one mom said, “I just want to get through dinner with a two year old.” Somewhere between ages two and 16, I hope I have left the door open for this daughter to ask and receive support as she needs it. It’s time to give her the keys (most of the time) but look alive in the passenger seat, asking questions to get her thinking in the brief parking lots left between drives.
Editor’s note: Maddie did exercise some self-advocacy skills a few years ago, insisting that she proof each article that talked about her specifically. This message has been approved.