Saturday, April 30, 2011
When we first learned that Brooke had hearing loss it was devastating. You never want your child to get a paper cut, so a permanent disability is horrifying. I could only focus on the things I was sure she would never do: sing in a choir, dance in a ballet recital, speak without drawing attention, or tell me stories of her day in school.
But, when we got the official diagnosis I took to the internet like I do morning, noon, and night and set out to find a solution. I often think that I should have been born in another place and time – somewhere with corsets, or where women still cook in beautiful frilly aprons, or when men stood up when you left the table and carried hankerchiefs to blot your tears – but without google I would be lost, or at least own millions of dollars worth of encyclopedias.
After putting in what seemed like endless hours in the middle of the night I came to a profound conclusion: we don’t need a solution.
Brooke can’t hear as well as other kids. There is no shame in it and no reason to be embarassed. I blanch when people tell me not to worry because she can cover her hearing aids with her hair. Why should she have to hide them? She did nothing wrong and it isn’t a punishment for bad behavior. In the scheme of her life her hearing loss will be but a minor setback.
This idea did come partially from my reaching the acceptance level of the grief scale, but it mostly came about when I learned that hearing impaired children do every one of the things I mentioned above, and more.
She will be able to sing and dance her little heart out – all the way to professional ballet companies or to record labels as others with her impairment have done. She can play any sport, tell any story without missing a beat, and hear every single word that I mutter to her under my breath in her tween-age years. I am certain that there will be days that she will cry and not want to wear her hearing aids. I’m sure that some kid, somewhere, will pick on her. And I’m also quite convinced that my most important job as a parent is to teach her to handle herself with grace and confidence in those situations and to understand that we all have our crosses to bear.
So, here in the Park house we are embracing her hearing aids, not hiding them. In fact, I’m honestly a little sad that she needs a pilot cap or headband to keep the things on until her ears get bigger than the pixie lobes she currently sports. In my ideal world we would go out everywhere proudly displaying her thousands of dollars of hearing helpers and we would educate people all over.
Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in the world. Did you know that? I had no idea, but it’s true. Maybe if we weren’t all so preoccupied with hiding things behind hair then kids would be more willing to embrace differences like that. So, we ordered them in bright metallic pink, with hot pink ear molds. 99% of her wardrobe is pink right now anyway, so it is a perfect match. And yes, in the time of neutral being trendy we are rallying against the baby fashion movement and proudly dressing her like the girl she is, partially because I like being feminine, and partially so I don’t have to smile and roll my eyes when the little old ladies in Target tell me how handsome my chubby baby boy is.
I now look forward to every morning when I pop her hearing aids in and tell her how much I love her because I get to watch her eyes light up and her mouth curl into the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, and I dread every bedtime because I have to take them out and turn the volume down on the world again.
My daughter may not be perfect, but I guess that beautiful, smart, funny, and kind will just have to be good enough.