December 27, 2010

Doing what's best for...

While it's always a great time to see crowds of family and friends over the holidays, it's not always the easiest of listening environments for Hadley. I'm more proactive than reactive in these situations, mainly because the combination of excitement, sugar and high energy along with the listening challenges can be a recipe for disaster. While I normally give Hadley the time and space to make her own decisions, in crowded situations I'm usually ready to step in and speak quietly and directly to her, when necessary. For those family members and friends who generally see us during the holidays or at large gatherings, they may have the sense that this is how we always interact with Hadley, hovering and intervening. Hadley makes listening and communicating seem so effortless, it's easy for people to either forget that she lives with a very significant hearing loss and sometimes struggles.

Along with the holiday chit chat, I find myself answering questions about Hadley and her hearing from well-meaning, well-intentioned adults. For whatever reason, this year several people questioned whether some of my actions were truly necessary, particularly the act of physically moving closer to Hadley in large crowds to communicate with her. Couldn't I just sign? Rely on lip reading? It's such a chore to get up and move over to her; to quote one person, "sometimes you have to do what's best for mom", that there's a lesson for kids to learn in being put second. Why don't I do what's best for me? Certainly it would be simpler for me to mouth instructions across the room to Hadley, flip my hands or fingers a few times to get my point across. Why not?

Here's the deal: at nine years old, we're halfway through our time with Hadley. In just a few short years, she's not going to have a knowing adult keeping tabs on her from across the room, silently cuing and correcting her. These are the years where she needs us to intervene, so she knows what to do in the future when it's just her. We don't want her to develop simple coping skills, we want life skills that can carry her into adulthood and beyond. That may mean pausing my own conversations to help her now. I may be on high alert during new activities (like basketball this winter), not chatting on the sidelines but instead keeping myself available to clue her in now in order to allow her to be more independent later. Some might see this as hovering, but my intent is to get as much direct information into Hadley now so she can handle the world later.

So, yes: right now, we're doing what's best for Hadley. Our time will come at some point in the future, but we only have the present to get into Hadley as much academic and social learning that is possible. Forgive us if we let a conversation pause or lapse; if we take longer than what you think is necessary; if we intervene more frequently than you think you would, if in our position. And thank you to all those people who may not exactly understand why we do all these things, but support our choices nonetheless.

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