January 7, 2011

The balancing act

There's no getting around it: living life with a hearing loss wears you out. It takes extra energy and effort to process complex language, identify the important sounds over the background babble, and fill in any gaps with contextual or visual clues. Despite the fact that this is the only life Hadley knows, it's still draining: even a long distance runner is exhausted at the end of a long run. There's only so much endurance a person can build.

A challenge is balancing Hadley's energy level with the abundance of activities that are available to kids her age. I am a firm believer in participating in sports and other popular activities when they are new to everyone, and Hadley loves trying out new programs (with a healthy amount of apprehension). Problem is, there are dozens from which to choose! Every few months, we contemplate new activities and weigh them against those she already enjoys or does with friends. It's the normal juggling act all parents do (When will homework be completed? What days are free? Who will drive? How much does it cost? What has to give?), but with the added complication of factoring in Hadley's endurance and energy. I know that if Hadley has a team sport one day, she needs to have the next day be very low key. I've learned that "quiet" activities, like art class, can be scheduled anytime during the week. I've realized that programs that require active listening are best done on Mondays, when she is most rested. Piano lessons are best early in the morning, but the special relationship she has with her teacher is so important that we squeeze in this time as we can. Above all, by 5PM, Hadley's energy is pretty much depleted, having put in a nearly 11-hour day by then. While Hadley's endurance improves as she grows older and develops the skills and strength to manage her day, the expectations rise as well: homework increases; language is more complex; teaching and learning is more auditory-based. What works for her now may not be the case next year. Just when I think we've discovered the best school-activity-life balance, her needs change.

So, the balancing act continues. This winter, Hadley asked to try some new after-school activities, and we agreed to add one film-making class. We're testing out her ability to do something later in the day with ice skating lessons. The next six weeks will be a little busier than usual for her, so we'll see how it goes and adjust as necessary.

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