I caught up with an old friend last week. A friend I hadn't seen in eighteen months, despite the fact we live within walking distance of each other. I brought fruit, she brought coffee and cake, we both brought kids and met at the local park.
After all the greetings were done, and we let the kids loose on the playground, I saw her watching my Small Boy extra carefully. It's a look I've seen before. "What's wrong with this picture?"
It's kind of hard to blurt it out. How can you tell people your child has a problem without feeling like you are letting our child down? Every time I tell strangers, "He's hearing impaired, I'm sorry," when he takes the lollipop/balloon/whatever they are offering without a "thank you", I feel like making those excuses for him might be hurting his little ego.
I find myself pushing him around Coles in the trolley saying things like, "Oh, you are a lovely boy! You're so handsome and I love you so much" just to sort of reaffirm to him that he is just such a delight to mother. I don't want him feeling anything less than the wonderful, smart little person he is. I suppose I'm putting myself in his shoes. Imagining how much I would hate for everyone to know that I was behind in such important skills - listening and talking.
You might be thinking, "why isn't she worried about him being trapped in a body with no way to communicate his ideas?" and that's because despite the lack of speech, he communicates beautifully. He has an expressive little face with dimples when he smiles. He does some signing on the important things. Apart from this - between his pointing and showing he always seems to get his message across. And when he can't? Well he does it himself. He's been pouring his own milk and cereal for eighteen months now (sometimes at 3am if he gets hungry). He drags a chair to reach for things like the secret m&ms in the fridge. He pours his own water and peels his own bananas. He can even turn on a computer and put his favourite show on iView! So, there's no need to be feeling sorry for him. He's quite content.
So... back to my playdate.
I have a system of sorts. When I need someone to know what is wrong with the picture I sort of casually slipped the following phrase into conversation, "...since the surgery..." For some reason, if you mention surgery, people will always always say, "Oh... what surgery?" That's my cue to let them know about his ears and how now he can hear and how with only a few months of hearing under his belt he's doing quite well with his talking.
It's the only way I know how to put a positive spin on the whole thing.
If we open with surgery, people are suddenly filled with admiration for my brave boy. They want to hear about his successes with his talking instead of commiserating the fact he's behind. I don't want to hear anyone saying things like, "Oh, he'll catch up when he's ready" or saying things like, "Must be because he has older siblings to do the talking for him." I want to hear, "...wow - it must be like a whole new world has opened up for him! Isn't he doing well to be so happy about it all?"
He's ready. He's working hard. I have no doubt speech will happen and the less pressure on us, the easier it will be. It makes me feel so much more confident when people acknowledge the effort he's making, how brave and smart and happy he is.
In the next few months, we find out if he needs more surgery. I believe in the power of prayer... if you do too, please add us to your list? Pray that this first surgery was enough to correct the issue in his ears and the only other hurdle we have is getting him speaking.
Thanks for listening :)