Often, I’m not sure if I ask myself or receive from others more questions about childhood and my kids’ hearing loss. Wearing their “ears” is part of the daily routine, so much like putting on shoes, I don’t have to think twice. However, it’s also one of those constant nags – much like dinner – that I’m always considering in the back of my mind.
When H-Boy was first diagnosed, many people aimed to comfort us with the knowledge that once he was older, we’d be able to know more about the extent of his hearing loss and if he’d “need” his hearing aids. Well, we’ve arrived at the point of getting useful feedback about his hearing, which has both helped me process how to best aid him and caused me even more questions about how to best aid him.
Our biggest challenge: he’s a 4-year-old boy. Often, he’s simply acting like a 4-year-old boy. Example: every time I speak to/with him, I’m met with a W question. What? Why? Where’s he going? Who is that person? What?
Please tell me that other moms everywhere sometimes simply say, “I don’t know” and move on? I mean, that’s legal, right? Oh, the questions. I love an inquisitive spirit, but it’s exhausting.
So when I ask him to do something and he responds “What?” I’ve narrowed down his response to mean one of several things:
- Stalling. He simply doesn’t want to get dressed. Typical 4-year-old boy. This is a good 40% of the time.
- Volume. During a recent bout of repetition I ended up asking if he wanted his ears turned up and he said yes. So I showed him where his volume control was and more than once I’ve noticed him adjusting it (granted, this involved buttons, so we could be back to the Typical 4YOB thing). This tells me we need to get him back in the testing booth to see if his hearing has changed. I’d attribute this to about 15-20% of the time.
- Speed and sight. One time, after several attempts, I asked him, “do you want me to say it louder or do you want me to say it slower?” He easily responded “slower.” Because we’re all used to dealing with hard of hearing grandparents, our temptation is to talk to them like a train is going by; but what kids like mine really need is for you to look at them and speak at a less-than-expedient pace (this poor kid, being given to a mother like me….). In my experience, his biggest challenges are the car, where I cannot turn and the music is in the way, speaking from room to room, and speaking in rooms full of people and conversation. Extra visual is needed there, often it’s best to squat to his level to gain full attention. (Um…. this could be true of every 4YOB as well).
My most recent conundrum regarding what he “really” hears involves music. Miss M, a bigger David Crowder fan than I, will now often recite what David is singing about to me. After a line, she’ll say, “Mommy, David Crowder said that ‘O great God give us rest!'” Yes, yes he did. (Note: she’ll do this through the whole song. I’m trying to remember that it’s endearing).
H-boy has never done this. In fact, I can’t recall him singing along with anything. He does sing songs very common to him, but the Pre-k teachers have told me that he didn’t like to sing the songs with the class, like the Name Game (now, 3 months later, he’ll break into that song at home). At the Christmas party, I noticed he didn’t sing. I tried asking if he liked the songs, if he knew the words, if he didn’t like singing, but didn’t get much feedback to lead me in any direction. So I have to wonder – does the speed of the verse and the background “noise” of the music inhibit him from hearing the words to the song? Does he not sing because he doesn’t know what they’re saying? Or, like the Typical 4YOB, does he just not like to sing with others?
My level-headed kindergarten-teacher friend told me it’s something to explore, but unfortunately these will always be the questions I’ll ask: is it because he can’t hear or because this is who he is? Because those each garner different responses. If he doesn’t participate because he can’t hear, I want to figure out how to provide every opportunity. But if he doesn’t partake because it’s not something he enjoys or because of his natural sense of “who I am”, then I don’t want to be that pushy mom who mandates music lessons. It’s a delicate balance to want to make sure doors are open without pushing him through the threshold.
But enough about what he’s “not” doing…. he’s currently reading to Baby C from the bug book, making her cackle in laughter. He loves to squeeze into the tiny, cozy area between the chair and table to “work in his office”, tying up the 4-piece cloth nativity set. He loves books and bedtime won’t be complete without a story, frequently, as mentioned, asking 500 questions about the characters and plot lines. He’d rather curl up on the couch with a book than go outside (definitely my child). He’s destined to be a church usher or funeral home director because he’s always counting chairs to make sure there are enough for everyone joining us for dinner. He loves to pick out his outfit and accessorizing is his favorite part – we’ve been to the store with ties and vests and fancy hats numerous times. One of the other moms at school even complemented him on his clothing choices (her kid seems to have an affinity for cartoon characters).
Discovering the world through the eyes – and ears – of a 4-year-old boy makes for a curious adventure. I’m grateful for the chance to rediscover the world with him.