Friday, June 29, 2012

All I needed to learn about parenting a deaf kid, I learned at The River School.

I could take you on the emotional roller coaster that I rode as Christian finished Pre-K and his time at his current school. I could go into the details about my panic that is weirdly coupled with peace. Or how I just looked at friends and faculty on the last day and they met my gaze with tearful eyes as well. There's much more to this than just what went through my heart and head on our last day. So much more.

I remember walking into school 5 years ago just praying that he would just "fit" and that he would one day be able to talk and play with typical pears. Christian started school at just under 17 months. He was BARELY walking, toddling really. He was a baby. And I was this new Mom to a little boy who was deaf. I had no idea what I was doing. In addition to obsessing over all the new Mom things that really seem so moot right now, I was overwhelmed and totally overcome by the intensity and scariness of raising a deaf child. I would question myself daily "Is this right?" "Did we make the right choice" Actually, the only thing that I was confident that I was doing right WAS sending him to this school. 

The years went on and we both learned. Christian grew from a newly implanted toddler to a sweet and chatty 2 year old who was already surpassing his hearing peers in expressive language. I became a little bit less unsure and started taking on more and more ownership of Christian's hearing loss. It became my JOB to advocate and support Christian. I quickly had to learn how to calm my insane case of anxiety when Lily was born, and quietly handle that creepy let-down of not having another deaf child.

The receptive language came, and by 3 years old he was a class leader. He thrived being the social yet sensitive friend. Along with ownership of Christian's hearing loss came management, I became engrossed in the advocacy. I researched and interviewed, and took the role on as the "Crazy Mom Who Knows Too Much". I organized fundraisers and connected with the local Deaf community. Finally, despite the intensity, life was getting a little bit easier. I wasn't worrying AS MUCH, and our sweet baby girl was bringing an absolutely delectable amount of joy and blessings into the family. 

By 4 years, he was amazing everyone. Not only was he doing great things that GREAT typical hearing 4 year old boys should be doing, but he continued to amaze us with his ridiculous ability to gather vocabulary and use it meaningfully. I started panicking again. Worrying about the inevitable time that we would leave the school. I started having dreams of his Cochlear Implant failing during his oral dissertation defense in college. The dream when it happend on his wedding day still sticks with me. I started fixating on all the what-ifs. Every breath I took became a frantic search for clarity. I became obsessed with Bikram Yoga and I started seeing a therapist. I took medicine to calm my anxiety. I was able to focus after somehow finding the time to focus on myself.

And by 5, well he firmly planted himself promptly in the middle of his class and took on the rolls of Class Clown and Protector of Girls. I started looking towards the future. The intense dreams and worries of a failure and of him fatiguing from the level that he works haunted me every day. So, I kicked off my flip-flops and jumped right into going bilateral. The testing, the surgery, the rehab....all of it our school stood by our side. As fast as it happened, it was a long time coming and we were ready for it. Rehabilitating the newly implanted ear along with prepping to transition to Kindergarten in our public school became my new full-time job and my new reality. And knowing we were leaving our protective safe place was becoming more and more real.

As I walked into the school the last all-school assembly, I felt a lump in my throat and had to choke back the tears. So many of our memories center around that school and so many steps of our family journey with Cochlear Implants have started there. It's bittersweet to leave a place that not only did my son grow-up in, but I did as well. It's easy to see the transformation in the both of us. We're confident. We're secure. And we're ready for new adventures.

Last Day of School 5.5 years old
First Day of School-17 months old

Note: If you're a parent, teacher, or family member of a child with hearing loss and want to know more about the innovative and ground-breaking education that The River School in Washington, DC provides to both typically hearing and kids with hearing loss, please comment!

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