It. Is. Not. Easy. It is a journey that has changed me in so many ways that if you offered me life as a fully hearing person, I would hesitate; I might even say no.
As a new Mom I am now beginning to appreciate what my parents did for me, especially my Mom. She always told me, “It’s just like having a pair of glasses, your hearing loss is no big deal.”
I took her advice to the extreme and formed a philosophy which was to ignore that I was disabled. It seemed worse to limit myself mentally and physically because I had two little machines in my ears. I moved to Washington DC, I moved to Seattle, I went alone on a 500 mile hike in Spain. I figured that I would keep doing whatever I wanted until someone told me that I couldn’t due to my disability. Which no one has ever done!
I was so stubborn about ignoring my “difference” that it’s led to some interesting life lessons. For example, I moved to DC and got a job as an IT trainer. One day both the batteries in my hearing aids died while i was in the middle of leading a class. I thought I was “good enough” to fake my way through it and rely on visual cues alone. Nope, everyone knew something was wrong; the jig was up. What did I learn? I had to ask for help. I had to be honest about my situation. I’m still learning these two lessons. What a gift!
Growing up different was hard. I remember being teased, bullied, and ignored. For half my life I thought I was so different that I would never find someone to marry and that if I hid my disability people would treat me as if I was “normal.” As an adult, I know that’s not true; but when things happen to you as a kid, the memory of it changes you intrinsically. It takes a long time to get over certain things.
To be fair, there was a lot of doubt in my life and I was an asshole for many years. I was angry at being different, and scared I would never get life right. If you’ve ever seen Welcome to the Dollhouse, you’ll know that kids often do not react with empathy; it’s been my experience that they usually react with the same treatment they were given. Over time; with amazing parents and maturity, my attitudes began to change. Over time; I learned empathy, found real friends and spent time doing things that mattered to me. Over time; I learned I wasn’t the only one who had a hard time growing up. What a gift!
Most of the time I consider my hearing loss a blessing. Like when the baby came, there were times that all she did was cry when I rocked her, I was able to turn my ears off and rock her in relative quiet. THANK GOD! It helped keep me calm which helped keep her calm. Or the time I got in a fight with my Dear Husband and didn’t want to hear his side anymore, I turned my ears off . It was SOO childish but felt SOO good. Absolutely a gift! The funniest compliment I ever got was, “No wonder you’re so smart, you haven’t had to hear stupid people talking your whole life.” A very sweet gift.
I have received important lessons of empathy, kindness to others and friendship. For kids, it can be hard to stand up and be friends with someone who has a label of different or disabled but that is a quality to be treasured, let me tell you. The friends I have now, I hold onto with respect and loyalty.
I hope my daughter won’t be embarassed of me because of my hearing. It might happen. I’m ready for it because it doesn’t matter. If it’s not my hearing it will be something else, as any mom with teenagers can tell you. Besides, I doubt she’ll come up with something new that I haven’t already heard. At the end of the day, I’ll still love her and I’ll still push her to look beyond the horizon. I hope I can use my disability to teach my daughter the qualities of respect, loyalty, empathy, and standing up for kids. Maybe God gave me a hearing loss so I could learn through my difficulties how to be a better mom. What a gift!
How will you handle the conversation with your kids about people’s disabilities or simply kids who are different? If you say nothing; they form their own ideas from other kids, other parents, or the media; which is not always a good thing. While I believe it’s good for kids to see and be exposed to different perceptions; as a parent, I believe it’s our job to help guide those fresh thoughts. Just like the birds and the bees, every parent should talk to their kids about physical and mental differences in others.
I’m in my late thirties and still no one ever told me to stop what I was doing because of my hearing. Is there anything in your life that is stopping you from something? What in your life can you turn from a disability to a gift?