Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Brave New World

We recently spent a week traveling to Virginia and Florida to spend time with our far away friends and family.  It was a great retreat for us and in James' opinion-- any chance to go on a plane is a worthwhile endeavor.

On the plane ride home, there were a couple pre-teen boys who sat behind James and who were openly discussing his hearing aids.  We could hear them debating whether or not he was listening to something or if they were some sort of mechanical device.   At some point they figured out they were hearing aids and they started mimicking my chatty, chatty son.*

Adults will often ask about James' hearing aids-- usually saying something about how their child had tubes. . . and then saying something close to- 'but it's not permanent, right?'

I don't mind these interactions at all-- in fact, I think it's great. I like the honesty, the curiosity and the genuineness of the inquiry.  I also like that everyone assumes the best.

The interaction usually ends with them commenting on how well adjusted he is to the aids.  Yep- they are part of his uniforms-- shirt, pants, socks, ears.*** 

Smaller people are also noting the hearing aids now-- and up until now they have all been an honest question. Usually I just describe them as eye-glasses for the ears.  Most of the under-five crowd seems to understand this analogy, bless it as cool and move on. . . . However, I have been dreading the day when it was no longer 'cool.'

James didn't realize that he was being made fun of-- which is probably a blessing at his age. . . but wow folks, how do I prepare for this?   I know all kids get made fun of-- it's what kids do. . . but it breaks my heart to see my baby have such a conspicuous excuse for teasing.

Be strong my bionic baby.

*James was repeating** 'Excuse Me, Daddy' over and over again.  If you are going to be the butt of the joke-- say something polite.  We are so proud.

**Repeat= at least 100 times.

***It took us a long, long time to get to the point where a toddler wearing hearing aids wasn't a constant fear-- but we made it.  High fives all around. 


  1. People can be mean. Every child is going to encounter that at some point. James has a more obvious focal point for someone to grub onto, but if it wasn't the ears, maybe it would be his size, or his clothes, or his food preferences, or the way he walks, or any number of other things.

    My daughter is 5. She is largely socially competent, gets on well with her peers, is intelligent, generally happy. Within her class they seem to generally get on well with each other, but she has started to experience that sometimes one or two kids from the older classes will be mean. When they see an opportunity where no adult is closely watching, they throw a stone at one of the smaller kids, or make a mean face, or say something mean spirited. It pains her to see and be aware that the intention is unkind.

    It is painful for me to see that awareness forming in her.

    I've been struggling with how best to address this with her. Originally, we talked about and role-played ways that she might be able to change the situation. Like... the other kid makes a mean face. What if she responds by making a funny face, and laughing, in a joyful way? Maybe through an unexpected reaction like that, she could elicit surprise, or even joyful laughter, from the other child. Change the mood and the flavor of the interaction. She LOVED the role playing, and wanted to do it all the time, but she did not really seem to carry it from the role playing into the experiences with the other kids.

    Since then I've largely been encouraging her to seek intervention from an adult if it is needed, but to otherwise try and let it roll off her. I've been telling her that people won't always be nice, and she can't necessarily expect to change them - if they want to go around in a bad mood with a negative outlook, she might not be able to do anything change that for them. But for herself, she can choose to let it go, or she can let it really get to her, and thereby let them affect her experience and her day. I guess it is a sort of boundary exploration.

    I also use it as an opportunity to talk about her feelings, to process them, to think about the other childrens' actions, possibly their motivations, and finally to ponder how she might take the experience and determine how she herself might or might not want to act toward others going forward.

    What I am trying to do most with my daughter is to keep an open dialogue, to be honest enough with her that she is able to trust me (I don't preemptively tell her about everything that could ever go wrong, but I do try to validate her experience when she encounters something new that she is working through, and I do try to give her some heads up if I sense that something is becoming or will soon become an issue). I also try to be supportive, to try and lift her up, and to give her as many tools as I can to hopefully find a way to be happy and well-adjusted no matter what she encounters along the way.

    It is evident from your writings that you have a good sense of perspective, a good awareness of what is going on with James, and that you have a great deal of empathy and love for him. I think that when he does become more aware of unkindness around him, those will all help him to process it in a healthy way.