Pat Yourself on the Back

​​It is much easier to recognize our child's progress than it is to see how far we as parents have come. It is important for you to stop from time to time and acknowledge your own successes.

Take some time and look back at all you have accomplished over the last year, month, or even the last week. It is much easier to continue doing what we have to do when we can see how far we have already come.

Can We Ever Do Enough?

I remember a phone conversation I had with my cousin a year or so after my daughter was identified as deaf.  As was often the case, our conversation turned to how my daughter was doing.  At the time I was driving her twice a week, 45 minutes each direction, to speech therapy, running to doctors and audiology appointments.  I was also involved in starting a parent support group, was reading everything about deafness that I could get my hands on, and was diligently working at turning everything possible into a "learning experience" for my daughter.

Although I cannot recall the specifics of the conversation, I remember that I was worrying that I was not doing enough for her. I will never forget my cousin's response. She said, 'Do you honestly think you'll ever feel like you're doing enough?' She then went on to remind me of where we had started just a short time ago, and encouraged me to look at all we had learned and done already, rather than to focus on all that still needed to be done. That was great advice, and something that I've tried to remember and pass on to other parents over the years.​

Setting Our Children Up For Success

"Finding out my beautiful baby was deaf was a huge blow. I had never known a person who was deaf in my whole life. I had been around one girl in college who was deaf, but I was afraid to talk to her, so I kind of ignored her. I was terrified. All the dreams I had for my daughter felt in jeopardy. I think I cried for days, and was in a daze for much of the next 6 months at least. All I could think of was she has never heard me tell her 'I love you'. I thought about things I thought I would never experience now, giggling teenagers at a sleepover, her walking down the steps in her first prom dress, hours and hours of trying to get her off the telephone!

Even though the first few months were in a fog, we as a family did manage to take baby steps forward.  I did spend those first few days crying, but also reading. I read everything I could get my hands on. The next few months, I spent every morning at the breakfast table with my 4 year old son, looking up, and learning to sign what I wanted to say, word by word. The other thing I found from my reading the first days was addresses of organizations that dealt with deafness and I wrote to each one for any information they could give me. The most important contact that resulted from those letters was a phone call from a local parent that was affiliated with the American Society for Deaf Children. Our family attended their next local meeting and had the chance to see older children who were deaf that were talking to their parents, playing, being successful in school, and acting like ordinary kids!  These two steps probably did more to lead our daughter on a path of success than anything else.

After 2 months, school had started again so we had access to sign classes which the whole family participated in, and where we found others just like us. We focused on learning sign, quickly and well, and being involved with other families with deaf kids. There have been many challenges along the way, and many fears.  Some of the biggest have involved school and getting her into the program I felt was best (not perfect). You get in, and then you get involved to help bring even more improvements to the best program you can find.  Tough times also came when she realized she was different and then each time she feels she is treated differently, or ignored, or blatantly discriminated against because she is deaf.
We now have a beautiful, 16 year old, active, happy, intelligent daughter who goes to a public high school, is a member of National Honor Society, varsity swimming, a cheerleader, yearbook staff, and several other clubs.  She has been to all three high school homecomings, and last year she attended 3 proms!  And as for the giggling sleepovers - there are other girls here, deaf and hearing most weekends, and it's been that way for years now.  They do giggle, and gossip, and share happiness and heartache, and talk about boys and futures!  We have spent hours and hours and driven thousands of miles over the years to make sure she has lots of time with friends who are deaf or hard of hearing and is involved in activities with deaf kids and adults as much as possible.  She now enjoys visiting at the school for the deaf and has developed many friendships with students there and has joined some of their clubs.

I cannot think of one thing that she has not been able to do because she was deaf - although some things took lots of planning, or educating people, or contacts made ahead of time.

I feel so lucky to have been given this child, she has taught me so much and I admire her greatly as she is the one who has the drive, and the perseverance to not give up.  I hope she learned some of that from me as I showed her how to get involved and keep working for changes that need to be made.

She also developed security in herself knowing that we respected her deafness, as we continue to sign even though she has a cochlear implant, we see it as a tool, not as a cure.
While professionals play a major role in the lives of our children, it is we, the parents, who have the most impact on them. When we believe in them and expect that they can succeed, they will. Some of us may have to measure success a little differently than others, but those successes are no less significant. What is important is that we give our children the confidence to believe in themselves and the tools they need to reach their full potential. We must also believe in ourselves.​