Every morning my big boy creeps into bed with me for snuggles. He doesn’t say a word but spoons his little warm body into mine. We lie there for a good five minutes. Then, when he rolls over and looks at me with his beautiful brown eyes, he asks, “Mummy, how’s your hearing today?”
If I answer, “Great!” he cheers, “Yippee!” and we both know the day is going to be wonderful.
If I answer, “Pardon, honey? Mummy can’t hear very well today,” his little face drops, and we know what that means.
I am hearing impaired
I have a hearing disability. I am deaf in one ear, and although I recently got a cochlear implant, it isn’t useful to me yet (but I am hopeful that it will be someday!) – it just sounds like static noise right now. But, in addition to this, I also have reduced hearing in my other ear. Right now though, and for the last year or so, I am experiencing quite dramatic hearing fluctuations with it.
The bad days are hard
While some mornings I can hear my little loves watching Fireman Sam on my way to the loo, other days I don’t even know the telly is on. On these days I wonder if we should rain-check swimming lessons because I know all the noise at the pool is going to confuse and upset me too much.
On the bad days, which are probably only 30 percent of the time, we still might go out, but to a quiet, unpopular park. Or if the ‘bad day’ happens to fall on a preschool day, I make the drop-off swift, pointing to my ear to indicate to the teacher that she shouldn’t bother trying to engage me in conversation. They smile and nod, understanding. They see me on my good days too (which is most of the time) and so we have a good chat then.
While I wear a hearing aid, it doesn’t always help. The hearing is so up and down that by the time I have it adjusted to meet my dropped hearing, it changes again. And then it often comes back! For a week or so, that is.
Drifting at sea
On the bad days, I feel disconnected from my little loves, including my big love, and I know they do too. Every conversation is hard work for them. They have to repeat themselves, speak clearly and there is a lot of frustration when messages get mixed. My sons are only five and three, so this is especially hard for them to navigate.
A silver lining
But as awful as these hard days are, and thankfully they come and go as frequently as their latest obsession, I know in my heart that my boys are learning things from having a mum who sometimes struggles that I could never, ever teach them.
Lessons that are so valuable they are shaping them to be the beautiful future partners, friends and people who everyone will naturally gravitate towards when they grow up because they are kind and caring.
A different perspective
For this, I am grateful.
When they need to clutch my face in their small hands and talk slowly and loudly into my ear, I feel my heart swell. They are learning to accommodate others.
When they ask me each morning how I am, I feel proud. They can and do think of others. They are learning to be empathetic.
When one of them gives me the thumbs-up sign after he’s taken a tumble to show me he’s OK, I smile. He knows how to communicate with me, and other people who face a range of challenges.
When they squabble with each other over whose turn it is to talk me, I smile. They are learning the art of conversation the hard way. I simply can’t hear them when they talk over each other.
When my little three-year-old tells me “kindy was too noisy,” I know he’s showing me he understands my world. And it makes my heart explode. He is trying to step into my shoes and get closer to me.
When they hold my hand to help me walk, because when my hearing goes, so does my balance, I melt inside. They are learning to be nurturing and helpful.
These are the lessons I can’t teach. But my disability is. And for this, I am thankful.
This post was originally published on 22 November 2018