Hearing again and saving herself

During Lei’s days off last week, I tried having her wear her right processor again, and surprisingly she was able to hear decently through it. Over the last week the cutting-in-and-out problem seems to have resolved completely. Lei can hear again!

She still talked about being homeschooled, however, and I asked her how she planned to stay in touch with her new friends at school. “I’ll chat with them online,” she breezed.

She had it all worked out. But on Tuesday when Lei, her dad and I met at midday with the school case manager, audiologist and hearing itinerant, Lei did a 180.

“I talked with my two good friends here and they said they wouldn’t be friends with me if I quit going to Madero.” She grinned. “So I’m staying!”

Let’s hear it for positive peer pressure!  Continue reading


From the archives: This I believe

In 2004, my brother emailed me that I should think about submitting an essay to NPR’s then new series, This I Believe. About a year later, near the end of my daughter’s second year of life, this playful reflection is what I wrote. I never did submit it to NPR, just posted it to my long-defunct blog, Today in the Life. Anyway, enjoy!

Someday they really are going to grow up.
Someday they really are going to grow up.

I believe that housework offers its own reward, and those who perform it are bounty hunters.
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Doctors, fairy tales and oxytocin

You know what happens when your car is making a weird noise and you take it to the mechanic? Right. Nothing. Suddenly everything is smooth as silk and the noise has mysteriously gone away.

Lei has always been like this. No, she’s not a car, but when she was a baby she could have a high fever, or never make eye contact, or emit a horrible high-pitched shriek all day every day, but as soon as we were in the same room with a doctor, she was golden. Bright, alert, looking that doctor straight in the eye, as if to say, “I’m the healthiest, happiest, milestone-hittingest kid in the world, doc.”

And the doctors mostly thought I was extremely neurotic. It was great.

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Not just a normal kid who can’t hear

The times I heard it, it jarred me.

“He’s just a normal kid, the only difference is he can’t hear.”

The tattooed, goateed dad watching his two hearing daughters and hard-of-hearing son run around the playground of a sun-drenched School for the Deaf was talking about his two-year-old boy, a little younger than Lei at that time. We were both there for a Preschool Institute for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families. I wondered if his easy confidence came from being a more experienced parent.

Or the petite, dark-haired mom of an 11-year-old deaf girl, who I met through the summer day camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. She told me her daughter “was a really calm baby, and she’s still really easygoing. Gets along with everybody. She’s just a normal kid.”

I smiled and nodded. Inside me a voice was saying, “Lei’s not just a normal kid.”

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Learning to read to my deaf child

Good Night Moon was the first book I learned how to read to my daughter.
Illustration by Clement Hurd, from Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown.

How well I remember sitting in my mom’s lap, leaning my back against her chest, her arms around me and her hands holding a picture book in front of me. Her voice made a story out of the pictures, weaving adventures from the squiggly black shapes on the page.

That’s how I wanted to read to my child. Long before she could walk, I would snuggle Lei on my lap and look over the back of her little head at the pictures, reading out loud the words on the page. She would sit for a few minutes, then get up and move away.

It was a tiny taser to my heart every time.

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Doctors I’d like to kick, or why Lei didn’t get a newborn hearing screening

When I took Lei to her three-month well check-up and told our family doctor that she hadn’t had a newborn hearing screening yet, he checked it for me right there in the exam room. What a cool guy.

He stood in front of me. Lei perched on my lap, facing him. He extended his right hand to Lei’s right ear and rubbed his fingers together so that a very slight shhhh sound was produced. She turned towards his hand. After repeating this highly scientific evaluation on the left, he pronounced a finding of 100 percent normal hearing.

“She can hear just fine, see?”

I’m not a violent person, but I do sometimes fantasize about finding him and kicking him in the head.

Because that is not a hearing test. It’s not. It’s not even a screening. It’s really a test to see if a baby will be curious about why you have put your hand outside their peripheral vision and what you’re doing over there.

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Speech bananas and moonbeams

One day when my daughter, Lei, was 16 months old, I found myself chatting with another mom and her daughter, who was within a month of Lei’s age. The girls were playing and this other mom and I were making the kind of small talk that moms of young children can make even if they don’t know each other well.

When the other little girl began to fuss, her mom asked her, “Are you hungry?”

The girl nodded.

My jaw dropped.

Lei had never ever done that. It was a great day when she pointed at something. Although she clung to me so much we called her “monkey baby,” she spoke zero words, didn’t nod, shake her head, answer to her name or follow simple commands. She didn’t consistently make eye contact and had certainly never answered a question.

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