Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hear Me, My Friend...

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When you are told that your child has hearing loss, there are many things that flash through your mind.

How?

When?

What do we do now?

Does this mean she'll have to wear hearing aids to Prom?
(Not all the questions seem that critical, in retrospect...)

But there are questions that don't hit you until later, aspects of life and coping, the stuff of living that suddenly seems more complicated. Like, how is she going to talk on the phone? Can you swim in hearing aids?

And then the one that pierces your heart.

How will she make friends?

Followed closely by...

Who will be her friends?

At first, it seemed simple enough that 4 of 8 would be surrounded by her siblings. They would be her playmates, her protectors, her dialect coaches. And they have been. But as 4 of 8 grew and her language began to develop, she naturally began to gravitate to children her own age.

And it was not always, um, successful.

Up to a certain age, the gaps in language didn't seem to make much difference in her playmates. It was generally about dressing up and mothering baby dolls and jumping on the trampoline. 4 of 8 enjoyed both hearing and hearing impaired friends, a seamless blend of buddies.

But starting about the age of 7, things shifted a bit. Girls discovered chatting, talking, conversing, dialoguing. And they discovered that 4 of 8 was not quite as adept and sophisticated in that department. Some girls weathered the difference well. Some did not.

She blessedly had a wonderful across-the-street best friend, an amazing girl two years her senior. BD was an incredible mix of devoted friend and language coach, never making 4 of 8 feel patronized, loving her, accepting the gaps, coaching through the challenges. They giggled, shared secrets, swam, played, collected Webkinz.

And then we up and moved.

While each of our moves have brought their own reason for tears, this one grieved me incredibly for 4 of 8. While she had enjoyed other friendships, this one with BD was very special. We knew that we were to make the move; we could hardly bear the goodbye with BD.

And so 4 of 8 had to begin again, forging ahead in determined gregariousness, me with my heart in my throat. She would approach neighborhood kids, girls at dance class, classmates in Sunday School. They would try to figure out her unique 'accent', she would explain her hearing aids. They would smile. They would be kind. They would try to include her in their jokes. She would smile patiently from the fringes.

And she longed for a real friend.

Meet SH.

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It takes a unique kid to both embrace and work through the communication issues with 4 of 8 and to somehow render that mix without leaving the realm of being a peer. And SH has done it. She is a precocious, hilarious word meister. She traffics in drama and comedy. She banters, jokes, coaxes, persuades and giggles. And she gets 4 of 8.

And 4 of 8 gets her.

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We're just a little crazy about her...

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We're very attached to all our kids' friends. They bless our lives, color our worlds, fill our hearts. And there is a special gratitude that comes with the ones who befriend 4 of 8. We know how funny 4 of 8 is. We know how loyal and kind and tender-hearted she is. We know that she paints in devotion and humor. We know how blessed any friend of hers will be.

And SH blesses us.





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