Navigating pre-teen social situations, social media, friendships and that four letter ugly word: BOYS, with a my hearing-impaired, cochlear implant daughter, Lexi, kind of smacked me in the face harder than anticipated. She's a child who is seemingly like her peers and is extremely poised, collected and confident when competing in sports or dancing in a performance. So when I went over her texts to classmates with her, I realized .... THE NEXT MILESTONE HAS ARRIVED. And then the moment happened which reminded me of the incredible trust we've established BECAUSE of her deafness and cochlear implant journey....she asked the question mommas long for (in true Lexi fashion), "Momma, will you teach me some swagger?"
For some reason, girls are developing at an even faster rate. We eat clean chicken. I mean it. Hormone-free clean chicken. Yet, even though I'm 5'1" on my best day, my just turned 11 year old daughter looks like a young Wonder Woman. She's 5'3" at 120 pounds of solid muscle and a beautiful figure. She wears a size 10.5 shoe! And I just told you we eat clean chicken!
So it's no surprise with the access to social media, phones, instant information and hormones arriving sooner than later that we would be having this social media, texting, friends and boys discussion already.
Our teenagers are faced with so much MORE than we ever faced. We heard about a movie with a nasty scene in it. They could easily turn on any channel on tv and see that same movie unless a parental block is added.
We had pagers....they have immediate group texts where you can't take anything back.
So last night, Lexi had been furiously texting in a group with some friends at school. We have an open communication relationship and she tells me things she knows she can't tell her hero daddy. Girl stuff.
I asked to read through her texts. They were SO VERY INNOCENT which is always a relief and appreciation for God and good families of her sweet friends. However, I noticed she really had an issue connecting socially in the texts. What was funny to me is that she would never communicate that way in person.
A couple were to friends and a couple were in a group with a few boys on the text (totally innocent 5th grader chit chat). As a prom queen mom and captain of most of my sports teams, I was like "my girl needs some help on this text game."
Lexi didn't have her ears on, but she lip-read me as I said, "I need to help you with your text-game."
At that moment, her big ole hysterical personality came out. She knew exactly what I meant and she yelled out, "Momma, will you teach me some your swagger?!!"
I about lost it! I cracked up! That's the Lexi who is open, free and okay with herself. Yet in her text, she seemed to be a bit awkward, socially challenged and not the care-free and confident young lady I know.
I went to bed a little troubled because it settled in...here's the new challenge. We were rolling along. Grades are great, tutoring is working well, reading and writing are developing at a great pace. You see most of the world sees Lexi as a hearing, talking typical child. TWO YEARS of a time when her brain wasn't being fed language and connection actually set her back in ways no one can see.
Deafness and hearing loss is a complicated disability because you can't see it. You can't see what happens to the brain when it goes without the stimulation of human emotion, connection, language and sound. Our brains need sound for fuel. Our emotions need fed by human connection.
Helen Keller said it best, "Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people."
I can tell you that just because Lexi has a cochlear implant does not mean she hears all the information! Lexi misses things. Add some classroom level noise and her hearing will go from 95% recognition to 65-70% recognition. Add a noise gym and she's likely below 40%. It's not that she can't HEAR volume, it's truly a miracle that she can hear at all. She is 1000000% deaf. However,
So, while I don't have all the answers, I don't have a ton of time, I was thinking about the best way to tackle this.
1. I cannot wait for our charity Songs for Sound to have our own facility to host monthly meetings with parents and kids with hearing loss. The goal will be to tackle these very issues and provide a safe place for the kids to learn how to overcome these challenges and equip parents with the tools for support.
2. Strategy and checklist. I am going to begin defining this checklist of PRE-TEEN needs and share so we can go through this together.
CHECKLIST FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS:
- BE THEIR TEXT PROXY - We have car time. In the car, Lexi can hold off on responding to social texts. In that time in the car, driving from one sport to the next, I can help Lexi LEARN to respond. Because she's right, momma has swagger. :):)
- ROLE-PLAYING - this isn't just texting y'all. I've seen a slight difference in Lexi in social groups. Come up with some topics and have a conversation. Jump in and teach your child what is appropriate and what isn't; what will RELATE and what won't!
- THERAPY AND TUTORING - don't hesitate to engage your therapists and tutors. They may have insights to UNDERLYING language development issues they can tackle or have seen.
More updates coming! KEEP WATCHING!