Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Great Closet Clean Out

A few weeks ago after the kids were all in bed my friend Charity came over to help me with a project.  My wardrobe needed a complete, top to bottom rehab. 

Since I got pregnant with Lou in August of 2013 my body has gone through the ringer.  It’s been three years straight of growing with pregnancy, shrinking much more slowly than I’d like, growing again and shrinking again (even more slowly, of course).  All while breastfeeding, the needs of which do not lend themselves to all clothes equally.  For the last three years I’ve worn whatever was comfortable, whatever fit in my in-between sizing states, and whatever allowed me to whip a boob out at a moment’s notice.  This mostly looked like wearing yoga leggings and oversized tops.

I’m pretty much done with breastfeeding and I’ve come to terms with the fact that as much “baby weight” that’s going to come off post Rory has departed; this is my body now.  As I mentioned before, my closet was a weird combination of clothes I wish would fit me, clothes I bought right after I had babies that were weird fitting, and clothes that I never wear because I don’t know how or what to wear them with.  I’m tired of feeling frumpy at school pick up, tired of wearing stained, hole-y clothes because nothing else fits and this is the only white tee shirt I have left.  So it was time to go through each article of clothing and make a decision: keep or toss.  

Prior to Charity’s arrival I’d spent a few days pre-purging.  I got rid of everything that I was stained or had holes and the things that I knew just really didn’t fit/look good. By the time she arrived that evening I was ready to blow up my whole closet and start from scratch, so I was surprised with how much I ended up keeping when it was all said and done.  But of course that is the genius of my friend Charity-she has a keen eye for how to wear things and the most encouraging spirit in the world.  

Here are the things I learned in The Great Closet Clean Out:

Often just adding a different shoe changed a whole outfit from tosser to keeper.  
There were so many things I assumed would end up in the “donate” pile that wound up in my closet purely because of the shoes Charity told me to try them with.  I have a pair of loose, printed summery pants I didn’t wear all summer.  Charity paired them with my wedge booties and they will now live to see the fall.  The fall!  These were unflattering summer pants only in my mind and suddenly with a heel they are chic and awesome printed pants that will be making an appearance all fall.  I had a pair of old pumas that I was certain were on their way out that are now going to be worn with a number of different outfits in coming weeks.  I don’t think much about shoes when I buy clothes or plan outfits but this experience taught me that shoes can make our break an outfit.

You need good basics. 
We discovered in The Great Closet Clean Out that I was long on funky or “interesting” pieces but very short on basics which was preventing me from wearing all those interesting pieces.  This is ironic because I told Charity when she arrived that I’d been living in the suburbs for too long and my wardrobe was boring.  Back in my NYC days I’d been a little bolder when it came to wearing clothes.  Everyone was a walking canvas in New York when it came to fashion-you would stick out if you didn’t try a few funky pieces from time to time.  I missed wearing clothes that were a little unique.  I felt like I was wearing the same combination of yoga pants and cotton tops, and everything else in my closet was unwearable or weird.  Charity helped me realize I had all the unique pieces, but they needed some basics to make them wearable.

It’s ok to hang on to clothes for sentimental reasons.
There were a few pieces in my closet that carried a story.  The green skirt I bought at a flea market the summer I worked in NYC during college and was wearing when Tommy knew he wanted to date me, a white skirt with embroidered flowers I purchased in Ireland during my study abroad year, a pair of pants Tommy had bought me when we were first dating.  Some of these things had been ill-fitting over the years, or wavered between fashionable or not, but I held on to them because they carried a beloved story.  I was pretty sure my time with Charity was going to be the push I needed to finally say good-bye, but instead she was a champion in encouraging me to put them in the keep pile.  She helped me find ways to wear some of them, convincing me that the clothes looked good and not, as some of them were, almost 12 years old.  She championed the notion that clothing with history is important.  Since then I’ve worn an orange skirt with beautiful embroidered flowers and delicate beadwork twice, each time remembering my favorite little boutique in New York and my early days dating Tommy.  And I put aside a few pieces that no longer fit great to hand down to the girls.  Maybe someday they’ll love the blue, velvety flair pants that their dad picked out when we were first dating.  Or maybe I’ll just love telling the story.   Either way I’m thankful she persuaded me to save a few pieces for sentimental reasons and helped me freshen them up.

Be ruthless about what comes and goes
I had to get real strict when it came to getting rid of stuff.  My favorite shirt with the hole?  Time to say good bye.  Those pants I spent too much on, but look terrible on me?  Sorry you’re gone.  Anything that fits weird? Out.  I’m learning that I’m super picky about how clothes feel on my body.  If I find myself thinking about my clothes all day, adjusting them or pulling on them because I can feel them on me I’m less likely to wear them again.  I got rid of a lot of great clothes that weren’t great for me.  And from now on I’m going to be equally ruthless about what I buy.  No more shopping online at stores that are difficult to make returns.  No more clothes that I only sorta like but bought because they were cheap.  I want to build my wardrobe with good quality necessities from now on.  

It’s not just about getting dressed to get dressed.
Thanks to the great closet clean out I’m excited about getting dressed again.  There’s a creative element to it for me and I really do feel more confident when I walk out the door.  I’m learning that it’s not shallow to care about what you wear because it really does do something inside of you.  I have a different energy and a different “I got this” attitude.  I don’t know why exactly, but I know that by clearing out all the things I owned that didn’t make me feel confident to wear and reworking what was left, getting dressed is easier in the morning and I feel better all day.  

And lastly…. At the end of the day, who cares?  Just try something bold

I bought overalls.  Yeah I did.  I have long loved overalls and when they started coming back around in the last few years I wanted desperately to try them out again.  I found a pair for $12 at Von Maur that actually looked cute on me and I knew I had to try it.  For $12 I could take that fashion risk.  And friends I love them.  It makes an average Friday chasing around my kids so much more fun.  What’s fashion risk are you secretly dying to try?  Just do it.  I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Parenting for the Long Game

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting for the long game lately.  I have a few friends with boys who turned 5 this summer.  All of them chose to wait until next year to send their boys to kindergarten.  I was chatting with one of my friends, marveling about how articulate her son was, how well he was writing his letters.  I asked if she thought about sending him straight to first grade if he did really well in pre-K.

“Ugh,” she replied. “It’s so hard.  I’m not worried about his readiness for school this year.  It’s in a few years, when he’s eight and the work gets harder, or middle school when he’s not as developed as the other kids, and high school when he’s seventeen and trying to decide on colleges, or even going to college when he’s still seventeen.  In the short term he’d probably be fine, but I’m trying to make this decision with the long game in mind.”

I was so struck by the wisdom of that.  Because the short game- start school now!- is pretty tempting.  Who doesn’t want to get their kids in kindergarten?  But to think about the effects of this decision twelve years from now?  That’s not necessarily something I do every day.  I’m not saying all kids with August birthdays should be kept back a year; every kid is different and every parent’s decision is personal.  I was more struck by the long term thinking involved in her decision, the fact that she was thinking about the long game.

I wonder what other decisions I am making now that have long term consequences I’m not considering?  Or what things I need to deal with now so that they aren’t bigger problems later?  I’ve long maintained that when it comes to parenting I can pay now, or I can pay later and the cost is usually greater further down the road.  The older kids get the more set in their ways and issues in general are easiest when I deal with them early on.

So much of parenting has more to do with the long game than the short.  It’s tempting to do what is easiest for the short what makes things better in the moment.  And somedays all you can do is think in terms of the short game- the long run can get overwhelming when you just want to survive the moment without murdering anyone.

But I’m trying to parent more with the long game in mind.  I’m thinking about what values I want to instill in my kids now that will come in handy later.  What character traits do I hope they have when they are fifteen?  What temperament things are going to be important when they are driving or making crucial life decisions?  What decisions do I need to make with my eye on life ten years from now?  

It’s just something to keep in the back of my mind, an awareness of what’s down the road, how my decisions will play out for my tween and teen-aged kids.  I’m paying attention to my friend’s wisdom about the long game and our kids.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Place of her Own.

My little Lou started school a few weeks ago.  She’s in the same 2’s class Ryann attended, with the same sweet teacher whose gentle, loving presence makes me want to go right back to pre-school.  When Ry started pre-school she was more than ready.  She was super verbal, incredibly social and had watched her brother get on the bus to go to school for over a year.  School felt like the next right thing for her.  And it was.  With Lou I was a little less certain.  I wasn’t sure if we were doing it because that’s what Ry did or because it’s what Lou wanted and needed.

Don’t get me wrong, Lou wanted to go to school.  Her whole life right now is spent following Liam and Ryann, desperate to do what the big kids are doing.  To wear a backpack and attend that mystery place she’s watched them go is all she wants in the world.  But I recognize that she’s different from her sister.  She’s less verbal and more attached to me than Ry was at that age.  She keeps close, physically and emotionally.  There was a small part of me that was worried I was sending her to school because I needed the break more than her.

At her school the first day is only an hour and parents attend with the kids the whole time.  There is a time for boys to come with parents and then girls.  It’s a safe way to introduce the kids to the classrooms and teachers in a lower key setting.  She had been devastated to watch her older sister go to school the day before without her and so when it was her time to leave she was all joy and no fear.  She’d picked out her dress the day before and couldn’t wait to use her backpack.

We walked to school together, holding hands, her little red fox backpack almost as big as her.  She entered the classroom with a bit of timidity, taking it all in, watching the kids and scoping out the room.  Eventually she made a beeline for the toys.  Her class only has 5 girls, one of whom was out of town, so it was a quiet, calm atmosphere.  I laughed as she found a toy phone and proceeded to carry it around with her as she checked out the other toy options; her sister had done the same thing when she first attended that class. 

For most of the hour the kids were invited to just play, to check out the toys, to get their bearings in this little room.  I tried to give Lou some space of her own.  I watched her, struck by how different she seemed.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but she had a different way about her.  And then it hit me.  She wasn’t shadowing her big sister.  For the first time she had a place where she got to decide what to do and what games to play.  She didn’t have that model to look to.  And far from seeming uncertain about it my girl dove right in.  In some ways I wondered if I was witnessing her discovering some bits of herself for the first time.  

Soon it was time to go and the big test would come in two days when she attended all by herself for two and a half hours.  I dropped her off that Friday, a little nervous.  I had volunteered to help wash kids hands when they arrived so I was staying for a bit longer.  She would poke her head back into the bathroom from time to time, checking to make sure I was still there, but when I left there was little fanfare.  I got a quick hug before she rushed off.

When I picked her up, those two and a half hours flying by, I waited patiently with the swarms of moms and dads all waiting to retrieve their kids.  She was one of the first kids to come out, her eyes scanning the crowd until they landed on me.  I threw my arms up in a cheerful greeting and she ran to me, her whole face lit up.  Jumping in my arms, Lou gave me the biggest, most delicious squeeze around my neck, saying, “I missed you mama, I missed you!”  It was the kind of hug I want to remember when she’s a surly teenager slamming doors and screaming “You’re the worst!”  She seemed energized, proud of herself even and I wondered if it was because she’d just spent the last two and a half hours existing on her own, outside of her siblings, in a place that was all hers.  

I’m excited for this year, for this place where she can figure out who she is away from Ryann and Liam and Rory.  She’s sandwiched in there, a middle child in the greatest way and this is her time to shine a bit, to follow her own lead and design her own fun.  It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch and I’m looking forward to those squeeze hugs at pick up.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Messy Middle

I read a story recently about Rob Reiner’s son.  Rob Reiner is a pretty famous director.  He’s the guy behind When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride (and he made one of my favorite cameos on 30 Rock).  His newest movie, Being Charlie, was co-written by his son, Nick, and is loosely based on Nick’s 17 stints in rehab (all before he’d turned 20).

Nick’s first stint in rehab occurred when he was 15.  The years that followed included addiction, homelessness, rock bottom.  Once he’d made it through recovery he wrote this film and now he and his father share this story with the world.  

I thought about this story and the Hollywood ending of it all.  Prodigal son gets clean, movie director father makes his movie, all the happy tears.  I wondered what film Rob would have made in the middle of it all.  When his son was still addicted and homeless and Rob was probably scared out of his mind and also unclear on exactly how it would all end.  When, for all Rob knew, the story could end tragically with an overdose or arrest.

So often we share our stories once they’ve ended.  After we’ve gotten perspective and clarity and we know how everything turns out.  There aren’t many stories written in the messy middle when we’re scared and confused and don’t know exactly what to say and can’t write with the hopeful optimism because we’re not sure if the story is going to turn out happily.

There is value in sharing our story once we’ve gotten perspective.  Hindsight is an important wisdom and I’ve learned so much in the past few years about how much time can heal and change a story.  And the hopeful optimist in me wants a story to end with something positive.  Even the saddest story should have redemption and hope.  That often only comes when we see it through, get to the end and then tell our tale.

But I’m finding myself drawn to the messy middle of people’s stories.  I’m impressed when people can share in the thick of things and offer up whatever wisdom they may have in the moment or share with great vulnerability that they have no idea what life looks like. The deepest intimacy I’ve found with friends has come when they’ve opened up about whatever is true and terrible or hard right there in the middle without worrying about wrapping things up with tidy, hopeful optimism.

There are a few big things in my life that I don’t quite know how to write about.  I’m in the middle of the story and I don’t have the ability to pull back with the perspective of time to wrap it up with a hopeful or positive ending.  For all I know right now this story could end terribly, or at least not how I hope it will.

This middle place in my own story has shown me that some stories stay in the middle a lot longer than we want them to.  I keep trying to rush to the end, to the conclusion, to the moment of clarity and understanding, but life keeps forcing me back, unable to honestly claim any sort of even nuanced wisdom or concrete understanding.  I’m still mucking through my story, untethered in many ways and with more questions than answers.

I’m tempted to fake it.  To claim the ending I hope to have and wrap it up with the wisdom and perspective I’d like to wind up with.  To rush ahead and skip this mucky, messed up middle, even if the results are inauthentic and forced.  But I can’t do that.  My need for honesty and truth, even in the depths of my being trump any desire for solid ground.

And so in the meantime I find myself quiet, unsure of how to talk about my story from this middle place.  If I share honestly about where I’m at right now it feels dark and a little hopeless.  But even more than that, I’m hesitant to speak the truth as I understand it now because that truth feels a little unformed, a sculpture still in process.  I know where it’s heading, but right now it doesn’t look anything like the final product I envision.  What is true at this point in the middle of my story may not still be true in the end and that is why I’m afraid to speak it all aloud.   

And yet, I’m finding myself wanting to speak from this middle place.  I want the freedom to tell my truth in this in between beginning and end spot even if that truth looks different at the conclusion.  At the same time I’m afraid to be held to who I was or what I came to believe in the middle.  I don’t want someone to be able to point to my words in the middle and say, “but what about that!  You said that and now you are saying this!”  

But isn’t that what we are supposed to do in life?  Grow and change and transform.  Shouldn’t we be someone different in the middle and why isn’t it ok to say this is what I am right now in this moment and then however many months later say this is who I am now?  Both are true.  

I want to hear more stories from the middle, from people fully admitting that they haven’t got an ounce of it figured out, if only so that I can get braver about sharing my own.  I want to be able to accept the offerings of the middle place wisdom, to hold them preciously but loosely, giving room for the offerings that come further down the road with time and perspective and wisdom.  I want to value the hard earned, albeit fluid, truth of this messy middle as important and necessary in its own right, even though it may be dark and a little hopeless and unwilling to be wrapped up with a bow.  I need to hear these stories because I need bravery to share my own.  I want to accept those middle place offerings of others so that I can accept my own, so that I can embrace or at least hold preciously the half truths I’ve come to understand and the unknown I’m still moving towards.  

I need others’ messy middles so I can make peace with my own.

What is a story you are still in the middle of?  What momentary truths are you discovering from this shaky, unreliable ground?  Can you speak with tentative hope what you wish to be?  And fear of what you hope will not but still could be?  The middle of our hard stories is confusing and dark and fraught with doubt and uncertainty.  But we don’t get to the end without first going through it.  Today I’m looking to respect and revere this middle place because it is necessary and who I am right in this moment is just as important as who I will be at the end of the story. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Things That are Saving my Life: September Edition

I’m back with a few things that are saving my life right now.  These are the small, and sometimes big things, that are making my life easier, better, or just a little more awesome.  I got this idea and phrasing from the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy who got it from author Barbara Brown Taylor in her memoir “Leaving Church.”  (Which I read this summer- super good!)  I share in the hopes that you may find a thing or two that could save your life too and also because focusing on a few things that are saving my life right now is good for my soul.

1.) Cleaning out my closet.

My friend Charity came over a few weeks ago to help me tackle my closet.  My closet is a weird combination of clothes I wish would fit me, clothes I bought right after I had babies that are weird fitting, and clothes that I never wear because I don’t know how or what to wear them with. Charity and I went through piece by piece deciding what could stay and what needed to go. I’m going to write a whole other post on what I learned cleaning out my closet, but suffice to say that for now, my closet only contains things I’m actually excited to wear and I have a relatively small list of things I need to buy to “complete” my wardrobe (mostly staples so that I can wear all those items I’m so excited about).  And it’s saving my life.

2.) My Avocado Breakfast

I have been eating the same thing for breakfast for months.  This is noteworthy because I typically never do the same thing everyday.  Monotony like that puts me in a rut faster than Lou says “you’re mean!” when we tell her no.  However, for some reason I can’t stop, won’t stop with this breakfast.  It’s so good.  And simple.  Toast an english muffin.  Spread avocado on each side (I’ll usually use half and avocado, so a quarter on each muffin half).  Grind some sea salt on top of that.  Then fry up two egg whites and put them on top of the avocado mash.  You could absolutely just do one egg (fried or scrambled or however you like) instead of the whites I just don’t care for egg yoke.  It’s the best thing ever and I’m not kidding when I say that I look forward to eating it every night when I’m drifting off to sleep.  If we’re out of eggs or avocados I’m super grumpy about it.  For a few weeks we had Dave’s Killer Bread (which we recently found at Costco- so good!) and I would use a slice of that instead of an english muffin…for variety.  Somedays I’ll add a piece of fruit to that, but either way it fills me up all the way to lunch.  It’s the best.

3.) Not Meal Planning

This was a thing that saved my life all summer, but I can already tell probably won’t be transitioning with me into the fall.  When it comes to meal planning my friends tease me because I rarely make the same recipe twice.  Sure, I have a small handful of staples that make their way through the rotation but mostly I have a file folder stuffed with torn out Cooking Light recipes to try and a million screen shots in my phone of things I’ve stumbled across online and every week I’m trying 2-3 new meals.  However this summer my beloved Cooking Light magazines piled up untouched and I rarely poked through my recipe screenshots.  This summer it was all about the staples, and we pretty much ate the same 7 or 8 meals all summer.  These were meals that I knew off the top of my head.  I could add the ingredients to my grocery list without having to look up a recipe.  It was a lot of tacos, and stir fries, grilled meats and veggies and this pasta/veggie/chicken sausage dish I pretty much made up.  Oh and this toasted cheese, tomato/pineapple/bacon on bread thing that my parents used to make us when I was a kid.  These were dishes that were simple and quick to prepare, which meant that if we wanted to stay a little longer at the pool I didn’t have to worry about getting home to make dinner.  For whatever reason the chaos of summer meant I didn’t have the extra energy to try new recipes each night and cooking all the things I know by heart saved my life.

Last night, however, I spent most of the night sorting through recipes, tossing the ones I never make and starting a fresh pile of “to trys” and this week my meal plan includes three new recipes, so I think my staples season may be over.  But man did it save my life while it lasted.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Few More Good Books

The reading tear continues!  The library has kept me awash in books and some have been great, others just so-so, but my “Books I Read in 2016” list continues to grow.  Here are the ones worth talking about.  (Also, I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy this month on her Quick Lit post.  She's given me most of my book recs this year and her blog is fantastic!)

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I flew through the Rainbow Rowell favorites Fan Girl and Carry On, quickly adding this one to my list as it’s one of those “everyone recommends it as a sweet story that won’t change your life, but is a great read nonetheless.”  And that’s exactly what it was.  Super sweet story about two teens who fall in love on the bus rides to school.  One has a troubling home life, the other feels out of place everywhere.  It was an easy read and I found myself not quite ready to leave the characters once I turned the final page.  (Another good Rainbow Rowell read from the past seven weeks: Attachments.  It was pretty predictable, but the characters are endearing and once I got into it I flew through it.)

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

This is the first in a detective series by J.K. Rowling (writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith).  Rowling spins a great story and her two main characters endear themselves to you pretty quickly.  The mystery in this one was intriguing and though the final “whodunit” had crossed my mind early on, I’d ruled it out because it seemed so unlikely.  But then there it was at the end and I must admit it still surprised me even though I’d half-heartedly predicted it.  I’ll definitely read the rest in this series.

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I need to read this one again, more slowly.  I devoured it in less than 48 hours and it’s a book that needs a more thoughtful pace.  I want to read it again, sitting with some of the essays.  I have a lot of thoughts about this book-I may write another post on it.  I’m a huge Shauna fangirl and this one is both a departure of her normal style and also more deeply her.  I had some problems with it, but at the same time what she is writing about here is a conversation I’m having over and over with my girlfriends so she’s obviously touched a nerve.  She’s thought provoking and an incredibly talented writer.  I’m eager to hear what others take away from this one.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

In my last post I’d mentioned that I was looking forward to this one.  The reviews all echo the same refrain: it’s good, but it’s not Moriarty’s best.  I’ve read all her other works, What Alice Forgot being among my most favorite books.  It took me longer that usual to get into this one, but once I did I found it pretty satisfying.  Three families have a bbq, something terrible happens (that isn’t revealed until later) and the rest of the book is them dealing with the consequences. Like all of Moriarty’s books it touches on deeper themes of jealousy, and intimacy and blame.  I strongly identified with one of the characters to an almost uncomfortable point; it was hard to watch some of my own flaws play out so clearly on the page.  Despite its weaknesses, I still really liked the book and will continue to read her stuff as soon as it comes out.

That’s the best of what I’ve read over the last seven weeks.  There are others but none worth mentioning here.  I’m 2/3rds of the way done with The Girls (which I’m liking so far) and Curtis Sittenfield’s Eligible is waiting in the wings.  More next month!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Protestors

When I was in high school I attended speech camp every year (nerd alert!).  I was way into the forensics team in high school, participating in the acting events where I would compete, performing 8 minute pieces of different plays either by myself or with a partner.  And camp was Mecca for nerds like me.  It was held on a nearby university’s campus.  Every year the campus also hosted a camp for the Deaf during the same week as speech camp.  (Believe me, the irony of Deaf camp and speech camp running at the same time was not lost on me, even then.)

Every year I would watch the kids from Deaf camp in the cafeteria, the only time our paths would cross.  They ate lunch, signing across the table, having whole conversations without a sound.  It always brought up in me the question of whether I’d rather be deaf or blind.  My answer was always deaf, being blind seemed to require so much assistance, there seemed to be many more limitations on the blind to my fifteen year old self.  But as I watched these teens, I wondered if it wouldn’t be worse to be deaf.  To not be able to communicate with the world at large seemed untenable, beyond limiting.  I didn’t know any Deaf kids in my real life and so it seemed like if I was Deaf I’d be all alone on an island, isolated from the world around me.


At the AG Bell convention the protesters arrived early.  On Thursday night I caught sight of them as we made our way back to the hotel.  One woman, who I’d later realize was the leader of sorts, noticed Liam’s implant and started signing to me, asking if he signed.  He doesn’t but I didn’t want to get into it with her so I played dumb, smiled serenely at her and steered Liam toward the hotel.  My stomach felt queasy.  The presence of the protestors stirred something in me I couldn’t identify, or wasn’t yet ready to wrestle with.

The protesters were a group from the Deaf (with a capital D) community.  They were protesting what they believed to be AG Bell’s silencing of the Deaf community because, in their opinion, AG Bell doesn’t value ASL and instead encourages Listening and Spoken Language.  Additionally, AG Bell promotes and encourages the use of hearing aids and cochlear implants, which some in the Deaf community object to as they feel it is trying to “fix” or “cure” deafness, a quality they don’t see as a disability so much as a difference in the human condition.  There’s a LOT to unpack with all of this, much of which I’m not going to get into here and now.  I’m still learning a lot with regard to this conflict and as a parent of a deaf child with a hearing aid and cochlear implant, it’s more personal than not. 

All I can say is I went to bed that first night feeling uneasy.  I wasn’t really angry with the protestors.  But I didn’t feel right either.  I looked at my sweet boy knowing he was little d deaf and wondering if that was going to be ok with him in fifteen years.


On Saturday afternoon as my friend Lyra and I sat by the pool watching Liam swim she filled me in on what the protestors had been doing down in front of the hotel.  We’d been hearing rumblings about them from within the convention.  Security was on guard, not that any of us really worried for our safety.  The protestors had gotten a little more aggressive today though, arguing with families about their choice to implant their child.

As Lyra relayed one particular exchange she said, “I just feel so bad, some of these families have made an agonizingly difficult decision and these protestors are making them feel terrible about it.”

And with that statement my own feelings of unease came sharply into view.  I turned to her and said, “You know, the protestors make me feel bad because it wasn’t an agonizingly difficult decision.”  We never even really considered not using hearing aids and then an implant for Liam.  It wasn’t an option for us to have him learn ASL and participate solely in the Deaf community.     And seeing the protestors made me feel guilty for that.  They made me wonder if we should have at least considered the other side, looked into it more.   

The protesters made me feel, for a moment, insecure about our decision and the fact that it hadn’t really been a decision so much as the next logical step on our path.

And it wasn’t like I wasn’t empathetic to their arguments.  The Deaf community gets smaller as technology gets better.  Nowadays most deaf kids we know are completely outside of the Deaf community.  We don’t know anyone who exclusively signs, and Liam wouldn’t be able to communicate with them if we did.  I understand the fear that that instills, when it seems that all that you hold dear, the community that has given you everything looks as though it’s becoming obsolete.  And I also know that for some cochlear implants are not an option; the structure of some people’s inner ears make it impossible to implant.  As the Deaf community lesses it is these kids for whom I worry.  Who will be their home if everyone else can hear (with assistance)?  I may not agree with the protesters, but I can absolutely understand where they are coming from.

Which brought me to another feeling the protesters stirred up.  I’m not used to being on the side of the protested against.  Typically I tend to side with protesters, or I have no real understanding of a situation and take neither side.  It was an uncomfortable feeling to be on the side of “power” (not that I really think AG Bell, and those who choose implants and hearing aids are on the “power” side of the scale-it's just that typically those protesting do so because they feel powerless).  In this area of our life, if the Deaf community is the one feeling marginalized, we are certainly not on that side, and would actively fight for our right to continue down the path we have chosen.

In the end, that’s where I land.  I would never in a million years tell a Deaf parent that their deaf child should be implanted and immersed in the hearing world.  And so I’m not going to feel bad about our choice to bring Liam into our hearing community.  I understand all the reasons people would be worried about CI’s and the risks that they may not work, but I’ve watched his progress for the past five years and I know we made the right choice.  When I think back to those kids in the cafeteria at Deaf camp I know they were fine.  They’d had their community, they were confident, self-assured and intelligent.  Liam would have been fine if that had been him.  But, all those years ago, my heart recognized the chasm between those kids at Deaf camp and my peers at speech camp.  We lived in two separate worlds; their world was not better or worse than mine, and given the right tools (sign language or an interpreter) we could bridge the gap.  But by and large the ins and outs of these two worlds remained separate.  

For Liam the choice to participate solely in the Deaf community would have removed him from our community, from our friends and family, from the people we interact with daily.  And as his mom, I wasn’t ok with that.  Many years ago, before technology and organizations designed to help hearing parents learn ASL, many hearing parents of deaf children had no choice but to give up their kids, allowing them to be raised in boarding schools for the Deaf, or with other Deaf families.  I cannot imagine that excruciatingly difficult decision and I am thankful to live in an age where I didn’t have to make it.  I’m not trying to “fix” Liam but I am giving him access to the world I know and love; the same way a Deaf parent who exclusively uses ASL is doing for their child.


At the airport on the way home I struck up a conversation with two teachers of the Deaf who had attended AG Bell.  They asked me what I thought, as a parent of a deaf child, of the protesters.  I explained some of my thoughts without going into all of it.  And when these two teachers shared their frustration on behalf of the parents of their students, when they started to make the protestors out to be the bad guys I was hesitant to join in.  I truly can understand their perspective.  AND I am truly confident in ours.  And I suppose that is what peace with your decision feels like.  I didn’t need to fight back, to defend our choices.  But I also didn’t need to follow theirs.  We’d made the right choice for our family, even if at the time it didn’t feel like a decision so much as the next right step, and I had no regrets about it.