Soon after Luke started wearing his hearing aids, we found ourselves at Target. It’s one of my favorite places, so I can’t say that I’m shocked that I was there with him. Anyway, it was the first time Luke had been out of the house with his hearing aids. I think I assumed that nothing would change except that Luke had some new digs in his ears. I was wrong. It was instantly obvious that people were curious about what was going on. I noticed people staring and kids asking their parents what the aids were. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it was definitely there.
Luke has had his aids for a few months now. I realize that it hasn’t been all that long, but I’ve noticed things in that time. As much as I hate it, there’s a stigma that accompanies Luke because of his hearing aids.
The day Luke got his hearing aids, we came home and showed them to Anna. She asked what they were, so we explained that Luke couldn’t hear as well as she could and that his hearing aids help him hear better. She nodded and then told us that she wanted a pink pair. Anna never brings them up, although if you ask her what’s in Luke’s ears she will say ‘those are Lukey’s hearing aids’. To her, it’s normal. Actually, to the kids in Luke’s class – his hearing aids are normal. They don’t mess with them or point to them. They never did. They just accept it. God bless young children.
We were at a restaurant one night for dinner. Across the room, I saw a middle-aged couple talking about Luke. I could actually hear some of the things they were saying. Luke was furiously signing ‘more’ to me so that I would feed him something. Now, we didn’t teach him any signs. His daycare teaches simple signs to all the kids. Moog doesn’t want Luke to rely on sign language, and instead learn spoken communication. So, we will sometimes do the signs back if we sandwich them between the spoken word. At some point while Luke was asking for more food, I signed back to him. Apparently the couple was still watching, because I heard the husband say ‘well, she just signed to him so he must be deaf’. I had to laugh to myself a little bit.
The other day, our daycare was doing school photos. I carefully picked out outfits and brought them to the school so the kids would look nice. I was telling Luke’s teacher about his outfit, when she asked if we wanted his hearing aids to be removed for his picture. I kind of jerked back. I know she didn’t mean it in an offensive way, but why would we do that? We aren’t ashamed of his aids. It’s a part of him. We would never hide that. I quickly told her to keep his hearing aids in.
I’ve noticed that the majority of the reactions come from adults and children that are old enough to realize that Luke’s ears look different, but too young to know that you shouldn’t stare or point. The parents are usually quick to stop them, and then they walk away in embarrassment. They shouldn’t be embarrassed. It’s natural. Luke’s ears are different – there’s no denying it! I do wish people would ask, because I’d love to tell them about Luke and how amazing he is. My plan is to tell older kids that Luke’s hearing aids give him super powers! However, I understand why people opt to avoid it and I never know if I should offer an explanation. It’s the elephant in the room if you don’t know us. Now, I do get a ton of supportive smiles from other moms in passing. But, I’ve also found that adults have a hard time knowing if they should ignore Luke or interact with him. Usually, Luke handles it by relentlessly flirting with whoever is around us. The shields fall. It’s the best ice breaker. Lock up your daughters, Luke is a heartbreaker!
Let me say, I’m not offended when people look or say things – it’s just a strange sensation. You know people are talking about your child and I never really know how to react. I don’t want people to feel differently about Luke because of his hearing aids. His aids don’t define him. And, I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around him because they are unsure about his hearing aids. Mainly, I don’t want Luke to feel like he’s different or flawed or strange. I don’t want his aids to define his self-worth. At this point, he is innocently immune to comments and stares. While I know that ‘the talk’ is coming at some point, I pray that he is guarded from it for as long as possible.