Every now and then, my kids teach me something I’d either forgotten, or hadn’t quite understood before. Actually, it happens often. My youngest had to write a speech, which she would read in front of her class. The teachers then choose the two students they feel gave the “best” speech, to do the same in front of the entire school. Ken wrote her speech, and it although her words made me proud, they also saddened me at the same time. I realized I didn’t truly know what it was like for her. at school I thought that she’d adjusted well, and that her hearing impairment had never been an issue in terms of “acceptance.” I was very wrong.
Anyway, she was selected to speak in front of the school, but decided she’s not quite ready for that. I can’t say I blame her there. However, I was so proud of what she’d written, that I thought it needed sharing. This has nothing to do with writing or publishing. It has more to do with being honest with ourselves, and speaking from our hearts. Well…I suppose that can relate to writing. And just as a side note: I didn’t edit her phrasing or her grammar. She wouldn’t allow it. All I was allowed to correct was spelling and punctuation. Like her mother, Ken has a fear of commas, and sometimes periods.
Here you are, wisdom from second grade:
My name is Kennedy P. and I am 7 years old. Today I’d like to talk to you about what makes us different and what makes us special. To do that, I think I should explain what makes me unique.
When babies are born, the doctor does a lot of tests to make sure that they are healthy. They check the heartbeat, eyes, fingers, toes, and ears. When the doctors tested my ears, they found that something was wrong.
I was hearing impaired. This is not the same as being deaf. When someone is deaf, it means that they can’t hear at all. When someone is hearing impaired, it means that they can hear some sounds, but it’s hard to hear others.
Before I was a year old, I wore hearing aids. My first set of hearing aids was really small, and they were pink. Even though I couldn’t talk yet, the doctors said it was important for me to have the hearing aids so that I could learn sounds just like any other baby. My mom and dad were warned that I might never talk like other kids. I had a teacher named Sharon who used to come to our house to make sure my mom and dad knew what to do to help me learn to talk. As you can see, they didn’t have to worry. I talk just fine.
I didn’t know I was different from other kids, until I started school. Before that I always played with kids who knew me since we were babies, like Olivia and Jenna. They never made a big deal about my hearing aids because they had always been there.
When I started school, I felt different because I had to have special speakers in the classrooms and I had to go with special teachers sometimes, and other kids didn’t.
The other reason I felt different was because some kids kept asking what was in my ears. I tried to tell them, but they still asked questions. Sometimes I didn’t have any answers for them and that made me feel bad.
For a long time, I felt like they thought I was weird. But now that I’m a bit older, I see that they were just curious and there was nothing wrong with their questions.
So I’d like to explain what my hearing impairment is like, and how my hearing aids help.
When I don’t wear my hearing aids, I can hear voices, sounds, music and other noise, but I can’t always make out what people are saying or where the sound is coming from. It’s kind of like a TV on mute, or turned really low.
My hearing aids don’t fix my hearing. Instead, they have a microphone inside that makes noises louder for me. So while I can hear you speaking, sometimes if there is too much noise around me, I can’t pick out one sound out of the others. I get really frustrated because people don’t realize I can’t hear something just because it’s loud. Sometimes too much sound is as bad as not hearing it at all.
Does this make me different or special? No. It doesn’t. This is how I was born. I don’t know what it’s like to hear normally and so I don’t wish that I could. I wish sometimes I could hear so that things would be easier, but sometimes it’s kind of nice not to hear things.
Now that you understand what my hearing aids are for, you can look at me the way I look at all of you. You are all special because you have different interests and you’re good at different things. Some of you are good at sports, and others can draw really well. No matter what it is you do well, everyone is special.
There are many other kids who wear hearing aids, just like me. So this isn’t special or weird or unique. What makes me who I am is what counts. And that is not my hearing aids. What makes me different is the same things that make all of you different.
I love my family, my pets, and my friends. I like to write songs and I love listening to the radio. My favorite color is blue and I have an older brother and sister who I love to annoy. I like to help people, especially my friends, I like to wear my clothes differently than other people, and I don’t like being alone.
These things inside of us are what make us different and special. The things you see on the outside don’t matter.
Sometimes it’s nice for parents to see proof that they’re doing a pretty good job. If there was one value I could teach them, I think self worth and empathy is probably high on my list.