Have you ever realized that parenting is basically just about making decision after decision regarding the care and upbringing of your child? Why wasn’t that in the manual?
For Matt and I, the very first decision we made for Zoe was before she was even born. While sitting in the hospital trying my hardest to keep Zoe in my belly and me alive, the neonatologist asked us perhaps the biggest decision of our lives: “What lengths do you want us to go to save your baby?” Man, that was a question and a half, hey? Of course my gut reaction, thank goodness, was all of them. Save my girl.
When we found out Zoe was hard of hearing, we needed to decide what agency to get her therapies from and what our language goals for her and our family were. I mean, at 4 months old our decision was just a shot in the dark. We had no idea the person she would grow to become. We didn’t know anyone in the Deaf community or anyone who even wore hearing aids. Initially we decided that we wanted to focus on oral English with sign-supported speech. Sign-supported Speech is using ASL signs along with English to fill in the gaps.
As Zoe grew, her language developed and we met more families and participated in Deaf community events, our goals for Zoe changed. No longer did we see her just speaking English. We wanted her to have access to both languages: ASL and English, and both communities: the Deaf community and the hearing community. We didn’t want to limit her.
With these new goals of raising Zoe bilingual and bicultural the agency where we received our services changed. Zoe started to attend a preschool for deaf and hard of hearing kids where she got to learn from amazing Deaf mentors, be part of a community, learn with kids like her, and be exposed to two languages.
It was amazing to see her grow so quickly. She blossomed in this new environment. She was a new kid: happy, goofy, confident, and expressive. For the past year and a half, before the pandemic, preschool was her life. She had friends and loved learning.
When kindergarten registration came along we needed to make another life decision for Zoe, for now anyways. Where does she go to school? Does she attend a mainstream kindergarten in our neighbourhood and learn in English with potential supports, or do we send her to the School for the Deaf where she gets to learn with her friends, community, and in ASL?
It seems like a no brainer right? Keep her in an environment she enjoys with full access to language and kids she knows and loves. I know! But why oh why is it still a tough pill to swallow? I know it’s the best place for her and she will do well.
I think why I struggle is because I am making this decision based on my feelings (and who am I kidding, we’ve got some knowledge too) and not Zoe’s. Yeah, I know she’s only four, but as a mom I can’t stop myself from thinking that one of these decisions I make or will make for her has the potential to just screw up her life. Is that normal? Probably.
I think that’s the struggle with parenting. Knowing that it doesn’t matter if it feels like the right decision in the moment it could really go sour in the future. I just want what’s best for Zoe. I want her to be happy, healthy, surrounded by friends and family.
So, for now we venture into this new kindergarten world where we will need ASL interpreters to talk to her teacher and school staff, where Zoe will be at home and thrive but Matt and I will need a little support. Maybe these feelings of uncertainty have more to do with Zoe venturing off into a community where we don’t belong.
I know we will have many more difficult decisions to make in her childhood, but man, when will they start to get easier?