As I mentioned before, the year AC was in 3rd grade was a bit of a rough year for us. It was the first time he really ever “got in trouble” in school. He was basically being misunderstood, and was falsely accused of misbehaving, when he simply wasn’t hearing.
Third grade was also the first time that AC really got a taste of being picked on or singled out by other kids because of his hearing aids… and of course he didn’t like it. Fortunately, the picking on was a few isolated cases… and, he always had lots of friends – but, even a little “teasing/bullying” is hard to take. Being the only kid you know who wears hearing aids makes you different, and being “different” when you’re a kid can be difficult. The fact that this was also the time his teacher was suddenly on his case for “misbehaving” probably didn’t help.
On this particular afternoon back in third grade, AC came home mad. He didn’t want to wear his hearing aids anymore. “I don’t NEED them!”, he said.
Of course, what he really wanted was NOT to be different. Not to be picked on. Not to be noticed for his hearing aids. Not to have to struggle to sometimes understand directions. Not to have to miss out on conversations. He didn’t understand why this was something HE had to deal with, but not everyone else. At one point, he asked why he had to be the one to “carry all the world’s problems!”. A bit dramatic, yes… but, in his 8 year old head that was how he felt that day.
Normally, AC took everything in stride, and didn’t let t much bother him. This day, however, he was feeling every ounce of injustice that his hearing loss seemed to have bestowed on him. Kids can be cruel, and they had been. Teachers were blaming him for things that weren’t his fault. Parents were forcing him to go to testing and being scrutinized… and to wear these “stupid hearing aids”. Life was unfair.
As his mother – of course I hated seeing him upset. I, myslef, had been struggling to understand and learn more about what his hearing loss entailed. I was trying hard to get him the help and understanding he needed and deserved- and even I was feeling rather misunderstood, underserved, and sort of “duped” at the time. But, I couldn’t just sit down and hug him and have a good cry with him. Could I? I briefly contemplated if that was an option, but decided no, it was my job to make him feel better.
And, just how the hell was I going to do that?
What he wanted was for me to say was that he didn’t have to wear his hearing aids anymore. Well, that really wasn’t an option. However, I could understand why he felt like this, and I didn’t blame him. I could at least tell him that… but, then what?
It’s a fine line we walk when it comes to dealing with negative feelings. Between feeling validated and being allowed to grieve short term, verses feeling hopeless or wallowing long term. I didn’t want to discourage him from expressing his feelings and venting. He had good reasons for feeling the way he did. I also didn’t want him to wallow and go into a depression because, of course, his hearing loss was not the end of the world – and we/he had much to be thankful for.
Times like those can make a mom wish there was some magic spell they could cast to make it all better – but, of course…. there’s not. There’s no one thing you can say to explain away the unexplainable. Not everything makes sense, or is “fair”. Not everything can be “fixed”. Some things just have to be dealt with.
Where is Bill Murray with one of his speeches from Meatballs or Stripes when you need him? My husband wasn’t even home. Nope, I had to wing this one…
I remember sitting next to my son… not sure what to say at first. With a big sigh, and a soft heart I started telling him how really, everyone has some kind of problem or challenge they have to face. And that those “problems” aren’t always as bad as you think – because they help make us who we are. They can make us stronger – better – in other ways.
I told him, his hearing loss, and wearing hearing aids, were only a small part of what makes him – “him”… but still a part. And, that he has so many “parts” to him that make him the great kid that he is. And, how I couldn’t ask for a better son that he is. I started mentioning all the other parts to him that are so great – he was also “smart, caring, funny, a great reader, an excellent big brother” … and he proudly blurted out, “and I’m TALL!”.
“Right!”, I said, “And you’re tall. Good one!”. =)
(I would have never thought of that one as such a huge plus, but, okay! – I’ll take it!)
His smile quickly faded back to a frown, and another “but, why ME?” comment. I went on to tell him that at least he HAD hearing aids that he could wear to help him hear… and how there are many problems that can’t be so easily “fixed” or even “kind of fixed”. I told him that if THIS was his BIGGEST problem in life, we should be pretty darn thankful.
I went on to tell him how everyone – and I mean EVERYONE has their problems. This got me a little look of disbelief. So, I went on to tell him that yes, even the kids in his school that he thought “had it made” or seemed “perfect” – they too had their challenges in life.
“I guarantTEE you they have their problems too!”, I said. “Even it it’s not something physical that you can see -like needing glasses or hearing aids… Maybe they have trouble learning? Maybe they have emotional problems? Maybe they are in a tough situation financially or emotionally? Maybe the have lost someone they love or don’t have any friends? Who knows? But, I said “EVERYONE has their “problems” and challenges to deal with in life”.
Any my (then) 8 year old son looked up at me… still with anger and hurt in his eyes… and asked me with all the sarcasm and anger he could muster up,
– “Oh yeah? Well… what’s YOUR problem?!?”
Ha! This one caught me off guard. LOL I quickly responded rather indignantly,
“Oh… I HAVE my problems alright!!!”.
And, THAT set off a whole other conversation I had not intended on having with my son, or anyone, any time soon. I didn’t want to delve to deep (“it all started when I was two…” ;: ) – But, I did tell him a little about some of the things *I* struggled with as a kid… and still did sometimes. Before you knew it, the tables were turned… and, we both felt better.
Thankfully – days like this are far and few in between for us. My kids are nothing if not happy, silly, and full of positive energy. So – we can take a few down days with the many sunny ones around.
Besides, seriously, don’t we all need to sometimes ask ourselves, “so, what’s MY problem?!?”… if only so that we can figure out how best to deal with it? And, in the process, don’t we often recognize those famous words are true that my parents use to tell me all the time:
“if that’s all you have to cry about, then you shouldn’t be crying!”.
And now… for your viewing enjoyment, and for those of you who may not be familiar with the above mentioned Bill Murray’s pep talk in Meatballs… here… because… It just doesn’t matter…
- Morty: Hey, gang, come on! Look it, just `cause we’re losing doesn’t mean it’s all over.
- Phil: Cut the crap, Morty. I mean, the Mohawks have beaten us the last 12 years, they’re gonna beat us again.
- Tripper: That’s just the attitude we don’t need, Phil. Sure, Mohawk has beaten us 12 years in a row. Sure, they’re terrific athletes. They’ve got the best equipment that money can buy. Hell, every team they’re sending over here has their own personal masseuse. Not masseur. Masseuse. But, it doesn’t matter. Do you know that every Mohawk competitor has electrocardiogram, blood and urine tests every 48 hours to see if there’s any change in his physical condition. Do you know that they use the most sophisticated training methods from the Soviet Union, East and West Germany, and the newest Olympic power, Trinidad Tobago. But, it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter! I tell you it just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!
- The group: IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER…
- Tripper: And Even…and even if we win…if we win… Ha! Even if we win. Even if we play so far over our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days. Even if God in Heaven above comes down and points His hand at our side of the field. Even if everyman woman and child held hands together and prayed for us to win. It just wouldn’t matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guy from Mohawk cause they’ve got all the money. It just doesn’t matter if we win or we lose. It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!
- The group: IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER…