Today I’ve been reminiscing about my daughter, Kit, as a young girl. She was born deaf – she has no ear canals – and it got me thinking about her mental health and well-being as she grew up. I remember her first day of official school. She was 3-years-old (yes, three), and we arrived at her school. I enrolled her in the deaf education program because they start them very young due to the challenges they face or will face their entire lives.
When we arrived, Kit was shy, almost timid. She clung to my leg, squeezing as hard as her tiny muscles would allow. The teacher took a knee in front of her, and signed and spoke to her at the same time. Keep in mind, Kit had been involved in speech therapy where she learned to use sign language to communicate, which by the way, was an amazing experience for me as a parent because until then, Kit only communicated via grunting and pointing. Anyway, I felt her body relax as her apprehension lifted.
Despite that, she still clung to my leg. Against all my instincts to pick her up and hold her close, I unraveled her grip from my pant leg, and she burst into tears. Monsoon tears. She wailed so loud that all the other parents paused to look at the spectacle my child created, their eyes full of judgement. I thrust my shoulders back, got on my knees, cradled her hands in mine, and locked my gaze to hers. I told her she would be okay. That she was a brave girl. That she was special. One of a kind. Unique. Kit took a deep breath, forced her tears back, and took the teacher’s hand.
Fast forward 12 years, and my daughter was starting her freshman year in high school. We arrived at her new school, and she leaned in and kissed my cheek. She told me that she loved me, but she must have noticed the worry in my eyes because she paused for a moment, and said that she would be okay. She was brave. She was special. One of a kind. Unique.
With that, she stepped out of the vehicle, and I remember, quite vividly, the swagger she had as she sauntered to the doors. Her shoulders were back. Chest out. Chin up. It was the first time I ever recognized her strut. In that moment, I realized that Kit was proud of who she was. That her disability, her deafness, made no difference to her. She was proud of it. It’s what made her unique. This beautiful young woman was going to take on the world. She was fearless.
I put the car in drive and pulled away. The beauty of the moment struck me. I burst into tears. Monsoon tears. I cried so loud that I drowned out the sounds of the radio. In that moment, I knew she would be okay, no matter what she encountered over the course of her life. Kit was a warrior. Fearless and strong. I was proud to be her mother. Proud to call her my daughter. Proud that I had helped this shy, timid girl blossom into an independent, opinionated, confident woman.
What a journey it has been. Teach your children to strut. Show them their uniqueness. Build their strength. They are going to need all of these for the rest of their lives.