Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back on Track

In the months since Li'l Empress began pre-school, I have noticed in small and almost immeasurable ways that The Gang has gotten kind of lazy about maintaining some of the environmental changes we made in respect of her hearing issues. Nothing huge, just some creeping in of bad habits that barely blipped on anyone's individual radar when they were happening. Things like talking over each other at the dinner table (not in rude, interruptive ways, more like multiple conversations happening at once).  Or the iPod being on too loudly for too long.  Or leaving the morning news on while the boys were fixing their breakfasts and talking. Quite often, the microwave and/or the dishwasher and/or the washing machine would also be going all at the same time. Finally, there's been a return of the yelling across the house or up the stairs lately. Which easily (too easily?) became yelling for lots of other communications as well.  (Not even going to tell you how often I've fallen into this mode of communicating lately - suffice it to say that snow days, cabin fever, and hibernation are not always my friend! Ugh.)
As a reminder, unilateral hearing loss (hearing only from one ear) is a very easy special need to live with, and some of the adaptations that a family can make to create a good listening environment include the absence of "white noise" or cluttery-type background noises, speaking one person at a time (this is a tough one in a large family!), limited electronic noises (tv, iPod, stereo, computers, etc.), and face-to-face communication as frequently as possible when addressing the member with the hearing loss.
(Click here and scroll down to the section that says
"Profound Hearing Loss" for a great description of what Li'l E lives with daily.)

Unfortunately, if you are also a parent, you well know that these kinds of  bad habits almost always start small. With a slow creeping in that eventually feels large and looming when you let yourself finally acknowledge their presence.

Put all that together with the fact that we haven't really had a "normal" (for us) routine since before Christmas break and I was kind of knocked upside the head with a bit of awareness the other day that had been eluding me in the previous weeks.  I knew something was "off" for her, (not just for her but for The Gang in general if I'm being really honest about it all) and that her frustrated and often defiant behavior wasn't just about being three. I forced myself to observe her for the last couple days, and to observe the interactions between her and the older kids. What I noticed made me really sad. It felt a bit large and looming as I first mulled it over in prayer. But then I got determined to take back some ground. To get back on track, as it were.

There's been a return of some of her anxious behaviors, mainly manifesting itself this time in picking at some loose cuticles and dead skin around her thumbnails. Her poor little thumbs are just about raw. She's been obsessing about a couple things, and has been really really adamant about her favorite routines/rituals (like bed time or pre-school drop-offs).  She's also fallen into the habit of yelling "WHAT?" when we speak to her. Sometimes it's kind of funny, especially when she scrunches her little nose and is trying to concentrate on what she thinks she just heard. But the more I observe these (and other) behaviors, the more I'm realizing that we have got to be modeling the tenets of a good listening and communicating environment for her in more tangible and simple ways.

It's not surprising to me that these things are coming to the surface this month. I know that practically speaking, we just wrapped up an incredibly busy holiday season and every kid reacts to the changes and irregularities with similar behaviors. I also know that the older kids have been battling some selfish behaviors and egocentric attitudes that have made the dynamics between all of them very difficult.  Throw in a little cabin fever, a head cold or two, a lingering virus and two teens who can't really chew real food yet but are all the same just  positively rammy with hunger and let's just say that January hasn't been my favorite month.

All that being said, I must also say this:  It is no coincidence to me that it's all coming to the surface in the midst of this intentional season of prayer and fasting for The Gang and our church. Granted, I'm a little slow on the uptake, having only come to this ability to articulate the "ick factor" here in the house as recently as Saturday evening.  (Yes, I know, we've been fasting and praying since the 10th. I told ya, I'm a little slow!)

I know this stuff in my head. In fact, I could have even told The Boss that we should be geared up to expect some behavioral and spiritual battles early in the month. But I never followed up on the thought, nor on the preparations in my own heart and mind.  I regret that now; it sure makes for a rough start to the new year!  I do feel as if I'm coming out of the fog of it all a bit. Especially on Monday - while I sitting across from Li'l E in a crowded, noisy McDon@ld's.

So, I'm forcing myself back on track. Quieter daytime environment. (Sigh. I really have to go back to using my iPod mainly during naptime, I guess.) Re-directing and re-phrasing. Girding myself up for more consistent reminders to speak nicely to one another. And to do it IN THE SAME ROOM. Pulling out the big guns of serving one another for consequences of disrespectful or unloving behavior. Making mediation of their differences include reconciliation and repentance. Assigning extra jobs to those who can't get themselves back on track with my lead. (Counting to ten before yelling myself. Ugh.) 

If nothing else, the quieter more peaceful environment will return soon because certain little Gang members will be plumb tuckered out from all the jobs that they reap from sowing their seeds of dissension. And I'll have a clean house, to boot!


Aus said...

Hey - thanks for noticing! As a guy who wears a hearing aid in each ear (and that really only get me to 'decent' hearing - by no means good!) - I have to remind folks at home not to talk to me from the other room all the time! It's an easy habit to fall into for sure!

Time for coach to call a team meeting? Betcha that - at least in regard to your youngen - they step right up - they love the dickens out of her too!

hugs - aus and co.

Faith Quest'r said...

The Gang...A Family of Destiny!

Trish said...

I go through this sort of readjustment every so often as well. When things are getting a bit too emotional or hectic, I realize I probably haven't been writing down the schedule or using the whiteboard to give reminders or handing out enough positive reinforcement. All the things that I know make a big difference for Michael but that it's easy to let slide when he seems to be doing well.

Kudos to you for noticing and getting things back on track!