We had such a wonderful time this past weekend at Hands & Voices Family Camp.
We arrived early, so my husband and one of the Dads who was there as a volunteer, bonded over building Legos with their children and the other volunteer’s children.
Our family shared a cabin with some new friends who are also from Central Oregon. We had recently found each other on FaceBook, because their 1 year old daughter has a BAHA hearing aid, just like my 3 year old. So we had one play-date about a month ago. At the time, our 5 year old and their 8 year old seemed disinterested in actually playing together. However, they were very excited to see a familiar face at Family Camp. And quite disappointed that they had to be in separate kids classes. So much so, that they chose to spend the afternoon session in the parent’s class, sitting next to each other and coloring quietly.
Little PipSqueek usually follows Big Sis around, but Big Sis was busy with her big-kid friend. So Saturday, at breakfast, PipSqueek stuck close to Mama and Dada, until she was greeted by a very social 2 year old. They bonded over their matching “Elsa” shoes which light up when they stomp their feet. It seemed they did not even notice each other’s headband and hearing aids. Or maybe they did and thought, “she looks likes me. Cool!” But then her extroverted friend ran off with an even more extrovert 4 year old, who has TCS just like our daughter.
I had been wondering if children who have hearing loss tend to be more introvert, but my theory went out the window the minute those two little girls entered the dining hall. Then another one of our Facebook friends arrived. A family whose daughter was born 1 month after ours and also diagnosed with TCS. They stayed in the same Ronald McDonald house while their baby was in the same NICU. But we had already gone home before their daughter was born. However we found each other on FB and them met in person two years ago. When we both happened to be at the Children’s Hospital on the exact same day, having our consultation with the Cleft Palate Surgeon. So we briefly chatted in the waiting room between all our appointments.
Now 2 years later, it was as if our girls recognized each other and already knew just how much they have in common. Both are a bit shy and seemed content to watch the more extrovert children run laps around the dinning hall.
PipSqueek and her “twin” had the choice to go to the 3-5 year old class or to the baby class. Us mama’s both felt our girls would do better with the younger children.
Half way through the morning session, I was summoned to take PipSqueek to go potty. Her teacher said she had been hiding in the corner and thought she might be trying poop. Playing in a corner alone is pretty normal for her in childcare settings. But she did need to go potty as well.
She told me she wanted her sister, but switching classes mid-morning was not an option, in my opinion. She chose instead to stay with Mama and eat a snack. I moved to the front row to give her a good view of the sign language interpreters. After snack, I asked if she wanted to go back to her classroom to play. She agreed, reluctantly. I dropped her off in the nursery, thinking maybe we should try going with Big Sis to the preschool class during the afternoon session. But as I said earlier, Big Sis ended up skipping class, so she and her new friend could stay together and color.
At lunch time, when I picked PipSqueak up from class, her teacher said she had been having so much fun with her “twin” playing fetch with the ball. So I decided to put her in the same class for the afternoon session. Most babies were napping, so it was just our “twins” and a couple other children. Again my daughter had such a great time.
We spent our free time, at the local pumpkin patch, practicing our sling-shot skills, and playing “Marco-Polo” in the corn maze. Which is extra challenging for people who do not have directional hearing.
The next morning at breakfast, PipSqueek begged to go play in her classroom. This is the first time she not only asked to go to her class, but grabbed my hand, pulling me towards her classroom, demanding “go play my class, right now!” Her “twin” was not here the second day. None-the-less my daughter was happy to go play in her class now that she had warmed up to the environment and the teachers.
Her teacher said she was not sure how much Language my daughter had, since she was so quiet. So the teacher had been signing with her. But now, she got to listen to my daughter babble to herself while playing with various toys.
It makes my heart so happy to know that my daughter felt comfortable to be her true self. That is so rare, maybe even non-existent outside our home. It felt like she found her tribe in a group of toddlers who all had hearing loss and adults who were used to interacting with such children. A small group of just a couple children per adult, who got down on her level, talking and signing.
That experience solidified, that our family needs to learn more Sign Language. Also, that a small classroom setting, ie homeschool, is the best education style for my daughter. So it feels like we are on the right track…
and of course, we are looking forward to attending Family Camp again next year 🙂