Our somewhat nervous Eden, gripping to her swimming teacher like a baby monkey, eyes wide with anticipation as her teacher asks her if she’s feeling okay to go “under” today, glances at me across the pool for moral support. I sign back, “You’re brave (knowing that quite the opposite is true) go “under”, maybe just one time today?” She shakes her head nervously with a, “No go under today, no go under! Tomorrow Eden go under maybe.” This little ball of cuteness is quite different to her sisters. While we can’t keep the twins out of the water, Eden hates getting her face and head wet and actually is quite nervous to see any water level reach higher than her knees. She’s been going to swimming lessons for about six months now, in an attempt to make her water-safe. It seems like a contradiction, as her fear of water keeps her a fair distance from the edge of the swimming pool, but you just never know. Every single time on the way to swimming, we have a negotiation. As she recognizes the trees and houses that mark our swimming lesson journey, it starts, “Mama, Eden no go under today…maybe tomorrow.” I don’t push her at all, I acknowledge her fear and help her with words like, “Is Eden feeling scared and nervous?” and then assure her that she can go under the water when she feels ready to do so. We’re very fortunate that our swimming teacher can sign sufficiently, or they’d have no communication without their hearing aids in the water. After convincing both myself and her teacher that today would not be he day to get her hair wet, Hadassah, made her way to the edge of the pool. After getting her little sister’s attention by frantically waving her arm in the air, she started signing with a determined look in her eyes, “Eden can do ANYTHING. Remember, you CAN do ANYTHING!” With encouragement from her sister, a glowing smile emerged between two chubby cheeks. Hadassah continued, this time with a questioning expression, “You can do anything? You can go under?” A pregnant pause was followed by a single nod as she glanced up at her teacher. “Eden go under.” And “under” she went. With all the praise and encouragement from everyone watching on, this little monkey was happy to be submerged four times that session. She believed she could, so she did.
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” I’ve seen that catchy phrase many times before, and believe it to be true, but never thought it would pretty much become the theme of our family motto. For the last year or so, almost every day, we speak a positive declaration to our girls – and they LOVE it. Each one is looked directly into their eyes and we sign, “You are beautiful. You are brave and strong. You are clever. You are precious, you are loved. You are enough, just the way you are. You can do ANYTHING!”
Hadassah was the first to start believing those things about herself. One morning she was getting so frustrated as she was trying to tie her own shoe laces. She’d bundle the laces together, hoping that miraculously, they’d figure themselves out. “I can’t,” she signed very frustrated. I always try to remember to acknowledge their feelings and expose them to a variety of “feeling” words. “You’re feeling frustrated because tying your laces is difficult?” I signed, “but just remember…you CAN do anything…let mama teach you.” I showed her twice and then she insisted I stopped. With Tahlita watching on, Hadassah tried and failed, tried and almost got it, but didn’t, tried and tried and after 10 minutes was tying her laces with ease. In amazement, Tahlita excitedly exclaimed, “Hadassah CAN do anything!” Encouraged by her sister, she offered to tie her laces too, and taught Tahlita over the next few weeks how to do them herself. She believed she could, so she did.
These are small, seemingly insignificant examples, but weave the belief into their hearts that in spite of obstacles that may come their way, with practice and perseverance, they CAN. This is important for my kids especially. They will be labeled “disabled”. People will write them off as less than capable and make false assumptions that their abilities may be less, simply because they are deaf. Their mama and dada will fight for them ‘til the end if necessary, but the time will come when they need to stand up for themselves, and they will only be empowered to do so, if their self-esteem has not been crippled by the limitations that others may want them to believe about themselves. They CAN do anything – that is the truth. I believe they can and intend on reminding them frequently of this. If she believes she can, she will.