Just when I think I have this parenting game sussed and my daughter Amelia all worked out, something remarkable happens to surprise me and put me back in my assumptive box.
Every eight weeks or so, Amelia has to have her hearing tested to make sure her loss is stable, that her ears are healthy and her aids are in tip-top shape.
Over the last few years since her deafness was diagnosed, she has had so many hearing tests and her tolerance for them has waxed and waned like the phases of the moon.
Sometimes she’s raring to go and happy to play most of the games set up to drill her into a cooperative subject who can provide accurate responses. I can see that her understanding of the testing and what is required of her is developing all the time.
Yet there are still parts of these appointments that Amelia is unlikely to submit to willingly, if at all.
I can’t remember her ever allowing the bone conduction headphones (for testing the sensitivity of the cochlea via a small vibrator on the mastoid bone behind the ear) to be put onto her head.
And it’s been a really long time since she was prepared to sit and have her ears examined for wax, fluid or any other obstructive nasties.
This resistance makes it hard for her two audiologists, IS and LB, to complete and verify their tests, but you can’t force a bucking bronco to hold her head still if she doesn’t want to. And mostly, she really doesn’t want to.
Each time we try a little more, testing the waters with tentative hands, waiting for the right temperature and Amelia’s attitude to improve, which it has to a large extent in two and a half years.
It is now pretty common to see my girl sitting for 20 or so minutes wearing her favoured big, soft headphones, happily completing her hearing assignment.
It’s just all of that ‘other’ stuff where the examination gets a bit more up close and personal that she struggles to comply.
So last week we dutifully trudged along to our local Australian Hearing office, Amelia with her pink bag filled with ‘special’ objects, and me clutching realistic expectations about what we would achieve that day.
I even took my Mum with me like some kind of talismanic good luck charm (she’s a little bit Irish, optimistic and pint-sized so there’s a whiff of the Leprechaun about her…).
My handy motto for these outings goes something like: never go into a hearing test with inflated hopes because you will get BURNED. Cheery, isn’t it?
I needn’t have worried.
Amelia strode into the testing booth, and if she could have, she would have said, “Pipe down everyone, it’s BUSINESS TIME,” because that child as good as rolled up her sleeves and bashed out the best damned hearing test I have ever seen.
She was a like a surgeon in there, asking for the requisite implements to get the job done right. Without hesitation, she took off her aids and handed them to the trusted IS for safekeeping.
Got my headphones? Check. Marble game ready? Then let’s do this thing.
LB was our booth DJ, running the sound mix for Amelia to hear (or not). I wore headphones too (as did my lucky charm) so I couldn’t hear anything but I sat at the little table and watched every movement as Amelia slotted marbles home when she had registered a sound.
I was utterly spellbound as I observed her on this day because she was so very serious, so determined to get the job of testing done well. Her sweet, round face took on a pose of solemn concentration, even disdain, as she selected each marble with careful consideration and calmly waited to slot it into the box hole.
There was something so intense and wonderful about it, as though Amelia had morphed into a mini-Kasparov playing a high-stakes game of chess on the world stage.
That’s how it seemed to me, like she’d been in training for this big day and she was ready to give it her all. No interruptions, please.
Amelia’s powerhouse performance of total focus was inadvertently hilarious too – little people taking themselves seriously so often are. Many times IS and I had to stifle our giggles in case our facial expressions distracted her from the end game. But she never flinched from the process, not once.
When the main test was over, the audiologists (emboldened by Amelia’s newfound patience), decided to have a go at using the dreaded bone conduction headphones. The never-before-worn ones. Those.
My eyes opened wide in shock as I saw her dip her head in deference to them, her great testing foe, allowing IS to fit and re-fit them when they needed an adjustment. Unbelievable.
Who the hell is this child? I tell you my skin was buzzing from the excitement of it all. I wanted to sit on my hands to hide from Amelia my desire to start madly applauding her efforts. I thought, she’ll see the pleasure on my face and fling those hateful headphones at the wall.
But no. The test went on and on. Anxiety-inducing ear check-up, you say? No problemo. She smashed it out of the park. Even when IS had to swap fittings on the tympanometry machine or in any way pause during the exam (which usually means DEATH to all who come at her), Amelia just sat quietly and allowed it all to happen to her.
The most inflexible child in the world, with a mother prone to overstatement (tick), just sat like a total BOSS. It was one of the happiest afternoons of my life, I am not ashamed to say.
Because it means so much to see Amelia getting better at tackling the little hurdles she will have to scale for the rest of her life. Part of what has helped is the visits Australian Hearing make regularly to her deaf kindergarten.
She gets to see other children having the same examinations and the habitual check-ups are serving to desensitise her to the endless ear prodding. And Amelia’s getting older so she’s learning how to cope with certain situations as she grows into herself.
We don’t get to do a lot of ‘normal’ family things with great ease, like go to the movies, the zoo, for long walks, have coffee or dinner out and so on. That’s okay, we are finding other ways to work some fun and release in amongst the grind of daily life.
But in our world, where tests are at least as common as park outings, it’s important to feel as though they are a success, or there is at least progress towards improvement each time.
So when you witness a five-star, rock and roll triumph like I did on Friday, you can sit on your hands and stifle giggles, but you won’t be able to hide the joy shining out from your eyes. Nor should you ever try.