Early October. Sky blue, morning air cool, Fall light bounces off surfaces illuminating trees I hadn’t noticed before. Dragon flies flutter above in the afternoons. There is a stillness, maybe it’s created by that in between summer and winter. The school year has only just started but I feel like my kids have been in Kindergarten forever. I haven’t had much time to write. I’ve been studying American Sign Language, I have class Tuesday and Thursday, and on Sundays my family takes an ASL class together. I was taking a Spanish class too, but this week I got a cold and I decided the Spanish class was too much. I want to just focus on ASL and get back in my studio.
The transition to Kindergarten has been easy for Jack but difficult for Fiona. Jack loves his school, he’s so happy. He loves the schoolwork, he loves his friends, he wants to go every day, and barley gives me a hug and kiss goodbye. Fiona loves her friends. Her favorite days are when I do early drop off to get to my ASL class. I set Fiona and her friends up with coloring activities and they have the best time. When I drop her off early and she gets to color she’s happy. But on the days where we get there right in time for class it’s a difficult drop off. She asks me to stay or she asks if I can take her with me. It makes me feel so bad.
After school Fiona has started to have tantrums. I thought it was only on days where she had speech, but now it’s become a regular thing. She’s so exhausted after school, no matter where I park my car, she sits on the sidewalk and throws rocks and dirt and pulls up plants. She says, “I hate when you park here mommy” Or she kicks my car. Yesterday we didn’t even get out of the playground at school. She sat down and wouldn’t move. I sat in the shade and waited. That’s all I can do. At home when she has the tantrums, she throws things, she takes everything off the shelves and throws them on the ground. I have to keep Jack away from her or things get really ugly. Yesterday Fiona had two tantrums, one after school then one later at home. Jack was her target. She followed him around the house throwing things at him. Once she was done everything went back to normal. It’s like there’s this angry frustration that Fiona has to let out.
All these years Fiona has never had any behavioral issues. She’s always been my easy kid, Jacks always had tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. Very typical tantrums that last only 5-10 minutes. Fiona has always used her words or cried and explained she was mad because of something or that her feelings were hurt, but she’s never been an angry kid.
I got a new journal for the kids. They are filled with prompts, about feelings, memories, self-image, ect. And places to draw or color. I did the first entry with Fiona the other night. The prompt was to pick three emotions you feel often and use colors or a pattern to represent those emotions. Fiona picked Alone, Sad, and Left Out. Her pattern was broken hearts. I couldn’t believe it. Then she drew a picture of a memory of something you miss, it was her best friend from her pre-school. I just started bawling. It made me so, so, sad. To be only five years old and going through all this. I have never talked about being left out or alone. I don’t know where Fiona got those terms? I do talk about sadness and am sad a lot! I’m happy a lot, but I do have lots of sadness. I could understand my kids really understanding the feeling of sadness. But alone and left out caught me off guard.
Maybe not totally off guard because I’ve been reading so many books, the mask of benevolence by Harlen Lane and Alone in the Mainstream by Gina Oliva, and my readings of deaf culture in my Signing Naturally book from my ASL class, so I know that many, many, many, deaf and HOH people have felt alone, sad, and left out in mainstream education and at family and social gatherings in general where ASL is not being used. But to hear that my five-year-old daughter is already feeling this way broke my heart.
My daughter has had issues with her interpreter, but I’m hoping things will improve. She loves many things about school. She has made some great friends, she loves the writing and spelling parts, she loves art. I could never separate her now to move her to a different school, like CSDF. It would probably be better for her self-esteem and more than likely a much better learning environment, once she was fluent in ASL. But it’s too far away and I think the act of separating Fiona from her brother and her community here would be devastating.
It’s been a rough few weeks. I’ve also noticed Fiona asking “what” all the time. I fear there is something going on with her right ear. We have an audiological appointment next month. It’s not easy. This is not easy. There’s nothing I can do but keep communicating with Fiona’s team of educators and do as much as I can at home. And make sure our family is becoming fluent in ASL. I have to be patient with Fiona’s tantrums because she’s frustrated and going through a very difficult transition. She’s gone from a Total Communication program where there were six deaf/hoh classmates, sign language was used all day long and communication barriers between friends, misunderstandings were addressed by the teachers and used as a learning tool. Fiona loved school. She did so well, she tested above average for her age. It was the perfect environment for Fiona.
Now she is mainstreamed, a class of 22 hearing students. Fiona is the only one who is HOH, who needs to use an FM, who has an interpreter, who has to work so hard to understand what is being said. It’s not a great situation for a five-year-old. When kids just want to fit-in and be like everyone else. I hope things get easier for Fiona.