When Andrea Marwah asked me to speak at the Illinois Hands & Voices Mom’s Night Inn this year, I happily agreed. The Mom’s Night Inn weekend was like coming home all over again. When I founded the non-profit organization back in 2003, we launched the annual Mom’s Night Inn, modeled after a similar retreat at Colorado Hands & Voices. Every year, the retreat continues to be a weekend of connection among the moms of deaf and hard of hearing children. Andrea Marwah, the current president, has expanded the Mom’s Night Inn in central Illinois as well. There is still time to register for that: Mom’s Night Inn Central.
This year’s theme was “Celebrating Their Gifts, Unleashing Your Child’s Potential” and the title of my presentation. I shared my own journey of growing up hard of hearing, becoming deaf, and discovering the gifts that resulted from a paradigm shift in my perceptions. I read an excerpt from Lee Woodruff’s book, “Perfectly Imperfect,” where she describes her deaf daughter as one with a different ability. If you have not read her book, grab it. Lee is an amazing writer and her book will grip your heart. She has a new one coming out in September, 2012.
Massages, crafts, discussions and chocolate, those are some of things the moms get to experience during the retreat. Woven into those moments are the connections– the experience of sharing your personal journey with another mom. It doesn’t matter where you are on the journey, or the choices you’ve made or the choices you are exploring– there’s the common bond of raising deaf and hard of hearing kids. It’s a wonderful feeling to share the journey together.
On Sunday, we had a panel of deaf and hard of hearing kids, from elementary to college age. Ben Lachman also sat on the panel and shared his experience as a young adult and businessman. Their experiences were as unique as their fingerprints. As I sat there and watched each person share a glimpse of their journey, I’m reminded once again why so many of us across the Hands & Voices world volunteer our time with families: because every kid counts.