The genie is out of the bottle

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September 7, 2012 by whirlyjoy

I let Mimi, who is a precocious 11, start a (very private, highly aliased and protected) Facebook account last week. To all of you naysayers out there who are sucking in your cheeks and thinking, what a terrible idea! she’s much too young! I respond: You are absolutely right. And: You try standing up to Mimi when she’s on the warpath for something.

Remember, this is a girl growing up in a household where only determined effort and perseverance allow her to get her needs some level of visibility above the ocean of chaos and exhaustion generated by her sister. This is a child who began leaving me post-it notes with reminders and instructions in kindergarten.

Also, she’s learned from a very early age to be highly articulate. We’ve been focused on language and communication at home ever since Aida was diagnosed as deaf at 22 months, and while progress has been slow for her, Mimi’s expressive powers have thrived.

Mimi’s strong personality came with the package, though, and was apparent from day one – from the first few minutes, in fact. She was put in an incubator to warm up after our C-section delivery, and it was placed next to my bed. There I lay on my side, torn up and slightly dopey, and she lay looking straight at me, red-faced and screaming her hunger at the top of her lungs for the entire two hours they kept her in there. I remember feeling a slight twinge of trepidation at what I was going to be up against with her, through the morphine haze.

As it began, so it continued. Where Aida had been a leisurely nurser, latching on and dangling there for, oh, 20 or 25 minutes each side, Mimi ferociously went at it for ten minutes, tops, and then moved on to other things.

And by the time Mimi was a year old she’d become a poster child for the type of constant “bathing in language” we’d been taught to use to help Aida catch up on all the language she’d missed out on before being fitted with her first hearing aids. This involved a number of techniques, one of which was narrating everything we all did throughout the day. The more words Aida heard, went the theory, the more chances she had to learn them. “Mommy is pushing the stroller,” I would say. “We’re going to the park! That will be fun. Aida is riding in the stroller to the park.”

A year into this approach, Aida was still completely silent – but you could hear Mimi’s little voice at the playground, narrating everything she did. “Mimi is climbing the stairs. Mimi is sitting on the slide. Mimi is going down the slide. Whee!”

Her voice and her powerful ability to communicate have only continued to grow since then, so really once she decided a Facebook account was what she needed next to express herself, my giving in was written in the stars.

I wasn’t entirely prepared for the tsunami she generated in her first few hours, though. Nana emailed me: DID YOU KNOW MIMI HAS TAKEN OVER FACEBOOK?” (Those caps aren’t for emphasis, Nana just types everything in all caps, as did her mother Big Jane before her. If it’s genetic then devoted readers will eventually see this blog BEGIN POSTING IN ALL CAPS AND WITH A MINIMUM OF PUNCTUATION because, as Big Jane told me when I asked her why she was bombarding us this way, the older you get the less time you want to waste on that crap.)

Mimi is one genie who will never stay bottled up. Now if only I could get her to grant me a wish or two…

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