Ever since the World Cup games several years ago, my son has become very interested in sports. He has tried out (in this order) ultimate frisbee, soccer, and most recently, basketball.
My son uses two cochlear implants to hear, and because basketball is pretty physical with lots of body parts moving around, the implants are in danger of getting knocked off. They are held in place pretty securely by an ear mold, but anything can happen. I had encouraged him to wear a headband to prevent them from falling off, but he refused, understandably, because he didn’t want to stick out as the odd player wearing something on his head. There was another player on his team who consistently wore a bright red headband, but still that didn’t sway my son.
Then the inevitable happened.
It was the second game of the season. My son was playing during the first period and not even three minutes into the period (there are eight minutes in each period), his implant went flying off. Maybe he bumped into another player whose arms brushed against them– who knows.
Apparently the implant was dislodged off of the tube that goes inside the ear mold which holds it in place. My son was momentarily confused as he rushed to pick it up and didn’t find the ear mold on it. All I know is, I am sitting on the bleachers experiencing that panicky feeling I didn’t want to experience as I watch the events unfold, and having it get stronger and stronger. I see him frantically searching for his implant, see him thinking he also lost his ear mold, see the game stop, see the coach come out to the court to help him look for the ear mold, feel the dead silence in the gym, and I am immediately flying (leaping? jumping?) out of my seat to reach my son who has run off the court crying from the humiliation and self-consciousness he feels.
I immediately look in his ear and see the ear mold resting in there, intact, called to the coach that we found it and the game resumed, thankfully.
My son was beside himself. After I comforted him and put his implant back together and back on his head, I told him it was time to go back in. He was reluctant and I thought for a teeny tiny second how easy it would be to just avoid all this and take him home. But instead I told him he couldn’t let this stop him from doing what he loved and perhaps we could talk about using a headband for future games. I told him his team needed him.
He went back in and lo and behold, a few minutes later, they came flying off again. Same scenario, him running off the court in tears, me rushing to him, comforting him, giving him a pep talk and encouraging him to go back.
After that incident, I immediately ordered a headband (in the most inconspicuous color possible- black) and when it came time to wear it for the next game, my son refused. Aside: my son is a very strong-willed young person and it is very common for him to say no to anything new. I told him he did not have an option. He went anyway, red-eyed and morose. However, that game went by without incident.
Before the next game, he asked me to put it on him (yes!). As I watched the boys practicing, I noticed something was very different. It took me a minute to figure it out. Every single boy on my son’s team was wearing a bright red headband!!
Here’s what happened. The coach had seen that my son was struggling with this whole issue of his implants getting knocked off and seeing him feeling so self-conscious that he decided to order headbands for the whole team as a way of supporting him and making him feel like he didn’t stand out.
Gestures like that go a long way. It made me realize that even though people are watching what’s going on, they do care and are compassionate. Sometimes they simply don’t know what to do, but this coach, he just somehow knew he had to do SOMETHING. And for my son, I think he noticed that gesture and feels more a part of the team than ever before. Thank you, Coach, for that wonderful act of kindness. You make the world a better place.