Make Room For The Stuttering

Stuttering Affects Those Around Us

Posted on: November 20, 2009

Lisa and I had a poignant, emotional discussion the other night about what happens with the people around us when we change the way we stutter.

For example, when I first started stuttering more openly after years of trying to hide it, people closest to me were clearly impacted. They had been used to me one way, and now I was talking another way. My ex-partner had never heard me stutter openly, so he  didn’t get what I was doing. He never knew I stuttered, and it caused tension between us when I finally let my stuttering out.

Most recently, he commented that I must be stuttering like this because I hang around other people who stutter. He would also say, after overhearing me on the phone, things like, “No offense, but you sounded really awful. Are you OK?” Some of my family was uncomfortable too. They would get nervous-looking and avoid eye contact with me. One sister thought it was cool, though. She would say, “Finally, your being yourself.” Stuttering differently certainly brings various reactions from those around us.

Lisa wanted to talk about what has been going on with her pre-teen daughter, who had always been supportive and understanding of her mum’s stuttering. Lisa shared that her daughter would supply words for her when they ordered in restaurants, as a help for her mum. And the younger girl would as well. They really didn’t have any problem’s with mummy stuttering, because it was usually well hidden.

Well, as Lisa has been stuttering more overtly, the people around her have reacted. Her sister shared that she was so proud and inspired by Lisa’s choice to be “true to herself.” Her partner has been supportive and interested in learning more about stuttering.

Lisa’s pre-teen daughter has reacted a little differently. One day last week, Lisa reprimanded her daughter, and for the first time, daughter mimicked mum’s stuttering, saying “a-a-a-a-a-actually.’ Lisa was stunned and hurt, as her daughter had never done that. Lisa shared with me that her daughter realized she had hurt her mum’s feelings, as she voluntarily came back to mum and apologized. Still, the mimicking, and hurt, had happened.  Lisa has an amazingly close relationship with her daughter. That’s why she was so surprised and hurt when this happened. And it also explains why Lisa’s daughter knew instinctively she had hurt her mum and apologized right away.

Moreover, in the same week, Lisa learned that her daughter had not told her about a parent-teacher conference at the school. Lisa fears it was because her mum’s new open stuttering embarrasses her daughter.

We talked about it, and agreed that our changing stuttering affects those around us. Of course, it is going to. It’s almost like meeting a new person. Lisa asked what I thought. I do not have my own children, but I shared that I would have probably felt bad and hurt too I also reminded Lisa that something or another that their parents do or say embarrasses teenagers all over. It’s a universal part of the teenage angst process.

If it wasn’t Lisa’s stuttering, it would surely be something else. Not that it makes it any easier. We don’t like it when our feelings are hurt, especially by our loved ones. But it happens. Sometimes the people closest to us say mean and hurtful things. In Lisa’s case, I shared my opinion that she should continue to talk with her children about her stuttering, encourage them to ask questions and express their feelings. And keep communication open. We all have differences that we need to tolerate and respect.

Lisa still hasn’t told her mom about her stuttering secret. She had thought about asking her sister to do it for her, but thinks it best that she do this herself. When she finds the courage. Sometimes it is our closest family members that we have the hardest time with being open and honest.

This reminds me of when I was child. I always felt that I embarrassed my father. That is why he was so critical of me when I did stutter. That’s why I chose not to talk most of the time, so I wouldn’t stutter and be an embarrassment to my family. That was a heavy burden to carry around for a kid. I am glad the burden has got lighter recently.

What do you think? How would have responded to a similar situation? Have you ever felt you were an embarrassment to your family?

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6 Responses to "Stuttering Affects Those Around Us"

Yes I struggled with that for a while and now that I am married, I was terrified that my inlaws would think I was not good enough for their son becasue I stuttered. He stutters also so I guess I was saved by that.

I would have been hurt if I was in Lisa’s position. I remember on my first visit to one of my sister’s who was living abroad, I was enouraged into telling a joke, which I do not do simple becasue I suck at it becasue of my stuttering. I declined flatly but my sister still insisted on me doing it all in the game of fun. I told the joke and stuttered badly ofcourse and you know what, she laughed at me. What made it worst was that it happened in the presence of a brother-in-law I was just meeting.

I was so hurt and embarrassed and thought that my sister did this so that she could laugh at me.

I totally understand why Lisa felt that way because you expect that if no one else understands, your family would.

Annettal,

I thought the samething “you expect that if no one else understands, your family would.” As I talk more with my parents about stuttering I find that they do NOT “get it.” My parents still finish my sentences for me, even though they know not to. I find my friends and professors at college seem to “get it” more than my own parents.

Excellent topic! This kind of conversation with those we love is very important. One more way to expose the white elephant in the room.

I totally relate to that Lisa… I have two teenage boys and went through rough spots. Once there was a football picnic organized by the school and my oldest son told me he’d rather go alone… I was both very angry and hurt and first decided I wouldn’t go. Then I realized that if I gave in to that, it would happen every time there was a more public event happening. So I told him that I understood why he asked me to go alone but told him I would go anyway, and that he would have to learn to stand up for what he believes and loves. In the end, it was a nice picnic and he told me he was happy I decided to go anyway.

Parent-child is the most complex, and strongest, relationship we have. Habits like finishing sentences have been reinforced for years — they won’t change over night.

I think Lisa’s daughter would have grabbed anything handy when she wanted to say something to hurt her Mom. The fact that she apologized immediately shows she knew it was a temporary wish, and that she’s willing to admit her mistakes rather than justify them with “Mom deserved that.” She’s a good kid.

Lisa’s girls are worried. The foundation has moved. How they feel about it will change by the hour, and they’re confused by their own reactions. They want a Mom who is true to herself, but they’re used to the old Mom. A whole whack of emotions there, including some they feel guilty about. It will take time for them to “get”, on a gut level, that Lisa’s still the reliable Mom she always has been. They may be afraid that if they do open up, they’ll say things they’ll regret. One idea: Thank them for their support and help them feel part of the process, rather than something that’s happening outside their control.

“How stuttering effects those around us!! I could write a bible about that!! EXTREME stuttering makes listeners impatient, apprehensive, nervous, impatient. EXTREME stuttering like myself makes me extremely mad, impatient, angry,I wish others would help me talk to take the burden off me.

Listeners interrupt me because I take to long trying to talk..rightfully so and I don’t get mad at them because I know the embarrassment they must feel in trying to hear me.

Mild stutterers have the right to be heard and un-interupted because they have an easier time being understood and can speak without having much trouble…. See More

When people say they stutter- they should say what degree of stuttering they have. Extreme stutterers need help from others or by a device to make themselves more clear, and mild stutterers–I am jealous and envious of you, and happy for you.

I got off the phone 10 minutes ago while checking in with my parents- horrible time trying to spit it out like saliva- but that’s an every day event for me. Instead of answering my question or thought when they know perfectly well what I am trying to say, they just let me struggle and get angry and frusterated with myself. They only make my situation worse.

Next time I get into a nasty stuttering escapade- I am just hanging up because I don’t have the patience.

Same with talking- any nasty escapade with stuttering- I am going to abruptly stop talking because I can’t stand struggling so much.

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