Make Room For The Stuttering

Trying To Fix You

Posted on: October 18, 2010

I have been face book friends since the summer with Elissa, a brilliant writer. Elissa wrote a heart-tugging essay about her young daughter Charlotte’s stuttering.  I linked to this essay before. Check out “Fighting Words” if you missed it.

Recently, Elissa posted a link to the song “Fix You” by Cold Play that played at a party she was at for really sick kids. She wondered if the song had just been coincidence. Elissa recalled how fervently her brother and his colleagues had tried to “fix” a young patient 7 years earlier.

For some reason, I commented on Elissa’s post that the song “Fix You” reminded me of the stuttering journey. We then shared this exchange, which really touched me. We have not met, yet we both spoke from a similar place.

She, the parent of a young child who stutters, anxious to make the right decision for her daughter. And me, an adult who stutters, who is still affected by my parents’ choices years ago about my stuttering.

Me: This song so reminds me of the stuttering journey. I met a family 2 years ago. Both sons stutter. The dad is a surgeon who for years thought he had failed as a parent, because as a surgeon, he is so used to fixing his patients. He could not fix his sons and it haunted him. Finally, he (they) reached a point where he knows he does not need to fix his kids . . . they are perfect just the way they are.

When I see this family, I am reminded of how I felt for a long time that I needed to be fixed. Now, when I see them, I hug mom and we watch her children laugh and play and enjoy life . . . And we know, that not needing fixing is the real prize. Thanks for sharing the story about the sick kids and the song.

Elissa: I’m so glad you wrote! I don’t know if you saw my post of last week, where I was struggling with exactly this question: wanting to get speech therapy for Charlotte because she is in so much distress, …yet not wanting to send her the message that she needs to be fixed. In some unspoken way, I believe my brother chose not to spend a tremendous amount of his precious energy on the attempt to fix his stuttering.

I truly understand and honor that choice. She’s far too young to make or even understand that kind of choice, though. I’m in the wildly uncomfortable position of needing to make it for her. The hardest parenting moments for me have been ones in which every course of action is a potential betrayal. I’m tempted to ask you what you would do if she were your child. No one person can tell me what to do, but I really welcome all the perspectives I can get.

Me: Well, you didn’t officially ask, but I will share my opinion anyway! I grew up thinking the awful thought that my father was ashamed of me. When I stuttered, he would yell at me, or tell me to “stop that”. In my 5-year-old mind, which I can still remember, getting negative feedback from my dad was the worst thing imaginable. I thought, “was I so horrible that even my own father was ashamed?” I learned years later that my mom felt incredible guilt for not standing up to my dad and insisting that I be allowed to get some help, because he wouldn’t allow it.

Needless to say, I had a hard time with my self-image and expressing feelings as a child. What would I do for Charlotte? Its different, because I stutter and you don’t. I would try to set an example for her that it is OK and that stuttering is just a different way of talking. You can’t model that for her, but maybe you can have her meet other kids who stutter, and get as comfortable with stuttering as possible so that her struggle behavior naturally decreases. I have no idea how I would have reacted to therapy as a kid, but it would have made a huge difference to meet and know others like me. Your heart will guide you for what is best for Charlotte.

Elissa: Thank you. My God, I can’t help feeling enraged at your father for his response to you as a child. Not that my rage is of any use to you now, but… if I picture Charlotte hearing those words, my heart could just crack in half. I’m …so sorry that your formative years were spent in that situation. I will definitely be attending the Friends events from now on… this past year was a little too soon, I felt, and that’s unfortunate, especially since the convention was in Chicago! My brother’s city! I know that he almost went himself.

This might sound completely messed up, but Charlotte’s lovely and wonderful teacher let me know that two other kids in her class have severe speech impediments also, and God help me, I was ecstatic to hear that.

Me: Your response does not sound messed up at all – we need others to be like us so we feel some normalcy.

What do you think? What would you have told Elissa? She welcomes all the perspectives she can get.

5 Responses to "Trying To Fix You"

Pam, I think you gave great advice. I recall starting to stutter around age 12. I didn’t hear anyone else stutter until my freshman year in college. We never talked because he didn’t know I stuttered. I never talked in class. It wasn’t until that summer when I went to an intensive therapy for PWS that I met my first person who stuttered. I was in a room with nine other guys. Show her she is not alone. I sure felt that way for many years.

Pam, I also think you gave good advice, and I think it was very honest of you to share what it was like with your father when you were a kid.
Elissa, I think your daughter is very lucky to have a mom who is not just grabbing at straws for your daughter. Its always tough to make decisions which we wonder the kid might resent later, but when the decisions are based on love, thats all that really counts and it sounds like she will know that.

[…] Trying To Fix You « Make Room For The Stuttering […]

I wish had a mother like Charlotte has Elissa, or things would be so different for me now as I would at least know that someone in my family understands enough to want to get support for me.

I received nothing from my family and I am not upset I am just sad, because I know if they could have done anything to support they would have, in a heart beat, but they did not have the capacity to understand issues of this nature.

Great advice to Elissa Pam, as always, and great comment Paul.

Very Nice website. I just finished mine and i was looking for some ideas and you gave me a few. Did you develop the website alone?


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2022.
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