Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘parents feelings about stuttering

My father died two weeks ago. My father who I never reconciled with over serious childhood issues. My father that yelled and screamed at me when I was 5 years old and first started stuttering. My father whose lack of support drove me to try and hide my stuttering for years. My father who was ashamed that one of his kids stuttered. My father who never allowed me and my siblings to show emotions. My father who never showed me affection. My father who I had not talked to in years.

I happened to be away for the weekend when I got word that he had died. My siblings were text messaging each other and included me in on the thread. As I was driving, my phone blew up with tweets, the sound I use to notify me of text alerts. I glanced down at the phone and tried to see what was going on. I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about from just a quick glance.

I pulled over at the first nearest rest area to get gas and then pulled into a parking spot, curious to see what my siblings were furiously texting about. One sister had offered her condolences to others who were impacted by his death. I didn’t know who they were talking about. It didn’t occur to me to think it was my father. I texted a quick question and asked who died, thinking it was an extended family member. One sister directly responded that it was dad who died.

I was kind of shocked as I was not expecting to hear that and I was 100 miles from home. My brother then chimed in with a text that he was sorry I learned through a text message, but that the family thought it better not to have called me while I was away.

I started driving toward home and had the next 90 minutes or so to think. What I thought about was how weird my reaction was. I was not emotional or stricken – I was worried about how I would handle the upcoming funeral services and deal with family that I hadn’t seen in years. I was worried about possibly not going and how that would look.

I debated not going to any services as I had not had a relationship with the man in years. He never reached out to me and I kept my distance. While he was in a nursing home, several of my sisters tried to guilt me into letting go of the past and consider reconciling with him. They were going to visit him weekly and asked me repeatedly to join them. I chose not to. They stopped asking. I went about my life oblivious to what was happening with him.

I learned later that he had suffered several falls due to the pressure of a brain tumor he’d had for years, that I knew about. The pressure was causing dementia and made him prone to falls. The last fall he took was accompanied by heart failure and several attempts at resuscitation and then his heart just finally stopped.

I always felt a deep sadness that I did not have my father’s heart. I was his first born daughter and always yearned for that relationship with my dad that I knew other people had or that I saw on TV. I was envious of friends who were close with their parents and held a special place in their parents’ hearts. I never really told that to anyone and eventually those yearnings went away as I learned to manage with the hand I had been dealt. I vividly remembered the abusive, chaotic home I grew up in. I couldn’t not remember it.

I did go to my father’s wake and was supremely uncomfortable. I felt lost and like I didn’t belong there. Four of my siblings were also there, along with my father’s second family. A family I had always referred to as our replacement family. His wife, that my father had cheated on my mother with and who was younger than me. Whom I always blamed for hurting my mother.

I saw aunts and uncles, his siblings, that I hadn’t seen in over 25 years, It was awkward. It was more awkward seeing my father’s other daughters, openly grieving. I felt tense and anxious and couldn’t help but feel this whole thing was happening to someone else.

My sister read a “tribute” to my father toward the end of the service, one that talked about a loving father that instilled values and work ethic in all his (10) children and a love for God. I didn’t recognize who she was talking about. It was surreal to me, his firstborn daughter who wasn’t perfect and had never felt his love. My sister had reconciled with him and made peace with him as had two other sisters.

My youngest sister didn’t go to the wake. He was not part of her life and had never met her children, his grandchildren, yet the obituary read that he was their loving grandfather. I felt that people were trying to paint this man to be someone he was not.

I didn’t go to the funeral service or burial the next day. I couldn’t. I felt paralyzed by my very conflicting emotions. Part of me had hated this man for so long, for the emotional and physical abuse of long ago and for making me feel such shame over my stuttering. I carried this around for a long time. I also carried around his influence for a long time. I was in therapy for years, trying to process and perhaps reconcile my “daddy issues,” but never could. The pain was still there, after all these years.

When someone dies and it is unexpected, so much goes unsaid. Such is the case with my father. I never told him how I had yearned for his love, support and approval. I never told him that I have turned out pretty OK and feel like I am in a good place in my life, despite a tumultuous past. I didn’t really even say goodbye.

Part of me feels relief that he is gone, for he is not suffering and hopefully neither will I anymore. But I’m not sure that really is the case. I need to come to terms with what wasn’t said and find a way to process this so that I can move forward in peace.

 

 

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This video is making the rounds of the stuttering sites on social media and for good reason. A dad with a stutter is seen reading to his daughter before she falls asleep and it is clearly a challenge for him. But he perseveres and does what he wants to do for his child.

I applaud this dad for doing what thousands of parents do with their children – read to them before bedtime. The fact that he decided to record this for others to see took a lot of guts. I am glad he did, so you can see it here. He allows us to see the very vulnerable side of stuttering.

People often view stuttering as a flaw, a deficit, a challenge to be overcome. Many of us who stutter have been met with negative social consequences for our stuttering: teasing, bullying, mocking, exclusion and being laughed at. Many of us apologize to our listeners for our stuttering. We often feel as if we are a burden to the listener, because we take longer to speak than the “normal” fluent speaker.

As a result of all this, people who stutter may spend lots of time, energy and money to change their stuttering so that our speech will be more socially accepted. We participate in speech therapy, we practice speaking for hours, or when these fail, we may avoid speaking situations all together.

Online stuttering forums are loaded with people looking for advice on dating, job interviews, talking on the telephone and ordering food in restaurants and drive through stations.

Sometimes it can get very depressing reading about all the difficulties that people who stutter have and face. It can also be depressing to personally deal with negative listener reactions and feelings of shame.

So why is the title of this post called “The Benefits Of Stuttering,” you may ask. So far, I haven’t mentioned anything positive about stuttering. Can stuttering really have benefits?

Well, if you think about it, there are many benefits to stuttering. People generally remember us because of our stutter. When I answer the phone at work and stutter, it’s not unusual for someone to say “hi Pam.” They equate me with my stuttering and remember who I am.

People who stutter often have more compassion and empathy for others with differences. We’re also good listeners and are very patient. These are benefits that we often don’t think of because we get so caught up in what’s wrong with stuttering.

My UK friend Lisa recently shared a great example of how stuttering was an advantage for her. (She gave me permission to recount the story here.)

I started my new role as a 1:1 teaching assistant at school recently with a little boy who has a muscular disease that affects the muscles in his mouth resulting in a stammer.

I was nervous to meet his parents, as I didn’t know if they would be happy with a person who stammers overseeing speech practice with their child who stammers. I explained from the outset that I also stammer but was able to mainly control it and that I was familiar with the different types of stammering, secondary behaviors and therapies associated with it.

I was so wrong in assuming that the parents would have an issue with me. The mum actually said she was over the moon, more for the fact that I would first hand understand how he might feel not being able to communicate as quickly as his peers. I said that because the staff know too, and are patient with me, they would already know to do the same with the child and that some of the children are aware of being patient with me, so would just adapt with him.

She then said that after our meeting, she was 100% sure it was the right thing to move him to the school. For once I felt stammering was an advantage.

What a great story that illustrates one of the main benefits of stuttering – empathy for others and instinctively knowing what it’s like and how best to listen and respond to another person who stutters.

So, the next time you think there are only negatives associated with stuttering, think again. There are benefits and sometimes it’s to our advantage to stutter.

What do you think? Have you ever thought of your stuttering as an advantage or realized one of its benefits?

EpiPamsode 136 features Dori Lenz Holte, who is a parent of a child who stutters. Dori hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is the author of the book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.”

Dori also has a blog and a Facebook group offering support for the parents of children who stutter.

Dori says she wrote the book she wished she had read when she was starting out on the journey with her son Eli, who stutters and is now 18.

Listen in as Dori describes how traditional speech therapy affected her child and the frustration and desperation she and her husband felt as parents.

She talks about being told to “keep looking” for a speech therapist who was a specialist in stuttering.  That period of “keep looking” added to the silence and withdrawal that her son was experiencing as a young child who was trying, and failing, to use speech tools and techniques.

Dori also discusses the need for parents to keep their eye on the big picture, which is to raise confident and happy children. And parents should listen to their instincts.

This was an important conversation. Thanks Dori for being a guest.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

I just finished the excellent book Paperboy by Vince Vawter and couldn’t stop smiling.

Paperboy is the story of an 11-year-old boy who takes over his best friend’s paper route for a month during July in Memphis. Victor is happy to help his friend out, but secretly obsesses over having to communicate with customers when he collects the weekly fee.

Young Victor stutters and the author perfectly captures the feelings, fears and worries that come with being different. We are able to get right into Victor’s head as he practices speaking to some of his customers and as he fervently switches trouble words for words he can say without stuttering.

The author uses a unique style to depict dialogue throughout the story and conveys through words what Victor’s stuttered speech sounds and feels like.

This story will resonate with young people and adults who stutter, as it depicts a real life situation that all of us who stutter can relate to. Victor uses some speech therapy techniques to make his stuttering easier, and he also uses avoidance, which will be all too familiar to many of us who try to be covert!

Paperboy is the story of a kid who is a great baseball pitcher, a friend and a youngster who is learning how to communicate with adults, stand up for himself and learning about empathy.

We learn about his relationships with his parents, his Mam, his peers and the adults he encounters on his paper route. And we root for him as he finds himself in some tough situations and as he gradually becomes more self-aware.

This is a great book about stuttering, life and coming of age. It’s geared for young people, but adults (including parents of kids who of stutter) will love it too.

Put it on your reading list. You won’t be sorry!

I am sitting in my hotel room in Aurora, CO at the end of the last day of the FRIENDS conference. Soon, we will gather for dinner and the kids will dance and sing karoeke and have fun being kids.

Having fun being kids is what the FRIENDS conference is all about. Kids who stutter gather for three days to savor the moments where they can just be kids, free from worrying about being teased or judged.

This 3 day conference was marked by senseless tragedy yet the kids who stutter are showing resiliance, grace and dignity. They have showered each other with love and support and have been talking and sharing their feelings.

We adults are pondering how random life is and re-examining our priorities. When tragedy strikes close to home, we look at things differently. Our perspective shifts – we realize how tomorrow is never guaranteed, and we must live each day as if it were our last.

For we know it can be. Senseless violence is random and can affect anyone anywhere.

Kids who stutter learn how to handle challenge and adversity every day just by living their lives as stutterers. They learn how to handle teasing and bullying and that life is not always just or easy.

The kids at FRIENDS who were touched by the violence in Colorado this week have shown how strong they are and how powerful support is.

These kids have taught me a thing or two about life. Life is about living and sharing and being true to self. No matter what you are faced with.

Episode 67 features Georgia Stephens, who hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Georgia had a career as a choreographer, writer and dance performer for about 30 years.

She is currently enrolled in the Master’s degree program at St Mary’s University, studying Counseling Psychology.

Georgia is interested in perhaps using dance to help people who stutter, and hopes to combine traditional talk therapy with dance therapy.

Georgia shares how she came to experience that most people think that we can only communicate using words. She realized that is not true, that we can also communicate through dance and movement.

Listen in to a fascinating conversation about dance and movement, covert stuttering, blocking, and the energy we use when trying not to stutter. We also discuss beating ourselves up, shame, disclosure, and support.

The podcast safe music used in this clip is credited to ccMixter. Please be sure to leave comments for Georgia or just let her know what a great job she did! Feedback is a gift!



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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.
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