Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘parents feelings about stuttering

Episode 29 features Suzana Jelčić Jakšić who hails from Zagreb, Croatia. Suzana has been a speech therapist for over 20 years, and currently works in a children’s hospital.

Suzana shares an important turning point in her life – both as a person who stutters and professionally as a therapist. She attended a workshop for specialists in stuttering and realized that she “didn’t have to be fluent”. That other therapists who stuttered were talking and expressing themselves.

She felt free to speak and to stutter if it happened. From then, she began accepting invitations to speak publicly. She felt comfortable to educate others about her specialty – stuttering.

Ten years ago, Suzana created and founded the Croatian Stuttering Association. She served as the Chair of the association up until last Spring. She is currently on the Board of the International Stuttering Association.

Listen in as we discuss Suzana’s early memories of stuttering, her parent’s reactions and early therapy experiences. We also discuss how stuttering is perceived in Croatia and important people in Croatia who stutter and have served as role models.

Suzana also mentions  Marilyn Monroe and about the difference between her female and male clients. She believes that women seem to be able to deal with stuttering easier than men!

Credit for the podcast safe music clip “Echoed” goes to ccMixter.

As always, feel free to leave comments and let Suzana know what a great job she did by sharing her story!

There is a thought-provoking article on this year’s ISAD conference about chronic sorrow. It is a personal story written by Scott Palasik. He shares how he found out that his parents, especially his mother, blamed themselves for his stuttering and carried around an enormous amount of guilt for many years.

I commented on Scott’s paper and we wound up sharing back and forth about how we had similar parent stories. I highly recommend you read Scott’s story – it resonated with me and I am sure it will with a lot of you.

I have written about guilt on here before, but not in the way that Scott’s poignant story reminded me. I know my mother has carried around a lot of guilt for many, many years. She has told me she feels tremendous guilt for what we dealt with as children. She is an alcoholic, and proudly in recovery now. She helps many, many people who have been touched by alcoholism.

She didn’t achieve sobriety until I was in my late teens. Childhood was chaotic, because mom drank all the time. We tried to act like everything was ok, but it wasn’t. My siblings and I covered for her all the time. Covertly, much like my stuttering became. My mother and I have had some conversations about the impact alcoholism had on all our lives, but those have been strained, quick, clipped.

But we have NEVER talked about stuttering. NEVER. The few times I have tried, she has always quickly changed the subject. I learned from a sister, or maybe even in a hurried conversation with my mother (I don’t remember), that she always felt guilty that she didn’t stand up to my father and insist that I be allowed to participate in speech therapy.

I have often wondered what a heart-felt conversation about stuttering would be like with one of my parents. Because I have never talked with my father about it either. I have always wanted to know what they thought. Were they confused? Did they know it was stuttering? Were they embarrassed? Were they ashamed? (Like I have thought!)

Was it easier for them to pretend there was nothing wrong? Did anyone ever talk to them about it? What did the relatives think? Why was it kept so hush-hush? Was it that bad?

Have any of you ever thought about any of this?

I can’t resist posting a link to a great essay a Facebook friend posted yesterday. The mother of one of the Friends regulars is a writer and posts many of her links and articles on her Facebook page.

Yesterday, she posted a link to an essay written by Elissa Wald, the mother of a young daughter who has just begun to stutter. The article is titled, Fighting Words. The subtitle states: A stutter has emerged. Why does everyone insist it is a gift?

The essay explores stuttering literature she has researched, including lists of famous people who stutter. She also reflects on her hopes for her child, that she somehow comes to terms with her stuttering on her own someday and lets her mom know about it.

This essay is honest, poignant, hits home and demonstrates the positive and healthy attitude toward stuttering that all parents should have. I hope as many people as possible read this article and leave comments for Wald on her own site.

She got me thinking about a whole lot of things, as I m sure it will do for you too!

Episode 5 welcomes NSA friend Stacey Fitzenrider, who hails from Seattle, Washington. I e-met Stacey several years ago through various stuttering groups and met her in person last year at the NSA Scottsdale conference.

She and 5-year-old daughter Ava came to the Open Mic session that I hosted at 8:30 am on Thursday, as a favor to a good friend who asked me to fill in for him at the last minute.

Always the good sport, I was at the ready at 8:30am. Not too many other people were (!), so I had the chance to chat it up with Stacey and Ava. We chatted as if we had known each other for ever. And Ava did a good deal of the chatting. It was a treat getting to know them.

Really cool fact – Stacey’s “handle” is chattygirl. Don’t ya love it? And you will love Stacey’s gut honesty as we chat about all kinds of things, including choices, parents that stutter, feeling whole, and living life.

Musical credit for the intro song “Today Then Tomorrow” goes to Dano Songs.

Feel free to leave comments. As a matter of fact, I encourage it. Let Stacey know your thoughts.

I remember back in 2003 when Luther Vandross released the song, “Dance With My Father”. Vandross wrote the song as a loving tribute for a love lost, as his father died when Vandross was 7 years old. It was one of Vandross’ s biggest hits, obvious from the heartfelt tone and joyous lyrics of the song. I heard that song over and over that year. It reduced me to tears every time.  It was a haunting reminder of the love I felt was lost with my own father.

My father didn’t die – he is alive, but our relationship is not. Has not been for a long time. I heard this song recently and memories came flooding back. Being afraid of my father all the time. Trying to stay out of his way, but at the same time, taking care of things so he woudn’t explode. Fixing dinner, keeping the other kids quiet, feeling tight and tense all of the time.

I remember hiding down in the cellar. We had a crawl space under the stairs. I was familiar with that space. My mother would take all of us down there whenever it stormed. My mother was afraid of storms. She was afraid of a lot of things. Including my father. We would hide there from the thunder and lightening, all of us kids and my mother. Even when the sun was shining, I would go down there and hide.

My father was a thunderous man. He was always yelling. Having six kids at such a young age took a toll on him, I think, and my mother. He tried to rule with an iron fist like his own father had. I don’t remember loving moments with my father. I don’t remember any pictures of me and my father when I was a baby. There were pictures of me and my mother, and her parents, but none of daddy with his first child. 

I remember feeling afraid when daddy was always yelling. Like I had done something wrong. Like I wasn’t good enough. I must have been  bad. That’s what he noticed. He only seemed to notice things he didn’t like. We were too loud, too messy, too many, I always thought.

And his kids had to be perfect. I wasn’t. I got out of the gate well. I was very smart. Talking well before 2, reading by 3. I remember reading out loud at that age, actually remember that. I don’t remember if anyone listened. I remember going down to the cellar and pressing up against the heater by the crawl space where we used to hide. It was warm there. I went there to get warm. It was my safe little space. ( I refer to  this in an earlier post on emotions . Funny how these emotions just keep coming!)

I don’t remember the actual stuttering when it started. I am told it didn’t start until I was 5, well after I had been talking for three years. I do remember my father yelling at me for stuttering. “Don’t talk like that. Stop that, damn it. Shut up, I said. If you can’t talk without doing that, then don’t say anything. Are you listening to me? Jesus Christ, shut up.”  He was always loud, and his face red. I remember thinking this little vein on his forehead was going to pop out one day, he was always so mad. 

I was afraid, so it didn’t take me long to stop talking. And to stay quiet most of the time. I became afraid to talk.  I became afraid to stutter. I was afraid of stuttering. I was afraid of what would happen if I stuttered. I was afraid of my father. I WAS SO AFRAID.

In 2003, when this Vandross song came out, not only did it make me cry, it made me nostalgic for that lost childhood. I remember buying the CD with the song “Dance With My Father ” on it. I recorded a copy of that song onto a blank CD, nothing else, just that one song. I bought a Father’s Day card and put the CD into the envelope with the card. I called my father’s house that day – his wife told me he wasn’t home yet, and that when he did get home, his young daughters were taking him on a picnic.

I stopped over there anyway. No one was home. I left the card on the front porch. He never acknowledged it. I don’t really know if he got it, but I think he did.

I wonder what it would have been like to dance with my father.

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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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