I suppose I’ve been numbing this fear.
I have not stopped thinking about it since I found out I was going to be a father to a son. I sense its presence and feel how it influences my time with him, but I’m in denial when I tell my wife that I’m not afraid. Now, more than ever, I have to face it.
Will my son stutter?
The part I’m most fearful of is the possibility that he will lose his exuberance for life. It is more than the innocence of childhood. His smile, giggle, gregariousness, and pure joy light up our lives. The thought of him losing this light deadens my moments with him. It hallows me out like a gut punch and I have to fight to stay present.
I cannot hide it any longer.
His first and only words “oh wow” epitomize his joyful presence. Every time he sees an airplane fly over, a mail truck or a bus on our walks, or his dinner plate before he eats, an excited oh wow, oh wow, oh wowwwwwwww rings out for all to hear.
He should be saying more. He babbles and makes many different sounds, though all I hear are repetitions that immediately take my thoughts to stuttering.
Perhaps he’s just a late talker?
I know more than anything that I cannot show my concern—to him or my wife. If I do, he will sense that something is wrong which could lead him to suppress what may be a stutter and begin to condition the side effects that force it to turn into a chronic disorder. And, for my wife, it would break her.
However, I know that I am not alone. I’d bargain that all who stutter that have children face this fear, helplessness, and uncertainty, along with all others who live with hereditary or epigenetic disorders.
Why don’t they talk about their experiences more?
A few weeks ago, I listened to Taro Alexander’s StutterTalk interview in which he recounted how he handled this exact same situation. Three of his children stuttered from the time they began to talk.
Taro described the agony of waiting and watching each child stutter, and the process he went through with his wife to help them. The segment was only a few minutes long and yet with it brought hope. His two sons grew out of their stuttering within the window of when children spontaneously recover while his daughter stutters almost stigma free.
I find comfort, like Taro explained, in knowing what we’ll need to do if our son does stutter. Yet, this hope does not alleviate my fear. I don’t want him to know any part of how it felt to grow up with a stutter.
I am not saying that stuttering is good or bad, or needs to be fixed. It is also not about accepting verbal differences or diversity. All of those are realities that we who stutter must confront after stuttering turns chronic. This is purely a father not wanting for his son that which traumatized him.
So, what will I do if he stutters?
I will accept it as I have mine.
I will help him through it as best I can.
I will stand in the fire with him and watch as he learns to work with instead of against it.
I will love him the same for his stutter than if he never did.
This is my fear to work through, and like everything else with my stuttering journey—I will confront it head on and see what happens. I cannot control whether he stutters or not, but I can control my reaction to it.
I will walk alongside of him through it until he finds his way, stutter or not.