Turning Up: What Will My Son Think of Stuttering?

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My son has experienced my stutter every day of his life. He has heard, seen, and felt it in all its glory, whether he knows what it is or not. 

I have never hidden it from him.

When he was born, I made a vow to myself that stuttering will never stand in the way of our relationship. I have kept that vow for the first eighteen months. 

He is at the point where he understands receptive language, and is getting smarter by the day. Something has also changed within me, though, that brought with it an uneasiness akin to imposter syndrome. It has made me feel like I won’t be able to keep up this act much longer and he will find out my biggest secret, even though it’s never been one. 

What will my son think of stuttering?

It has a two-part answer—his perspective and my lifelong fear of stuttering with children.

I already know he knows. Since he could sit up, I have read aloud to him. He sits attentively on my lap staring into the pages as his head darts about deciphering the pictures and listening to the words. 

There is a moment each time we read when he notices my open stuttering. It usually comes after several books when my endurance breaks down and silent blocks riddle my storytelling. When I block, he turns his face up to see why I’m suddenly silent. His eyes meet mine while he waits patiently until the words begin again. 

In the turning up, my heart sinks because he is telling me something is wrong. I try to deny the panic and attempt to get back on the silenced sound before he really becomes aware. 

The truth is he doesn’t really know that it is stuttering but rather just how daddy talks. Similar to the desensitization to most reactions from others to my stuttering, it is harmless, innocent, and natural. 

But, still, what will he think?

There is fear behind this question, years of it. My fear of how he will react when he can articulate his uncertainty. 

Yet, the fear is based on the innocence of children who naturally question everything. I haven’t even experienced any traumatic moments of stuttering with children. It has always just been one of the situations that I heard about growing up that is hard for many of us who stutter. Imagined fear is the worst fear because we have no baseline for why we’re actually afraid. 

With my son, I will have many opportunities to ease into this fear. He will see that it’s really okay to stutter from my example. He will never know the stigma that once paralyzed my journey. And, perhaps most importantly, he won’t have to acknowledge the elephant because stuttering will never be a taboo in our family. 

I must face this fear in case he stutters, and is not a burden I must endure but my responsibility as his father. When I do, it will provide a strong foundation from which to marginalize the impact of stuttering on his life without being weighed down by the iceberg of fear, trauma, and shame. 

It is wishful thinking to believe this will be easy because it won’t. I don’t even know what I will say. But, as with stuttering itself, facing this fear will force it out from my imagination to give me the opportunity to work through it in real life. 

Once given these opportunities, I know I more than stand a chance of transcending my fear and growing closer with my son through my stutter.

He will come to know it as just another part of who I am. 

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