Why do you talk like that daddy?
The anticipation of this question hangs ominously as I wait for my son to learn how to talk. While a toddler, his innocence extends to adults who often express the same uncertainty without saying the words.
By accommodating his curiosity, I have the opportunity to describe stuttering as the positive force that it now is in my life.
It’s the superpower I was born with, son.
The narrative begins with my response. He doesn’t have to know everything I went through before I became his father. He will not repeatedly hear that stuttering is bad or be told it needs to be fixed. Instead, he gets to reap the benefits of my hard-earned victory.
I am not joking when I say superpower.
Stuttering made me strong, self-confident, resilient, courageous, emotionally-grounded, and compassionate, which for those who don’t stutter or navigate similar challenges as they come of age cannot learn until later in life.
Stuttering creates vulnerable connections we share each day that will continue across our lifetime. Through these connections, he will vicariously acquire the same superpowers as we grow together.
Simply—yes, simply—by showing up every day and stuttering. I will never not stutter; nor will I shield him from it. This is the key—he will witness and learn both how I and he should react to adversity.
Thus, I don’t necessarily have to say this is stuttering, son. Of course, there will be teachable moments where I will need to discuss someone else’s reaction, though setting the narrative will always be in my control.
He will see me openly stuttering in public, and never backing down to challenges. He will observe the full emotional spectrum of thriving with a stutter, and its unfortunate corresponding physiological toll. We will stand together in defiance as I face things that I never thought were possible because of stuttering, and I will point them out when we do.
He will acquire the superpowers that stuttering cultivated within me while we’re alone, with family, in restaurants, at baseball games, talking to his friends’ parents, school events, and all the moments in between and after.
But, how will he know they’re superpowers?
He will stumble upon them just as I did—by experiencing his own life, whether he stutters or not. He will go through challenges and think to himself, “this is what dad feels, means, and experiences.” The challenges will be easier for him to navigate because of what I learned from every single moment of stuttering, which will be handed down to him.
At times, I will be intentional but I prefer to let the compound interest accrue to best suit his needs. I will not control this natural transfer of the superpowers. If it happens organically, he has a better chance of not knowing any other approach to life.
The goal—to deny the life impeding stigma of stuttering that usually shrouds the through-life experience and avail us both to the catalyzing superpowers in our lives.
My son will take hold of the reigns when he is ready, stutter or not. Whenever that may be, he will know the powerful force that has been growing within him to confront the challenges he will inevitably face.
And, guess what?
Stuttering will have made that possible…