I wrote a short novella/novel not long ago called Dawn Patrol. It was a beach read set at the beach with a group of characters that like doing a favorite activity of mine, surfing. I had the heroine speak with a stutter, The Kings Speech style stutter, where it’s less about letters and more about getting the words out.
I did this because there are quite a few people in my life who have this stutter. The first person is a gentleman who works for me. He’s one of our lead consultants. I forget about his stutter until he starts talking but he doesn’t. It seems weird at his age (he’s older than me) and level of success that this is still very much a defining factor in how he tackles life.
So when he skips social events or really doesn’t do client interaction very well I get frustrated until I remember there’s a reason, and it’s a sucky reason, why this happens. For me, I don’t notice these things. Or care. But he does and he does because his whole life other people have. He is aware and aware is a powerful a verb.
Another person who has this stutter is one of my kid’s friends. He’s adorable but his mom has admitted that he’s been teased and he gets stressed especially when he has to speak in groups. This brings out the mama bear in me, probably all of us, makes you want to flock him under your wings. I joked with his mom about the teasing that if I needed to go kick a 10yr old’s ass I’d kick a 10yr old’s ass. Just let me know. We both laughed but I wasn’t totally joking.
Both of these people will see life differently than my kids or I do. They’ll see life through the lens of what they feel is a shortcoming. I’m sure our consultant is self possessed enough now to realize it doesn’t matter much. He’s successful and smart, happily married. Still, it guides his behavior.
There’s one other person I know with this stutter, another friend of my youngest child. When they were in Pre-K the school would let those kids out first because that class had a mix of traditional and IEP students (most of whom were heavily on the spectrum and/or intellectually disabled).
Sidenote: this was the sweetest class we were ever a part of.
Anyway, my oldest (who was 7) would walk out with the class and every day my oldest would be talking to this other child who had the stutter. The two of them would be having the greatest conversations laughing, etc. One day the mom said to me, it’s so sweet how your child talks to D because a lot of people have a hard time understanding D. I didn’t know what to say because my child had never mentioned that D had a substantial stutter. Because until then I hadn’t spoken directly to D. The mom laughed at my cluelessness.
Randomly, a few days later my older child asked me why does D talk like that? And I said ‘I didn’t realize he did and you never mentioned it’. My child said ‘it doesn’t matter I can usually make out what D is saying so I never said anything. I was just wondering.’
Almost made me cry. I hope these are the children I’m raising. The ones who notice but don’t care because the value of the human is more than some small hiccup. I guess that day I was feeling like a winner when it came to parenting.
I’ll take it. Because there are plenty days where I feel like a loser.