Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Playground Tale

"Tell us a story" said my daughter, as the four other little kids at the park sat down in front of me.

This is what happens when you're the only adult at the playground. I sighed, "Fine. Once upon a time there were five little kids and they were all really annoying and they kept bugging a lady who just wanted to sit on a bench at the park. The End."

The kids giggled but took the hint and moved on to doing other things, all except for my girl and a girl named Morgan, who sat in front of me making a home for a worm they had found. They were deep in conversation about what to name the worm when Morgan, who had been listening to Lucy stutter for the last half an hour, finally asked, "Why do you talk like that?" Lucy, still stuttering, just said, "I don't know. I just sometimes do." I estimate it took her about a minute to get those seven words out. I was so thankful when Morgan said, "Oh, okay" and they went back to playing. Thank you Morgan, for being an awesome, sweet girl and just dropping it.

I struggle with these moments. I try to let my kids fight their own battles. They know I'm here, in the background waiting to jump in at a moment's notice, but ultimately I want them to handle things themselves. But, in regards to the stutter, it is so, so hard. I want to immediately spring to action and fix things. But I can't. Even if I decided to, it's just not possible to pull words, perfectly spoken, from her mouth.


As we were walking home I asked Lucy if it bothers her when people ask why she talks differently. She said "Yes" and nothing more. So then I asked if it embarrasses her. She said, "No. I just don't know what to say."

And that was when I nearly lost it. That was the moment when I realized how confusing this whole thing must be for her. I feel like in some ways maybe we dropped the ball on this one. In an effort to not "make a big deal out of it" (which was what all the well-meaning experts say to do) we neglected to educate Lucy on her stutter. She had no idea what it was or why she did it. It was all I could do to not cry. I did my best to compose myself and I said, "Well, it's called a stutter. Right now, it means you're really, really smart and your brain goes faster than your mouth, but eventually your mouth will catch up and one day you'll wake up and you won't stutter anymore."

Okay, I know that's not the clinical definition of what the girl has going on, but it was the best I could come up with and it seemed to work for the girl because as soon as we got home she excitedly ran up to her brother and, still stuttering, said, "Hey Monty, you know why I talk like this? Because this is just how really, really smart people have to talk!" Monty shot me a confused look out of the corner of his eye, halfheartedly said "Oh wow. Cool." and went back to what he was doing.


That evening, when Lucy was playing a loud video game and I knew she wouldn't hear me, I went into my room and cried. Jay was reading and the boy was using the computer. They both immediately stopped what they were doing and stared at me, surprised to see me walk into a room and start bawling. I explained what happened at the park and I told them what Lucy said. They were both really quiet. Although our whole family is incredibly patient with Lucy's stutter, I don't really think Jay and the boy understand the magnitude of it on a daily basis. They don't see the way other kids look at her or whisper about her. They aren't around to be on the receiving end of the sympathetic looks from other parents. I hate what Lucy has to deal with, and I feel sorry for her, but I don't want anyone else to feel sorry for her. She needs no ones sympathy.

I know that in the grand scheme of things a stutter is no big deal, especially a stutter that everyone says will disappear by the time she's eight. But right now, watching her struggle with it can be brutal and some days it rips me up inside.


Anonymous said...

You might find this helpful. Many famous successful people have had stuttering issues. Thank God Lucy is a beautiful healthy normal child and that this is a minor problem. Some children have much more severe issues to have to deal with.

~*Gumbo Soul*~ said...


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Tammie - this made me cry. (I was a stutterer) This was also beautifully written. I thought what you told Lucy was perfect. I mean look how she reacted - I think she is handling it pretty darn well.

And don'tcha just love how kids get an answer as Morgan did and just say, Oh okay. Just face value. We adults are the ones who need to do that sometimes - i know i do.

BTW Tammie - is that our Linda??? :-)

Dysfunctional Mom said...

I am hurting for you. Not pity - just hurting.
I kind of understand. My son's color blindness kills me. I know there are 20 million worse things that can happen; the same kid had brain surgery for God's sake. It doesn't make his color blindness hurt me any less. I want my son to be able to see every color of the rainbow, every nuance of color, shade, hue. He can't, and he never will. It hurts. It hurts me for him to hold up a colored pencil and ask me what color it is, or ask me to find him a brown pencil. It's not fair, dammit.

Tammie said...

anonymous: thanks for the link. i've been to that site before and find it really informative. im on the hunt now for a book about stuttering geared towards little kids. the speech therapist says this is very common at this age so i find it hard to believe no ones written a childrens book about it yet.

theresa: thank you :)

peggy: i know! at that moment i really just wanted to jump up and hug morgan. and i agree, i too need to just 'drop it' sometimes and take things as they appear, not making assumptions.

cyndy: yes! its a very similar situation. ultimately minor, but still completely unfair.

Carla said...

Since becoming a parent I'm increasingly amazed at how much I ache when one of my children is suffering in some way. So although I can't relate exactly I feel for you. You obviously love Lucy and she is a very fortunate girl to have a family who accepts her and cares for her the way you and your family do!

daphne said...

This isn't the same thing but I had a terrible lisp when I was a kid and had to go to speech therapy for a few years. I still do it sometimes and people catch me at it occasionally. I think your answer to Lucy was perfect, too -- it totally validates her experience while giving her a really positive reason for it. I can imagine it would be really hard to watch your daughter struggling with something that you have no power over. You're doing a great job. I'm so glad you guys are the family that you are. r

Anonymous said...

I do believe if anyone could write a childrens book about this issue it would be you Tammie. I think you should do it! Whos with me on this? You have such a talent for writing I think you should share it with the world!

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

I hear you. And if it matters, I think you're handling it very well. Lucy's lucky to have you in her corner.

mandy said...

Tammie this is so well articulated. I have had many moments like this with Bayliss, who is so sensitive and so different from other children that we are currently doing some rounds taking him to psychologists. I cried the other day when I saw a picture of a kid with a balloon at a party, because bayliss is afraid of balloons and parties and loud noises and dancing and on and on, poor little guy. I'm sending wishes of courage and strength to your little girl. It is so hard to be different. As a child I struggled greatly learning to read and I do think it installed a deep life long sensitivity to other people who learn 'differently'. But I know, at the time, it was so hard on my mother.
Big Hugs your way!!!

hester said...

This is such a poignant post, Tammie. And you are such an incredible mum. And someone else beat me to the punch suggesting you could write a brilliant book for children about it. Perhaps Lucy could be co-author. A friend of mine has a little girl who spent 6 weeks in intensive care after a car accident and afterwards, her daughter wrote a book so that other children could read about how the experience was for her. (not sure that it was published as such but these days, you can easily run off copies yourself).

I hope Lucy's stutter improves soon and in the meantime, sounds like she is handling it really really well (thanks to you).

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

hey I think Anonymous has a great idea here Tammy! You can do this and we're your little cheerleaders.

Aah, I knew her when.....

kraftykash said...

Wow! I bet that felt good to get that off your shoulders. That was a big burden to carry. I think by not making a big deal & getting her a little help, that you are doing the right thing. Keep your chin up :)Our kids tend to follow our lead. I don't make a big deal about people thinking Korby is a boy. It tears me up inside sometimes. But its better than a girly girl. LOL
Your a great Mom!

Dani said...

I might have to send you an email.

I'm going through the exact same thing with The Boy's learning disabilities. I've had a post in the works for the past couple of weeks and just haven't felt like the time was right to hit publish.

It fucking tears me up. I never cry (hardly ever). But this. This situation slays me. And you are right. The Mr. doesn't quite get it. I'm with it all day all school and at home. The pressure is intense and I can only imagine the pressure on him.

You did good, mom. Your answer was spot on.

Hugs to you. To you and your girl.

Kate said...

Oh goodness, you've made me cry too. What a beautifully writte story. I'm sure it is confusing and difficult at times for her but I also reckon its harder for you. I love the idea of a kid's book too.

Run Lori Run said...

I guess I'll say "ditto!" I agree your response was spot on. I agree that a children's book on this topic is in order. It amazes me how emotional I get too when it comes to my daughter, she struggles with ADD. You are doing great, what a great advocate you are for her.

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

Your response to Lucy was great. Too often I think parents can give details or explanations that are beyond a child's understanding. (And what littld sister doesn't want to point out to an older brother that she's smart?)

I wish the world had more Morgans. said...

ugh, motherhood, it's all so grueling, isn't it? I can't even imagine what that felt like for you. Please check this video out, Tammi!! I've had this type of neurofeedback and now my husband is getting it as well! It has changed our lives. I could could list a hundred ways in which out lives our different, but I'll save it for a long boring post. :-)

victoria said...

here is a link to their website. ox