"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.