Monday, September 19, 2005

Effects upon my family roles

My roles with my family and how my speech problem has effected it :

Husband

The fact that I am married with a family amazes me … even now.

My wife can walk away from this problem at any time, but she’s been a willing participant for the past 12 years. She doesn’t need to put up with my procrastinating and/or neglect of anything requiring a phone call. She doesn’t need to put up with embarrassing moments in public or thoughts her friends plausibly have that she has a defective husband. I don’t know if I could be as noble as her.

Growing up, I always wondered if I would ever / could ever get past this in a relationship situation. I mean really; who would volunteer for such a role? And would I want to be with anybody who would have me? Or I would end up a bachelor into my old age because I couldn’t get a date? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with bachelorhood, and there are times I miss the solitude. But I’ve got to hand it to my wife, she’s a strong woman.

Father

Fatherhood is another role I couldn’t imagine myself in. How can I be a good role model for my kids? If they wander into immediate danger, will I be able to call out to warn them? Will I be able to guide them when they need it? When they realize there is something wrong with me, what will they think? Will they be embarrassed? Will their friends mock them? Will parents not want their kids at my house playing my kids because they think I’m a freak?

Many of these questions have already been answered with my 16 year old step daughter. I’m sure she’s embarrassed of me since she’s a teen and really; what teen isn’t embarrassed of their parents? But I don’t know if she’s embarrassed of my speech problem. I do know, she has been mocked by her friends and peer group, but if it embarrassed her, she’s never given any indication.

My speech problem has interfered a bit with my 3 year old son. One thing that really bothers me is reading to him. I am a big fan of education, not formal education per se, but seeking answers to your questions, assimilating knowledge, understanding the implications, and asking new questions. To me, the most reliable path to an educated mind is via books. Books are focused, specialized, and accurate (for the most part).

So obviously I want my son to have a good association with learning and books … before our formal education system, his peers, and the entertainment industry get a hold of him. However, when I read to him, it’s agonizing! When I finish; I’m exhausted and my chest hurts. I’ve neglected it in the past because of this, and he’s gone from asking me to read him books to asking me to turn the TV on. I’ve recently started reading to him again even if it is agonizing.

Sometimes I will block in front of other kids and they will stare it me in horror and disgust … seriously … I’m not exaggerating at all. So far, my son has not witnessed their reaction to me .. hopefully he never will.

Another way my speech problem has limited me with my 3 year old son is that I sometimes can’t tell him to stop doing things right away. He needs immediate feedback, and he’s not getting it from me.

Fortunately (unfortunately?), fathering is so bloody difficult that my stutter is trivial. ;-)

Son

My parents, as most people really didn’t understand my speech problem and as you would expect they were frustrated by it.

The fact that fluency is random only confused them more. When I was about 8 or 9, I caught my first fish. Because fresh water fishing in the area I come from doesn’t yield a lot of fish, combined with the fact that I suck at fishing; I had been fishing for years without catching anything. So when I finally caught my first fish, I ran up the hill to my parents screaming that I caught a fish. They congratulated me, set me up for a picture, the small fish turned so the narrowest side was facing the camera, and we got a picture of me holding up what looks like a baited fishing rod with a big grin on my face. (I’ll try to get a copy posted before the blog is over)

This fishing story is relevant because I spoke fluently between the time I caught the fish, and the time the picture was taken. The fluency was logically determined to be proof that I didn’t really have a problem at all and that I had better stop it immediately.

This logic is not that unusual and is repeated constantly. Here are a couple Usenet conversations regarding a Howard Stern regular :
JOHN THE STUTTERER DOESN'T STUTTER!
John The Stutterer Doesn't

When I was about 13, my mother sat down with me, and we had a long talk. She expressed their concerns that stuttering as an adult could ruin my life. Then she tried to bribe me and told me that if I would stop stuttering until the end of the school year, she would buy me a 10 speed bike. I was pretty excited about the bribe and decided to stop stuttering. My excitement eventually led to disappointment, and the bribe was never mentioned again.

If she doesn’t remember the deadline, I will try to get my 10 speed upon my PFSP completion. ;-)

My father had a very difficult time dealing with it, especially based on the logical proof that I did not need to stutter as discussed in the fishing example. Among other things the fact that nobody would ever hire somebody who couldn’t talk was constantly brought up. I was constantly told all the harsh things employers would say regarding hiring me, and most people wouldn’t even want to work with me. He wasn’t really too far off. In certain situations he was dead on accurate in what he said … I mean, I’m not (usually) spoken to as harshly as he indicated, but 30 years of discrimination laws probably has more to do with rephrasing it than anything else.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are good people, but this has been confusing and frustrating for them.

Brother

To the best of my knowledge, my speech problem with regards to my sisters has been minimal. Even in high school when peer groups mean the most and will mock you for anything; because of my ability to pretty much hide my problem throughout high school I don’t believe they have ever been affected by it.

I also cannot remember any specific speech related event involving my sisters.

Grandson

I’ve always been very close to my Grandmother, closer than anybody else. After I moved to Toronto, even with my speech problem and telephone avoidance, I would call her a few times a month. In 2000, she had an accident and ended up in the hospital for about a month and finally in a nursing home. I attempted to call her in the hospital, but because of her state, difficulty getting through switchboard with my speech, etc… I didn’t feel my phone calls were helpful and may have even caused her stress. I finally stopped calling her.

Similarly with my Grandfather, after he went to a home, I found communication with him difficult.

Nephew

Once I called my Aunt out of the blue without having spoken to her for years. I was stuttering like a maniac, and she was patient trying to figure out what I wanted. Finally I said her name … well that changed the tone completely … it scared the heck out of her. She demanded to know who I was and what I wanted, and I couldn’t get anything else out! The longer I blocked, the worse she was getting! Finally, I said who I was, and it was fine, but the beginning of the conversation was high stress.

I find it very difficult to call Aunts & Uncles, even when the situation warrants it.

Observation

I don’t feel that I communicate effectively especially over the phone. They say 90% of communication is non verbal, which sounds good for me, but the 90% of communication over the phone is tonality. Something, I have almost no control over and nobody can interpret.

An observation I have just made while thinking about Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles; my ability to communicate effectively with people seems to be directly related to the frequency in which we speak. In other words, when I don't see somebody for a while, communication becomes increasingly more difficult.


Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.

4 Comments:

At Monday, September 19, 2005 1:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John,

Your thoughts on stuttering are very honest and very sincere. I found out about your blog through the Stuttering homepage website and I'm glad I did. Your views are interesting, but also very heartfelt. You might be interested to read some of Rob Bloom's writing about stuttering. It's similiar to yours in that sense that it's a very honest approach. Rob Bloom writes about stuttering on his website which is http://www.robbloom.com/creative.html. Thanks John for having the courage to do this. I think it's great and I commend you.

Gene Meredith
USA

 
At Monday, September 19, 2005 3:17:00 PM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks Gene.

When I first considered doing this blog, I debated it for a while. And when I posted the introduction video, I did hesitate and still wonder if it was prudent.

There is a fine balance between relevant content and embarassingly personal revalations. I hope I can maintain that balance and keep my blog on topic without cheating my readers by holding too much back.

I will check out Rob Bloom's website .. thanks for the tip.

Regards,
John

 
At Tuesday, February 21, 2006 6:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Rob Bloom articles on his website are very good reads. I actually read the Toastmaster stuttering article on the National Public Radio website (npr.org) a few months ago. I don't know if you've ever read Rob Bloom's humor writing but it's very funny too. It helps put stuttering into perspective.

 
At Tuesday, February 21, 2006 7:04:00 PM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

I did read some of his work, I posted a few links right after this posting. here

Actually, on my first night at Toastmasters, when I was just looking to see what it was like, I was given a copy of Toastmasters magazine, and his article was in there!

I think I even emailed him commenting on his stuff.

The Toastmasters thing is very inspiring.

 

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