My Son is a stutterer. He is 20 years of age now. The stuttering emerged when he was about 7 years old. His infancy was marked by frequent hospital admissions due to asthmatic problems and skin problems. He spent quite a lot of his infancy in Hospitals during my service in the Indian Army. As years passed, I failed to recognize or realize the psychological trauma he was suffering as a result of stuttering. Was I being neglectful, or was I thinking ‘this too shall pass’, or just banking on divine intervention to answer my prayers for him, or was I over confident that “he shall overcome”, sans any paternal support??? It was after all a sum, I realize today, of all that I have stated. He is, after all a very good singer, excelling in track events (his 800 meters record is still unbroken in ISC Nationals till date) and continued passion for writing. Endowed with a good physique, an orderly daily regimen, good character, high moral values and social skills, my son is to my family, an epitome of what an ideal child should be. The achievements of my children are at par and I felt that their shared attributes would help my son overcome his speech disability. However harking back ,I realize that as a Father , I had failed to act meaningfully to alleviate his mental condition ; his fears and perceived humiliation from his disability that was gnawing deep into his mind and soul ,and my failure to even to discuss with him the ways to overcome his (transient) disability. Probably my Army sense of obedience to orders and addressing issues on a proactive measure blinded me by lulling me to a complacence that my son too would automatically imbibe the same disciplines and overcome sans any help. I realized late, that I had willfully ignored the silent messages he was sending me, and that I was not even acknowledging his problem!! Over the years I used to feel the growing gulf of alienation between us, but I just “let it pass” , hoping “ it shall also pass”. I realized that this complacency of mine not only aggravated his condition but also widened the growing gulf between us. It was a defining moment for me but I procrastinated still. A stutterer needs immense and continued support from their parents, a lesson for all of us; a lesson by my own omissions and commissions, that today I learnt.
My wife and I had sent him for a lot of therapeutic treatments; we used to overhear him doing loud reading in the confines of his room and a host of other activities he was doing to try to overcome his stuttering, but there were no visible signs of improvement. I often used to think that neither he is making full efforts nor is he really interested in overcoming his disability, as he was more inclined to physical disciplines. Despite all his high achievements and confidence derived from his sporting, social and cultural activities, I today realize that after all what he sought was only empathy from me; to alleviate his speech distress. I had failed to read the brewing frustration in him over his inability of seamless speech was solely my fault. The Eureka Moment dawned upon me only on the 1st July 2017 when I read in the New Indian Express , Editorial page an article “From a Stutterers Point of View”. Upon reading the same ,I said to myself, “What a great write up by a stutterer , I must email this to my son, he must read this and get motivated “ . To my surprise, I read the name of the author as to be my son only!!!! At that moment I did not know whether to laugh or cry, though I did laugh at myself and cried out of sheer happiness of my son’s “coming out”. Pride swelled my heart at his brave article of faith. As for me, I realized that I had failed to realize his potential in overcoming his speech disability .My son had by this article not only confronted his ghosts, his fears, his trauma over the years ; but also the paternal neglect by me of his condition .. It was also for me a defining moment of Truth, self realization and a great sense of pride in my son …. The adage of “Child as the Father of Man”, dawned upon me in it’s fullest measure. Son, I am proud of you… for removing the scales from my eyes… and for confronting yourself without help.
Today , I help him by not completing his delayed sentences uttered, sending him email links of support groups, encouraging his sporting and writing skills and above all asking Providence forgiveness for my former ignorance and pride. My message to any parents whose has a child who stutters are… Be patient with them, engage with them, encourage them, don’t treat them as different but motivate them. Don’t ever think they have a disability but count upon and help develop their other abilities, have deep empathy, develop mutual confidence and be assured that as long as you walk hand in hand with them, they too shall overcome. Love and support is all they need….
Colonel Joseph Purakel,