Since I was five years of age, I have stuttered. No one knows or understands why I started, it just kind of happened. As I’ve grown up I’ve had to deal with the questions of little children who hear me speak and realize I don’t sound like other people. The most common way they express this is to ask, “Why do you talk like that?” I don’t mind being asked about my stuttering, it’s just curiosity. Usually I respond by saying, “It’s just how I talk and it’s ok.” Usually they are satisfied with that answer and life goes on. Small children are much more accepting of people’s differences than adults can be. In my early years of grade school, the kids I went to school with were friendly with me but as we grew older that changed. By third grade, the other kids wouldn’t play with me at all. I was shunned and referred to by the name “Germs.” At the time I rationalized it by thinking that perhaps they believed my stuttering was contagious and they better stay away or they would start stuttering as well. It was a lonely time for me but I found comfort in reading books. I could lose myself in stories and ignore the sights and sounds of the other kids playing around me.
Fast forward through my college years and the idea that I was negatively different because I stuttered was cemented in my brain. Then my third nephew came along and when he was around three or four years of age, he changed my world in a way I never expected. One day, I was babysitting him and out of the blue he said, “Auntie, I really like your accent.” First of all, I didn’t realize he knew what the word “accent” meant so I asked him to explain. He looked at me and simply said, “The way you talk, I like it.” and then he went back to whatever he had been doing. I sat there dumbfounded and watched him play. It had never occurred to me that my stuttering was like an accent. It wasn’t like having a British accent or a Southern one but it was kind of like it. Suddenly it wasn’t something as negative to have. Everyone spoke differently and they were accepted. Maybe I could be as well. Of course, that isn’t the case in the real world. I’ve been judged by my stuttering a lot but since my nephew called it “my accent” I haven’t seen it in quite such a negative way. Out of the mouth of babes.