My 6-year-old, Yaakov, has a stutter that is unusual because it comes and goes once a year or so. I was stumped regarding the trigger of this on-again, off again stutter, until I realized a few years ago that Yaakov would start stuttering when my husband is abroad. And the stutter would promptly disappear when Abba came home.
But a few weeks ago, Yaakov started stuttering again. And my husband is home. This is the first time that has ever happened.
So, in my weekly therapeutic writing workshop, when our amazing instructor Yocheved Rottenberg asked us to think of a not-so-big challenge we are facing in our lives, I thought of Yaakov’s on-again, off-again stutter.
Then Yocheved gave each of us a slip of paper with a word on it and told us to take a minute writing about our challenge from that perspective.
My first slip read: EMOTIONAL. And here’s what I wrote: Yaakov is stuttering because he is falling apart emotionally.There is something stressful going on at school. He is feeling disconnected from my husband and me because he spends SO MANY hours out of the house. And what’s going to be when my husband goes away to conduct interviews in the US next month?
Then Yocheved told us to pass our slips over to the person on our right… My next slip read: SPIRITUAL. And I wrote:Every soul comes into the world with its Yeud and its Tikkun, its mission and its aspects in need of spiritual fixing. And Yaakov’s soul also came down with its gifts and challenges. These are the challenges he must struggle with in order to grow and complete his G-d given mission and tikkun in the world.
Then came: PESSIMISTIC. This is terrible, and what if this continues into adulthood?! Just think of all the careers that will be closed to him — teaching, etc.
Then: RELATIONSHIPS. Who will want to be friends with a boy with a terrible stutter? It’s difficult to speak to somebody like that!
Then: OBJECTIVE. A significant percentage of young children go through periods of stuttering. It is rare for stuttering to continue into adolescence, and all the more so into adulthood.
Then, finally: HOPEFUL. Yaakov’s stuttering comes and goes, and it will this time too. It must be because of stress over the transition to 1st grade. By the end of Chanukah, maximum Tu b’Shvat, it will be gone.
Afterwards, Yocheved asked us to read over our responses and reflect on them. And reading them over, I felt EMPOWERED.I could CHOOSE my reaction to this challenge. Why not choose to be HOPEFUL, OBJECTIVE,SPIRITUAL instead of EMOTIONAL and PESSIMISTIC. Why make life harder than it has to be?”
Yocheved tied up the class, I think quite brilliantly, with a quote from Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head.You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”