She was only two years old when I noticed she wouldn’t stop squinting. She kept doing it over and over and over again. It had gotten to the point where others were noticing too. I remember so clearly the day my in-laws asked, “What’s wrong with her eyes?” I booked a doctors appointment the next day.
She was given an eye exam and we were asked a few questions. The doctor then reported she had tics. Immediately my mind went to Tourettes and screaming profanities (now I know this happens to only a minority of those living with Tourettes). Our doctor reassured me that tics were common in children and will likely disappear with time. I was shaken but wanted to believe our pediatrician.
We went back to life as usual but the tics didn’t go away. In fact they seemed to take on a life of their own. The squinting would change to shoulder shrugging then the vocal tics began. It was excruciating to watch her move uncontrollably. I wanted to do something to help her…anything! She was so little I had to be brave for her and let go of my own insecurities.
What I soon came to discover was that drawing attention to her tics made them worse. I had to bite my tongue every time I wanted to ask her to please stop. Long car rides were like torture when her vocal tics were going. It’s one thing to try and control my own reactions to her sounds when confined in a small space but try explaining vocal tics to my 3 year old son that often shared the small confined space with us. Again, I had to be brave. I had to be strong.
Back to school, tics and all
As pickles entered elementary school the roller coaster ride of all these tics became almost unbearable. Stress always increased the frequency of her tics and the beginning of the school year is the height of stress for Pickles. The days leading up to the start of 2nd grade I was riddled with anxiety. Her vocal tic at the time was a very high pitched squeak and it was almost constant. How was this going to play out in a mainstream classroom?
As a second grader, Pickles knew what her tics were and she wanted them to stop. We tried redirecting her anxiety using stress balls and chewing gum. That helped a little but I knew she was about to face an obstacle I never had to at such a young age. My heart ached for her. Kids can be so cruel and quick to judge when a classmate doesn’t look and sound just like them.
Pickles taught me a new kind of brave. I had to face my fear so it wouldn’t get in her way.
I’m not going to lie the first few months of second grade were rough. My eight year old little girl had more courage than I could ever imagine. She went into that classroom each day head held high, tics and all!!
Comment below on a time your child inspired you or made you view the world in a different way.