I haven’t talked about this in a while so many of you may not remember, but I’ve had to deal with a minor form of Tourette Syndrome most of my life. One of the things that worries me as a dad is the prospect of my kids developing tics too. My tics have made my life more difficult, and I don’t want my kids to have to go through what I did. I look at Annie now – outwardly no different than the other kids at her preschool – and I worry that one day she’ll start to twitch and suddenly be set apart from the rest. Ideally that day won’t come, but I worry I passed it on to her. After all, all you have to do is look at Annie to see I’ve passed a lot of genetics her way.
I remember my life before my twitches, and how things changed when I was around age seven or eight. Since Annie is only three I hadn’t expected to see her twitch for a while (that is if she’s to twitch at all), but then last week she started to blink her eyes very hard and often.
At first I tried to tell myself that she just had something in her eye, but when she continued to do it I knew that wasn’t the case.
“What’s she doing?” Heather asked.
I knew, but I didn’t want to say.
“What’s she doing?”
“What I do,” I said.
For the next day or so we watched Annie without saying anything to her about it, and she continued to blink hard. She even continued to blink hard in moments when she was preoccupied doing something else, like dancing at the Monster’s University Dance Party at a Disneyland, and that especially worried me.
Eventually, though, I got an inkling she wasn’t twitching involuntarily, but imitating me. When Heather asked Annie what she was doing she said, “Blinking like Daddy!”
I’ve been twitching a lot more of late. It’s something that comes and goes, generally. I have good periods when my tics are almost unnoticeable, and then other periods (like now) when it’s more pronounced. Lack of sleep can set it off, and, well, sleep hasn’t been exactly plentiful with a newborn in the house. Annie is a very perceptive little girl and has obviously picked up on it.
“You should talk to her,” Heather suggested. “Explain to her why you do it and that she doesn’t need to.”
I knew I should, especially since in my last post on this subject I wrote “This is just part of who I am, and someday, when Annie asks why daddy blinks so much, I’m not going to be ashamed to tell her the truth,” but I didn’t want to. Annie looks up to me – I’m her hero if I say so myself – and it’s because she admires me so much that she imitated me in the first place. The thought of having to explain to her that there’s something about me she shouldn’t imitate makes me sad. I don’t want her to see me in a different light than she does now.
It’s been a couple days since Annie last blinked hard, so I think I’ve gotten a reprieve on having to talk to her about this. I realize, of course, that I will have to be strong and talk to her about it eventually, especially if she develops tics of her own, but for now I’m happy that, at least for a little longer, she can look up to me as her hero-daddy without a weakness in the world.