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.
Mike, you will still be her perfect hero daddy when you’ve explained about your tics.
But what you will have done is shown her that perfect brilliant heroes, like you, can have differences and imperfections. And those differences and imperfections are part of what makes you a perfect brilliant hero.
My daughter has grown up with an older sibling with learning difficulties. She is patient and accommodating with all people because she knows that all people are different and have different needs. She also knows that she has her differences to her friends and accepts those differences with pride – she’s not a ‘pink’ girl, she likes rock music, she doesnt like dolls.
You’re a good dad but tics are not a weakness. They are just a feature of what makes you you.
Very well said, Karen!
Sara Baker says:
I second Karen’s comment. Annie is lucky to have a dad like you, tics and all!
My husband also has a mild form of Tourette’s and this was his concern as well. Our children do not show any sign of the syndrome. Although it is genetic, my husband appears to be the only member of his family affected.
We met in high school 17 years ago and I thought he was the most handsome man in the world and absolutely thought the tics were the most adorable part about him because they made him so unique.
My husband and my oldest daughter have Tourette’s Syndrome. Their tics are generally just motor tics although my oldest daughter does hum at some times and has the fun OCD that can go along with it. My oldest (18 years old) first starting showing tics at 2 years old. She started blinking and putting her hands to her face repeatedly. We knew right away what it was. I have done a lot of research about TS and the most interesting fact that I have found is that most people with TS have very high IQ’s (which explains my dh and dd). My other two daughters have gone through phases where they mimic my husband and daughter. We are very open about tics in our house and always have been. My other two girls (when younger) have said that they don’t like not being like their dad and sister but they also know now that if they tic they make them tic worse. Todd has also told them that it made him feel special that they want to be like him but he likes the way that they were made special as well. Todd told the girls that his brain makes him do it and that it feels like a bug is crawling on him or he is being tickled by a feather and he has to move. He let them know that him and Rain cannot help it bc their brain makes them do it. He told them that when they do it to be like him it makes him do it more and he wishes he didn’t have to and he doesn’t want them to have to. They seemed to catch on pretty fast when he talked about it. Rain has been open with all of her friends about hers and they have not held her back at all. I always feared that it would be a huge hurdle for her but she seems to have flown over each hurdle thrown her way and is the stronger for it. She actually just won Homecoming Queen of her school (which has almost 4000 students) so I am assuming people see a lot more than her tics Thank you so much for being open about you TS on this blog it really makes life easier for others that are affected by it! Too many people hear TS and assume they are going to burst in a rant of curse words. I appreciate when people explain that it isn’t alway like that.
That’s awesome about your daughter becoming homecoming queen! And thank you for sharing your husband’s story… it’s good to hear how someone else handled this with his girls.
I know this isn’t directly related to Tourette Syndrome, but my dad has disabilities that he has had his entire life, and he was unable to do a number of things ‘other dads’ could do. It wasn’t something he could hide, and sometimes, as an impatient little kid, it was somewhat frustrating. But everyone’s got limitations, or things they struggle with, and it didn’t change my overall idea that my dad was still a wonderful dad. Even as his disabilities began to progress in severity, it didn’t lower my opinion of him at all. If anything, I think it helped me accept that everyone is human, even my dad. I believe I’m better off thinking that than idealizing anyone (since who could really live up to an ideal?). He was open and comfortable with it, and so am I.
Seconded. My dad too, couldn’t do some things other kids take for granted their dad can do, and it helped me, if anything, to be more sensitive about differences in other people, growing up.
She will look up to you just the same I’m sure
My daughter started squinting and blinking, alot, around 4 yrs old. I mean alot. And I hoped and prayed that it was nothing bad, turns out it was because she needed glasses. Within a couple of days of wearing her glasses, she stopped the blinking and squinting. And if Annie was just mimicking your tics, she will always love you just the same. Nothing to feel bad about.
Mike, this brings tears to my eyes. I’m sorry you’re struggling with these feelings, but I’m here to tell you, from a daughter’s perspective, that this will NOT change you in her esteem at all. My dad has his own personal struggles, which I won’t get into. But he’s been open and honest about them with me from a young age, and if anything, they’ve only made me love him more for being a strong person in the face of adversity. Annie loves you and adores you, and as a now 26-year-old daughter who still thinks her dad’s a hero, I can say with some confidence nothing will change that.
This brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully said. So true Mike…Annie will continue to think her daddy is a hero NO MATTER WHAT.
But that’s the beauty of being someone’s hero, Mike. All heroes have an imperfection (i.e., Superman’s was kryptonite), but we still love our heroes despite their one tiny flaw. I’m betting that when ou explain it to her she won’t see you as imperfect, she will look up to you as even a bigger hero that she does now because you don’t make it a big deal and work around the tics. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Heather Ann says:
I rarely comment here although I read everything you and Heather write and have twittered back and forth with you a tiny bit. This, however, needs commenting. We all have limitations/things that make us less than perfect. When our children are very young they don’t see these things but as they get older they start to compare and ask questions and then we must explain. That’s hard. I know it will be hard when you have to explain. Please don’t think that TS makes you weak, though. It probably has made you a different person because of the struggles you’ve gone through, but it doesn’t make you weak. We’ve read your words and heard your music and we know what a great person you are. Annie knows that intimately. She will accept who you are and it will be fine. Worrying about her also having TS is understandable, but remember also how much other great stuff she gets from you. I’m sure she would never trade you for any other dad.
I second, third, fifth, etc what everyone before me has said. You’re such an awesome dad, Annie won’t see you as less than. You’ll always be her hero.
You will always be her hero. She will always think the sun shines out of your ass, so to speak. Involuntary muscle spasms won’t change that. Thank you for writing openly about this.
You are an amazing dad and Annie will always think of you as a hero (except for maybe during the teenage years when she might not talk to you. . .).
I don’t think I can write anything that has not been written by the other commenters but I do think talking to Annie honestly is the way to go. Sending hope and hugs. xo
It’s interesting that your twitches started around 7 or 8. I remember being eight years old and having issues with feeling like I had to scrunch up my face and make a certain noise in my throat all the time, and I also blinked a lot. That year was the worst of it, and as I moved out of childhood it pretty much disappeared. I wonder if it would still be considered a form of Tourette’s if it just went away? Although every once in a very long I do find myself doing the throat thing again.
I’ve been told that the vast majority of kids with tics have them lessen or go away by adulthood, so that’s probably what happened with you. My tics are actually better than they were in childhood, but haven’t gone away entirely.
You’re post reminded me of that scene in Jaws when Brody’s kid copied him at the dinner table. Annie copying you. And then in Jaws 4 (yes I watched that too don’t JUDGE ME) when the younger son who copied Brody in Jaws has his daughter copy him. You kids will always find you the hero no matter what. No dad is perfect. All our dads have little flaws. That’s what makes us love them more. If Annie starts to do the hard blinking again, then you talk to her in her terms she understands. She won’t love you less or not think of you as her hero.
To us girls, our dads are always our hero. I’m 31. My daddy is still my hero and always will be.
I applaud you for sharing your feelings about the tic situation with candor. As a parent, I also understand your concern that your daughter might inherit something that mike make social interactions difficult and/or embarrassing. With respect to what you perceive as weakness, however, you’re dead wrong. My father didn’t have ticks. He just cursed, got drunk, and abused the crap out of us. The best day of my life was when he left our house (neither supporting us or contacting us ever again, by the way). He was a weak man. You are an incredible father and she won’t think anything less. The posts and many smiling pictures of you and Annie clearly evince this simple truth: you are present and she is loved. The worst that can happen is that she may figure out that you’re human (shudder), with idiosyncrasies just like the rest of us who were entrusted with small lives for which we hope and pray we do the right thing by each day. Inevitably, she is going to figure out at some point anyway. I think you’re good.
If only all little girls and boys could have a daddy like you.
This was a great post, Mike. Thank you for sharing something that is obviously painful for you. I think it is so important to raise awareness for respecting the feelings of others; every time I hear any kind of joke making fun of something, I want to scream. Chances are, someone is going to be hurt by it, and that just sucks.
My daughter, (now 11) started having facial tics when she was probably 6-7. I did a lot of research when they really got bad at 9-10 because I didn’t want to put her on “meds”.
She needed something though, because her face was constantly scrunching up it was the hardest thing I have ever had to watch her go through.
One thing that constantly stood out in my hours of research was magnesium deficiency! It was also recommended that the source be natural, but that it has seemed to really help kids with motor tics.
I started incorporating organic, raw, unsalted almonds whole, Chocolate almond milk, and Almond butter (instead of peanut butter) into her daily diet. Even if it is just a couple handfuls of almonds a day for snack, and NO KIDDING! Her tics are gone! Almonds are really high in magnesium. She also took a Taurine supplement for a few weeks (also helps tics)…but we phased that out, and just eat almonds now!
It took a few weeks to start working, but in the last two years I have seen her tic only twice. Both times were when we were on holiday and she was eating less almonds.
She doesn’t know “why” she is eating almonds…but they really have worked for her! If you ever see your little one tic, look into the almond thing
Very interesting about almonds. I’ve never heard that but will definitely keep it in mind.
I want to thank everyone for the support and encouragement in these lovely comments.
My 7 year-old has sensory processing disorder – which causes him to often be restless and seek out input. We generally control it with exercise but he has a great deal of trouble holding still for things like homework, eating, etc. His 2 year-old brother mimics him but there is no neurological trigger making him act that way. As a result, he has behavioral issues and because it is so believable, I have had him assessed twice! Kids learn through imitation and it doesn’t mean she has an opinion of you and why you do what you do. I know I will have to tell our younger boy about his brother one day but I barely know what to tell the older one about himself. Luckily he has a teacher this year who has the same disorder and she shows him how to cope through her example. I can see you being that same kind of role model – if not to your children but possibly to some TS kids in another venue.
You don’t have to tell her that she shouldn’t imitate you, or explain to her that you have a flaw. Just explain to her what she already knows–this is something different and special about you, not bad or good. She’ll probably feel good to know that she noticed it and empowered to understand it better. And you’ll also be raising a very sensitive daughter who will know that the things that make people different also make them special. If she continues to imitate you, that might just be her way of loving that part of you, and working out how to understand differences.
My oldest is Annie’s age and I also have a 3 month old son AND tics run in my family. My siblings have them worse, but I also have eye tics sometimes. Like you, they’ve improved since childhood and I can control them more but one of my biggest fears is having my children inherit them. But…. I had a billion friends, excellent schools and jobs and boyfriends (now husband) and I have to remember that if the only true “issue” I had was tics, I am blessed. And especially blessed with my kiddos. But growing up with them was hard and I absolutely feel your pain on this one. Your post and Heather’s post really hit home.
My youngest and emotionally closest maternal uncle has mild Tourette Syndrome and he felt absolutely horrible when I began to exhibit barking and blinking tics at the age of 6, and I feel badly that he always put some blame on himself for familial genes he had no control over getting, either. My sister is 6 years younger than I and she was the only person who could calm me down. She would just focus on me and calmly say, “Karen, chill.” and I could. In all of my life so far she is one of only two who can settle me if I get stuck.
I can only imagine how you would feel awful and put responsibility upon yourself if Annie develops TS even though he control about getting it yourself but I think TS is much more publicized and a little bit more accepted and understood than when our generation was growing up.
My tics majorly leveled off in my early twenties, and yet again in my early 30’s. Now I have to be extraordinarily underslept or sick. Sometimes major life stressors still hype me up, too.
When I have opportunity with new people I try to share that I have Tourettes, and then humanize and normalize it a little bit for them. Spread the word that is isn’t all about blurting out obscenities, and that it can be very self-perpetuating. If I get upset about the fact hat I am tic-ing, I just amplify what is causing me to tic.
Alexandra Parvaz says:
I miss adorable chubby baby Annie so much. She is becoming a beautiful and intelligent young lady who will always be perfect, with or without tics
My husband has TS and also my oldest daughter (21 years old) has TS. She started showing signs at age 2. We have two other girls as well and I was relieved they did not have it as well. They also imitated and it would scare me but Todd and My oldest are perfect no matter their tics and quirkiness that goes along with them. He is all of my girls hero as well as mine. Don’t be nervous to speak of it. it has always been an open topic and no one ever thought anything was “wrong” with their dad. He tics, Rainey tics and that is how life is. I always said with todd and rain having TS and Kt having sensory disorder and Ella having CP that our lives were never meant to be typical. We love every imperfection Bc it’s what makes us unique!