Last year, while I was pregnant, I wrote about some of the thoughts that ran through my head, particularly about the possibility of genetically passing my Tourettes down to my baby. Apparently, I’m not the only one. I’ve had multiple parents write in to me, concerned about giving their children their disorder.
We know the pain that comes when someone tells you to, “stop that,” because they find our tics annoying. We hate the idea of our children being harassed by playmates, school peers, even coworkers one day because we know we won’t always be there to stick up for them.
I recently received a comment on my post, “6 Ways to Support Your Friend with Tourettes,” from a gentleman, stating his father used to hit him when he ticced because he thought it was on purpose. I know someone personally whose grandmother slapped him when he would tic for the same reason. Books like, “Front of the Class” by Brad Cohen, and “World’s Strongest Librarian,” by Josh Hanagarne record struggles that the authors go through even as adults that involve being thrown out of theaters and restaurants, and struggling to find a job with an employer who can see (or hear) past the tics.
As I type this, I’m watching Jelly Bean sleeping through the monitor. She turned 10 months old this week, and that kid already has my entire being wrapped around her little pinky. Her smile, her slobbery kisses, the sparkle in her eyes, the way she looks at me when I walk into the room makes me want to sob with joy, as well as fear. Like so many other parents with tics, I ask,
“If she inherits my tics, how do I watch her face the cruelty this world heaps onto those who are different?”
You will know that your child is already one step ahead of where you were because your child will have a parent who:
- will better know how to recognize tics if they appear
- will better know to bring her to her pediatrician to see if she needs a diagnosis
- can go to bat for him if he needs extra time at school, by requesting a 504 or educating his school staff about Tourettes (because believe me, not many people know)
- can share your tricks with him when he struggles to manage his tics in church, or to leave if they become overwhelming
- can understand and empathize when the tics strike, instead of embarrassing him for it or telling him to quit
- can help her siblings understand that she needs their support, not their jokes
- can teach him to self-advocate in situations where his disorder is misunderstood
- can teach him to educate others about his own condition
- can help him do his best to find employment where he can soar beyond people’s expectations
- can build her up so she’s less afraid to tell a significant other about her disorder
- can help him see that the world is still his…he’ll just have to come at it from a different angle than some other people
We want so desperately to promise our babies that they won’t struggle the way we did. But we can’t. What we can promise is to be their cheerleaders when they stumble, their voices when they can’t speak up for themselves. We can listen when they need to talk, and hug if they need to be held. We can let them know they’re not alone. We can help them learn management techniques that we’ve picked up over the years, and help them develop healthy habits like maintaining healthy diets and regularly exercising. We can make a list of tics and habits for the pediatrician so he knows which direction he should be looking in. We can show our children they deserve to be loved and respected like everyone else. We can love them, not in spite of their tics, but for who they are as whole, complete, real people. We can pray for them until our knees go numb.
Tourettes may have been Hell for your when you were young, but that doesn’t mean it has to be that way for your child. My parents made a world of difference in helping me see myself with the same kind of worth I saw in other people without Tourettes. You can do the same for your children, making their lives better than yours was because you, their parents, care. And that is exactly what our children need.