Sunday, July 09, 2006

Normal, freaky children

Something is going down at our house.

Sunburst seems to have developed a tic. She came home from the pool yesterday clearing her throat, "Ughm." She didn't swallow a frog or inhale any overwhelming amounts of chlorine, at least I don't think so. It appears to have just, ughm, happened on its own in this sudden, constant, and irritating way.

Einstein and I both noticed it right away.

"Ughm," we said to her. "Ughm. Ughm, ughm."

She looked at us with complete cluelessness and kept on ughming.

"Why are you doing that?" asked Einstein.

"Will you, ughm, stop, ughm. It's irritating." I said to her.

"Ughm," she said to us. "I can't, ughm, help it." And she was right. She couldn't. Her sudden reflexive throat-clearing noise was as much an unconscious part of her now as blinking. But goodness knows it was driving the rest of us insane. I googled around and found a lot of information on Tourette's Syndrome. And although it's one of those things that has a childhood onset, after only two hours of constant throat-clearing, it seemed a little fast to me to be making that kind of leap.

I only panicked for a minute before some dark recess of my brain remembered reading about normal childhood tics in the Ames and Haber books. They studied children for years at the Gesell Institute of Human Development and have a series of books out for each age. Yes, there are actual yearly manuals to help navigate the terrain of childhood, such as Your-Seven-Year-Old. When a friend first turned me onto these books, I thought she was crazy. A book is going to tell me about my child? My special, amazing, and unique child that these authors have never met? Yeah, right. And the moon will grow a thousand arms and start dancing the samba.

I was surprised how wrong I was. These books are great. I read them and sigh and know that my children are just as freaky as everybody else's children. That crying jag Moonshine went through because we changed the color of the shingles on our house? Normal. That phase Sunburst went through when she started pilfering vegan marshmallows out of the fridge? Normal. That cheetah persona she adopted years ago including running on four legs and pretending her friends were gazelles for the biting? Really weird and NOT normal, but we got through it anyway.

And what of this more recent urge to pee when faced with something difficult? I've been noticing this for a few months with Sunburst-- when we draw a new form or work on math or I ask her to help wash dishes., suddenly she has to pee. I figured it was an escape tactic, and was secretly pleased when she used it on Einstein the other day over practicing a new song on the piano. "She does this all the time, " I told him. "She's one of those Hall Pass kids... you know, the ones who were always running off to the bathroom in school." Apparently that's normal, too. Freaky, but normal, according to Ames and Haber:
"At eight, the most common of these outlets is a need to urinate when taxed with somethig he does not like or is unequal to. Dish-wiping is sure to be interrupted almost immediately after it's begun by a trip to the bathroom... A difficult school subject such as reading may produce a distended bladder in a very short time. This reaction may be thought of as "internal perspiration," emotionally induced. It is not just an alibi, as shown by the copiousness of the ensuing secretion."
Aside from specific behavioral tidbits, these books also describe the ages as going through times of equilibrium and disequilibrium, spiraling between the two, so that a child might spend half the year being pleasant and the other half acting like some monster from another planet. So far that seems to be how it works around here. And really it makes a lot of sense. The diseqilibrium helps them to make huge developmental leaps, just like sicknesses and short phases of completely aggrevating behavior, tantrums and so forth. A method to the madness, so to speak. And these books remind me of that and just make me feel better about everything, including throat-clearing.

Under the "Tensional Outlets" section of the Seven-Year-Old book I was pleased to read:
"There is, however, a certain amount of muttering and mumbling, loud breathing, and little throaty sounds."
Throaty sounds. Check. But little? No. Sometimes these books are off by a year, and you have to read the year before and after. The Six-Year-Old book actually has 'tics' listed in the index, as well as the section on Tensional Outlets:
"Facial grimaces, sometimes almost tic-like in nature, are frequent, and many make numerous, irritating throaty noises or throat-clearing."
Irritating throat-clearing? Check. But why? I racked my brain to figure out what triggered this sudden anxious reaction. Just before she went to the pool she overheard me on the phone with the doctor's office trying to get her an appointment. She's got an odd, tender bump on the back of her head. I think it might be an occipital lymph node, but just to be safe, we want someone to check it out.

At bedtime last night Sunburst asked me about the doctor and her bump. Bingo. She was worried. I tried to allay her fears the best I could and this morning she was tic-free until I brushed her hair and she remembered about the bump and started ughming all over again.


  1. Do they have these for 33-going-on-34-year-olds? Or is that "What Your Doctor Didn't tell you about Pre-Menopause"?!

    I'm glad you're finding the methods for the maddness. ElmTree went around fake yawning and making really bizarre growly noises and throat-clearing noises. I didn't even begin to give it the deep thought you did. Yeah, my kid's odd...and? Thanks for doing my research for me!

  2. Ya know, Sunburst went through a fake yawning thing too... these kids are so weird. But normal.

  3. You have no idea how relieved I am to have read this. My daughter has has been clearing her throat for three months now and the doctors keep telling me it could be Tourette's but that it takes a year of this kind of thing to make an official diagnosis.
    I am not sayint that I will discount that possibility as dreadful as it is. I have already cried many tears because my mother has Tourette's and my aunt suffered from it.
    You, however, have given me some hope with this delightful blog of yours.
    Thank you.

  4. I wanted to know if by any chance you would be interested in doing an unbiased review of our product.

    If you agree we will send you a product sample so that you can try it and then write a review about it.

    Please let me know if you are interested.

    Thank you

  5. Maybe. What's your product?

  6. Anonymous6:24 PM

    curious to how she is doing now? as we have similar situation.. thanks

  7. It has been four years since I wrote this post. She's fine now. The bumps on her scalp were just enlarged lymph nodes-- completely normal and uninteresting to the doctor. The uhming went away soon after that.

    I hope your situation resolves just as easily.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter