I was lucky to be able to enjoy a funny conversation with a child at my work this afternoon.
We were sitting in the garden by the pond shaded by a green canopy with patches of sun making their way through the leaves. The girl I was with is seven and together we were looking into the water and talking about what might live beneath the surface.
I said “We need to be quiet so we don’t scare the fish,” but added, “I’m not very good at being quiet”. She looked at me and said, “I know why you can’t be quiet. It’s because you have to squeak.” I said ”Yep, but I think the fish will get used to it.” She agreed and said, “I have.”
I’d briefly explained Tourettes to her before like I have to many of the children I work with, but she went on to ask some thoughtful questions about what it felt like. I didn’t mention my wriggly spine but instead I asked her what her body did all the time without her thinking about it.
She couldn’t think of anything so I pointed out how she blinked all the time. She laughed and said, “If I don’t blink it hurts, I have to blink.” I said, “That’s a bit like how it feels for me if I don’t move or make a noise.”
She suggested we had a no blinking competition. “Squeaking’s OK, though,” she was careful to point out. We sat on the ground next to the pond in an amazing wild space and stared at each other. London’s never felt so peaceful.