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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Is My Habit Really That Bad?

I'm a hair twirler. Always have been. I do it when I'm bored. I do it when I'm tired. I do it when I'm stressed. I do it when I'm just hanging out. I do it when I'm...well, whatever. I just do it.

It's a habit. I know it. And up until recently, I hadn't thought about stopping it. Why should I? It didn't seem to be bothering anyone. It certainly wasn't bothering me. Nor was my hair suffering because of it. Even the comment a friend made once that it was a "sign of madness" didn't worry me much either. (I still don't know if he was making that up. I don't think I'm mad. A little crazy perhaps at times, but not 'mad'. Hmm. I must Google that theory some day.)

But then, fairly recently, two of my sons started doing it. My 5yr old twirls, but his hair is kind of longer. Not down-to-his-butt kind of long, just longish on top, so the twirling isn't much of an issue. He also has fine hair, so no sooner has his twirling finger been removed from his hair, it has fallen back in to place.

My 7yr old, however, who has shortish hair that's pretty thick and more coarse, twirls it so much that it's not unusual to look across the room at him to find sections of his hair sticking out this way and that. I can't help but think of the Sex Pistol's Johnny Rotten. Just give him a can of coloured hairspray and he's there. (And let's hope that's where the comparisons end.)

Recently, Hubby has noticed the effect that the constant hair-twirling has had on my 7yr old in particular. He's forever walking around with unruly hair because of it, and threats of giving him a No.2 haircut don't seem to be working. It's gotten to the point where Hubby has given him one week to rectify this habit, otherwise the hair is (for the most part) coming off.

And then, last night, when we were talking about the incessant hair twirling that seems to have taken over the family as of late (and twirling my hair during the conversation for good measure) I said to Hubby, "It's probably hereditary. I twirl, so they twirl. They're just like me - for a change." "No," Hubby protested. "It's not hereditary. It's a bad habit, and the boys have learnt it from you. You've got to stop twirling your hair, because they see you do it, and they're copying you."

What? Stop twirling my hair? A habit I have had for, I don't know, a good portion of my 39 years? You've got to be kidding me?

I'm not sure this is a good idea. Yes, the 7yr old's hair actually suits him shorter. In fact, the shorter, the better. I'm just not convinced that making such a big deal over his hair is a good idea. What if it is hereditary? Surely we can't change what comes as second nature to him, to his brother and to me?

And I'm not sure I can stop. And so I decided to Google it to find out more information.

Some sites, like my husband, call hair twirling a "bad habit" or an act that is indicative of "nervous behaviour". One (www.ehow.com) even wrote this about hair twirling:
Twirling your hair can lead to hair loss and make you appear ditzy in front of someone who doesn't realize it's just a bad habit. If this is a compulsion, it's recommended that you see your doctor for treatment.
Come on. Ditzy? I may appear ditzy? Excuse me. I'm twirling my HAIR! Plain and simple. And it's not like I'm standing around, chewing gum and giggling at the same time as I'm twirling, saying things like: "That's HOT." It's just plain, old, twirling. That's it.

But reading on further, whilst I didn't really find anything about it being hereditary, many sites put it down to a comfort behaviour. Just something you do to feel ok. This theory suits me much better.

Since he was a baby, my 5yr old son has rocked his head back and forth across his pillow to help him sleep. He starts off quickly (I don't know how he doesn't get dizzy from it) and the closer to sleep he gets, the slower the head rocking becomes, until it eventually stops and he's asleep. I called a parent help line about it once, who referred me to a local childcare clinic with in-house behavioural specialists. The woman I spoke to asked me this: "Is his habit worrying him? Is he embarrassed about it at all?" To which I could only respond, "No. Doesn't seem to be." "Then," she continued, "if it's not worrying him, you shouldn't worry about it either. It's just a comfort mechanism for him. If later on he starts having sleepovers and hasn't grown out of it, and it does start to become an issue in terms of worrying what others think, then we can find a way to transfer the comfort need to something else. In the meantime, leave him be. It's not hurting him." And so I did. He still does it.

So, I don't know. Maybe we should just let it be. Perhaps a haircut in the meantime wouldn't hurt, but at the end of the day it's just the 7yr old's hair for goodness sake. He's happy, he's healthy. Why mess with it?

Why mess with me and my hair?

Until next time...


Liz.. said...

oh no! i twirl my hair! i never thought anything of it until i read this haha.

Nomie said...

I sat here, reading... twirling my hair... I thought, hey... nothing wrong with it... I think it is comfort, and if it's not bothering or hurting anyone, who cares really?