We realized early on with the twins that they were head bangers – kids who bang their head against something/someone to soothe themselves. Yep, sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? It didn’t make a lot of sense to me either and quite frankly, freaked me out. I thought it must be a twin thing. They knocked around in there against each other for 37 weeks so surely they were used to it, right?
Of course I did a bunch of internet research, but it still just didn’t seem right to me. There was some explanation, something wrong with them. And at every appointment I would ask their pediatrician about it, like, “Hey, is this normal? I have two other kids and they didn’t do this. What’s going on?” Every time, the answer was the same. Yes, they are fine. Relax. It’ll work itself out.
The twins were still relying on it as a soother when they entered kindergarten and I started to get concerned that they would do it at school. Oh, the horror! (That’s sarcasm.) Anyway, I questioned the pediatrician once again. “Soooo, they’re still banging their heads. What’s up with that?” She explained that while most kids outgrow it during their preschool years, there are some who continue to do it well into their teens/twenties. Those kids generally have something else going on, some companion diagnosis, as if that made me feel any better. It is really nothing to worry about, she assured me, but I could “help” them find another way to soothe themselves if that made me feel better. Emphasis on me. Okay. Finally. Something I could do to make them seem more “normal”.
I had visions of them still doing it when they went off to college and I became embarrassed for them. Not once up to this point did I try to imagine what it is like for them; to be that anxious, scared, angry, sleepy, or whatever. Oh, wait. I started to really look at my behavior. Hmmmmm….
Actually, I did know what it was like. I could sympathize. You see, I have twirled my hair my whole life, or at least as long as I remember. When I am deeply, intently focused on something, or when I’m sleepy, or stressed, I twist my hair. It’s soft, cold and feels good between my fingers. Kind of like wearing a blankie around on my head, or as I like to call it, hair therapy. It finally made sense to me. And when I looked around at my family and close friends, I started to realize that they all have a way of doing the same thing, though some hide it better than others.
Because the twins were using it to put themselves to sleep at night, the first thing I did was tried to figure out something else they could do; some other maneuver that wouldn’t involve them sitting up and banging up against their headboard to go to sleep. The concern wasn’t that they quit, but that they find something else that would help them get a better night’s sleep. They started to just roll their head back and forth on the pillow which was great, but in the morning left huge rat’s nests in the back of their hair. That got old pretty quickly, especially for them as they had to endure me brushing it out every morning.
Fast forward a year or so and now they rock their leg back and forth to put themselves to sleep. Every now and then they’ll wake up with a tangled mess of hair which is my heads up (pun intended) that they’ve had a particularly rough night. Now the only time they really bang their heads is to the music in the car. So if the Honda is rocking, you’ll know why.
If you’re brave enough to fly your freak flag, feel free to do so in the comments below.