Little kids have weird – sometimes super gross – habits, and any parent will tell you so. A lot of them are pretty standard. At one point or another over the last eleven years, I’ve asked my kids to please stop biting that toenail, or to get their finger out of their nose and use a tissue, or to stop sucking on the collar of that shirt or that chunk of hair.
But over the last six months or so, I’ve repeatedly asked our almost four-year-old to stop twirling. Sounds like no big deal, right? But it’s not because she’s adorably spinning herself around and I’m worried she’ll get dizzy.
Nope. She’s twirling sections of her hair around and around her finger, until it gets stuck. And then she rips it right out.
She’s always had a thing for hair. When she was tiny and nursing, she used to find a section of my hair and gently rub it between her chubby little thumb and index finger. It was adorable. When her own hair grew long enough, she’d reach up and do the same. Still adorable.
And then it become not nearly as cute.
The first time she twirled her hair enough to actually get her finger stuck, I had to use scissors to cut it free. She was panicking and the tip of her finger was turning bright pink, and I figured that was a lesson learned.
But not so much.
After that first time, she started just yanking on the snarl she made, so she had a bunch of shorter sections. And then she graduated into actually pulling out those snarls from the roots. Her favored twirling hand is the right, and her favored twirling section is on the right side, above and in front of her ear. So, yeah, we’ve got some problems.
After I started finding long strands of hair that were all knotted together at one end on the sofa, I sat her down for a serious talk. She nodded solemnly and said she would stop, but no manner of reminders, braids, ponytails, hats, new hair clips, or redirection (she just learned to snap her fingers, and we foolishly, and fruitlessly, tried to re-train her twirling impulse into a snapping habit) have done anything. Now, she’ll sheepishly hand me a chunk of hair and say she’s sorry she was “twirwing again.”
Our pediatrician lumps this into what he calls personality tics, like hair chewing and nail biting. He says kids figure out how to manage these things themselves without their parents’ help. Instead of driving ourselves crazy trying to keep her from absentmindely ripping out her own hair, he suggested we just let it be. At some point, it will bother her enough that she’ll stop.
I mean, yeah, that makes sense. But in the meantime… wahhhh! Her beautiful hair! And doesn’t it hurt?!
That’s the thing about parenting, and life, I guess. So much of this is out of our control. But I’m a firm believer in choosing my battles, and while I can’t help myself from asking her to stop when I see that finger going, I’m not Googling ways to combat it anymore. That’s progress, right?
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