Friday, September 25, 2009

Hairy guilt

Last night I had to cut off all my little girl's hair.

Just writing that makes me feel a bit sick.

She's not ill or anything particularly horrible but since the move she has started to pull out her hair, particularly when we're in the car. She seems to have adjusted fairly well to the new house, except for this bit of anxious behavior she has picked up. We mentioned this to her doctor at her last visit and she suggested that we keep an eye on it for two reasons. 1) Kids that do this for a prolonged period of time can make it habit that follows them later in life, and 2) often kids will eat the hair, which can causes blockages in their stomach and sometimes require surgery. The doctor said that if she didn't stop after a couple of weeks it might be a good idea to cut her hair off so that she can no longer pull at it and most kids forget about doing it by the time the hair grows back. It's one of those "do something little know to save yourself something more drastic later" fixes, but it still feels horrible.

The worst part of it is that the dark side of my brian is whispering that it's as much my fault as the move. My hectic schedule recently has meant that I'm not around as much when she is awake as I was a few months ago. I've had to travel here and there; I've had to work on weekends. Prior to moving this wasn't a big deal, but I wonder if the added anxiety hasn't just pushed her a little further than before. She started sucking her finer (not thumb, for some reason) as a comfort thing over the summer while I was away, which might just be coincidence or might be another reflection of anxiety. There's no way to tell, which makes it easy to assume blame.

I know a lot of parents who travel as much or far more than I do with no apparent affect on their kids, but I'm not sure how that knowledge helps. I also know that have at least two more trips this fall that I am now looking forward to like one anticipates being tasered. Maybe it doesn't matter... maybe.

Yes, it's nothing serious and I am grateful that I am not faced with a bigger issue. I'm also probably reading too much into everything as a first-time parent. But neither of those two thoughts helped me last night while blonde locks fell past a quizzical expression on my daughter's face.

I bring this up mainly because I think many of us face the dilemma of balancing the interest of our kids with that of our job, and sometimes you get thrown a curveball that you don't know how to handle. Hopefully this will be a story we will laugh about in ten years.


  1. Although I understand it's emotional, how great that you are trying something to help address the problem. And you are doing the best you can re: balancing the work/home ration. That's the most anyone can ask of you! Don't feel guilty...

  2. You were tuned in enough to catch the problem early! Don't blame yourself...

    This is indeed a very difficult habit to break later in life. I'm not sure when I picked it up, but I only realized I did it when a friend of mine in grad school pointed it out. I still catch myself plucking my hair out when I'm stressed, but I'm concious about it and I can talk myself out of it (most of the time).

    Hang in there, you're helping her out... Maybe a doll with hair might help? Then she will see the effect...

  3. This:

    But neither of those two thoughts helped me last night while blonde locks fell past a quizzical expression on my daughter's face.

    Broke my heart. But, you're right - it's something little you can do that might help later on. It's tough balancing a job and family, and once in a while things aren't going to go your way. After these two trips, do you have a break from travel for a while?

    In any case, I'm sure you're doing the best you can in the situation. Children are very resilient too! As long as you spend quality time with them, quantity doesn't seem to matter as much.

    Hang in there!

  4. Hang in there - This *will* be a funny story later. And don't beat yourself up too much. The very fact that 1) you noticed, 2) you're doing something (which is not physically painful or scary to your daughter) to address it, and 3) you're looking for the cause makes you a GREAT dad.

  5. Well, noticing the problem wasn't an issue. About 1/4 of her head was getting pretty sparsely populated with hair and her car seat looks like Chewbacca. I'm just hoping she doesn't notice that her hair is gone and that the kids in daycare don't make it an issue for her. Nothing like stoking the flames of an anxious behavior by making her conscious of looking different.

  6. Dude, it's just fucking hair. It's not like you amputated her limb or something.

    I know every parent thinks their child is the most awesomest cutest smartest beautifulest child to ever exist in the entire history of the universe, and every hair on their head is the most preciousest thing on earth, but get a fucking grip.

  7. I realize it'll grow back and the hair is not really a big deal, but you're missing the point. What's more disturbing to me is the idea that my schedule might contribute to anxiety in my kid.

    Now, I'm not one of those parents who bends to the every whim of their child or carries them around all day, but when she develops a subconscious nervous habit of pulling out hair to the point where she is virtually bald on a good portion of her head, it makes me consider the effect of my work/family balance.

    I'm not sure that makes me too crazy.

  8. I wouldn't worry about it. My parents were total assholes who ignored me my entire childhood, and I turned out perfectly fucking fine.

  9. Physio, it's not about the damn hair. It's about anxiety. Hair-pulling can lead to even more serious behaviors like cutting and anorexia. I know, I've been a hair-puller all my life. I grew up in a violent alcoholic family and pulling was my way of soothing myself in a situation I couldn't control. Kids internalize and deal with stress in different ways than adults. Kids have less options for stress management, they can't exactly go for a run or hit the gym or call up a friend. Kids are less able to articulate what they are going through, so their stress comes out in behaviors that can be self-destructive.
    Prof-like, check your email. jc

  10. I tend to agree with CPP about 98% of the time, but not so much here. Ignore him. His personal experience is irrelevant to the problem you are grappling with.

    You can only do the best that you can. Keep your job and love your daughter. You are nipping the problem in the bud now, and with the help and support of your wife, your daughter will turn out just fine.

    Do keep in mind that some of us *are* hardwired for anxiety; your work schedule is an unlikely culprit.

  11. Well, the good news is that she hasn't picked up another habit just yet but has clung onto an Elmo doll for the whole weekend. I can take an Elmo infatuation if it leads to her have fewer anxiety issues. I appreciate the support and it's something we're working on.

  12. This would have been a perfect opportunity to try a Mohawk hairstyle on her.

  13. How's she doing now? Better? And I'll bet she looks cute in her new pixie cut.

  14. She seems to be doing better and still hasn't really noticed her hair. We're working with her to find activities that she can do in the car, which was the worst spot. Overall though, her anxiety level seems to be going down as the new house is becoming more familiar and we have most of the rooms settled.