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My son is a headbanger, and not in a rock-and-roll sort of
way. It's a self-soothing technique that a small percentage of children take
part in that some people think mimics the rhythms of the womb. I can't remember
when it started: possibly six months to a year old, and it's allegedly supposed
to end when he's around three, although I've heard anecdotes from former
headbangers and their relatives that it can go on for years, sometimes even
When it first started, it was disconcerting, especially because, like most
childhood oddities, the first thing that comes up when you Google it is a
promise that headbanging a sign of some syndrome or disease. However, our
pediatrician repeatedly reassured us that it was perfectly normal and our son was a happy, healthy, smart little boy.
The times when the headbanging would most bother us would be
when it was particularly loud (it can be heard from another
floor, like a neighbor bumping bass-heavy music) or when our son would bang so
much that he'd get a scab on his head, which was unsettling and unsightly. When
he slept in a crib, we finally solved the problem by duct-taping blankets
around the edges, which was not exactly a Pinterest-worthy look,
but if we just tucked the blankets around, our kid would pull them down to get
to that sweet, hard action. (He really likes
We hoped that the headbanging would start to subside when we
moved our son into a twin bed with a padded headboard, but he discovered that
he could still bang his head against the protective guardrail. By this time, we
were old enough to talk to him about the headbanging. He knew he did it, and
that we didn't want him to, but it still happened, and when we asked him why he
did it, he said "I don't know!" Which is a fair answer, because we all do weird
stuff for reasons we don't know.
The people I'm asking there don't know me or my kid and aren't going to help. If I just want commiseration, I should just speak with my friends.
One night, though, it was really bad. I was about
eight months pregnant and our son had had a rough week, with both pink eye and a
bad cold. Plus, we had just come home from a weekend out of town, so we were out of our usual routine. Our son headbangs most when he's trying to sleep (or coming
out of sleep) and so it was a very loud night. At around 2 am I heard him
crying, which is not usually part of his repertoire: I went to his room and found him
sobbing, his head opened up, blood on the sheets. We were all freaked out. I
tore the railing off the bed, deciding I could live with myself if he rolled
the eight inches onto the floor, slapped a huge Band-Aid on his head, and he
eventually fell asleep. But then I did something dumb:
I posted about it on Facebook.
"What do you do when your child bangs his head so hard
against his bed he bleeds?" I wrote. I was exhausted and scared and needed some
commiseration, if not an actual suggestion for what we could do.
Initially the responses were kind and generic, which was
what I needed. I went to sleep. But then I woke up to the feedback from the
Some people suggested that our son had some sort of sensory
deprivation syndrome that caused him to seek out the stimulation he does. One man said my kid sounded like his nonverbal, severely autistic teen. And then
one acquaintance, whom I haven't seen since college, sent me a message
telling me that I should definitely seek a psychiatric evaluation for my son
because the headbanging was most likely a "red flag." (A friend of mine who
works with actual special-needs kids texted me in both reassurance and in
disgust that our kid was fine and I was Facebook friends with a bunch of
What is it about social media that inspires parents to go to
the worst-case scenario? Why would a stranger decide it's helpful or compassionate to
frighten someone by suggesting that their child has some sort of scary issue
that's been overlooked by their parents and pediatricians? Some people just
can't help themselves. On another occasion, on a mommy board, I posted asking members specifically to
reassure me that my son would be OK if I didn't hold him back in school due
to his late birthday. Most people played along. One or two though still figured
the most helpful information for me to hear was that, no, he probably wouldn't
be all right. Even though I had specifically said, "Please tell me my son will
I've learned my lesson. Social media is not the place for me
to ask serious child-related questions. The people I'm asking there don't know
me or my kid and aren't going to help. If I just want commiseration, I
should just speak with my friends. If I learned anything, I realized that deep
down, I knew my son is fine. I was scared about the blood and what people would
think of me when they saw his scabbed head and was tired of being woken up due his
pounding, but in the morning, everything was back to normal (aside from his
I won't make that mistake again, of asking the peanut gallery. But if you're one of those peanut gallery people, the next time
you answer someone's late-night desperate query, ponder to yourself what's more
helpful—telling a parent what you think they ought to know, or what you think
they want to hear.
Incidentally, our son has discovered that he can still head-bang if he pulls a book into bed with him, but we're fine with it as long as
it's quiet and it doesn't scab his head up. Like I said, he really likes headbanging.