“80 Stories High” by Central Coast local Dr John Irvine
Grandma Barbara shows her ingenuity in beating a problem with trichotillomania
Barbara was a very spritely grandparent who filled her grandchildren’s lives with joy. Her house was always busy and smelt good and appetising. Whenever the grandkids were over, they’d make cakes or brownies – and when her vegan daughter was visiting, Barbara would make a chicken veggie pie for those meat–deprived grandkids! Every reader would have had, or wish they’d had, someone like Barbara in their childhood.
But one particular grandchild had her worried. Young Olivia was a gorgeous four–year–old, very bright and well–adjusted, but she suffered from trichotillomania! Olivia had become an involuntary hair–puller! She would put her left hand over her head to twirl her hair into a single strand and then pull it out. Olivia only did it when she was tired or in bed while she sucked her thumb. As her hairline started receding from over her right ear, Olivia kept following it, and the bald strip above the right ear became more obvious.
Her parents had talked to her about it and had tried Rescue Remedy, thinking it was a stress thing. They had reminded her, cajoled her, and even tried a sharp “Ah, ah” when they caught Olivia doing it in front of the TV. They had even changed her hairstyle to try and hide the erosion, all to no avail.
But they hadn’t tried grandma’s ingenuity! Among her many talents, Barbara was also a great knitter, so she and I got our heads together to solve this family crisis! We knew that Olivia loved Santa, and Barbara decided to exploit that opportunity as we headed towards Christmas. She made a special bonnet for Olivia to wear to bed. This bonnet, which was held in place with bobby pins, not only had Christmas colours but also had Rudolph’s red nose sewn onto the top of the bonnet as a pom–pom.
Grandma had convinced Olivia that the other reindeer were looking where to deliver presents and were attracted to Rudolph’s red nose, so if Olivia wore the bonnet every night, the reindeer would know where to call. Olivia’s parents also put the yukky nail–bite deterrent on Olivia’s thumb to try and get a disconnect between the automatic thumb sucking when tired and the hair pulling. The combination worked wonders, and Olivia followed grandma’s brilliant scheme.
And Barbara enjoyed the exercise too. Barbara’s motto was, “We’re never too old to enjoy our childhood!” Grandparent, she may have been biologically, but in her heart, she was still the wondering child, loving the joy of Christmas.
By the way, Barbara said the trickiest part of the operation was answering Olivia’s question, “But Grandma, wouldn’t the reindeer know to come to our house when they saw our Christmas tree?”
“Oh no,” she retorted, “It’s Rudolph’s red nose that attracts them”. And Olivia, aged 4, let Barbara get away with that reply because Nana was perfect!
So, what’s the message? If you want to get on well with kids, think like a kid.
Robert Brault is reputed to have written these words, “Today, I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true”.
I like this story and I like the message, but most of all I like Barbara. She’s the sort of spritely Grandma every child deserves to have in their life. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw.
“80 Stories High” is an uplifting collection of short stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things for those they love. They are from the memoirs of Dr John Irvine, one of Australia’s most heard, read and seen Paediatric Psychologists.