(Un)Comfortable Routines

We have always taken our daughter to the haircut place by our house because it is so close, cheap, and we can walk in without an appointment whenever we happen to notice that Willow’s hair is in her eyes. As with many things in our lives, we default to that particular business because that’s just what we’ve always done. There’s a certain comfort in routines, and familiarity can cut down on the stress of the unknown. As a teacher who works with a particularly vulnerable population, I recognize the value of predictability and routine in our daily lives.

My grandfather once said to me, “If you always do what you always did, then you’ll always get what you always got.” It was a line from one of his 12-step books. I’m not sure that I understood what it meant at the time.

The truth is that I have always dreaded taking Willow for haircuts at the place by our house, because literally every time we go, the lady asks if Willow is an only child, then goes on to ask why we haven’t given our child a sibling yet. I tell her that I can’t physically have any more children. Then she tells me all the disadvantages of having an only, claims that every child NEEDS a brother or sister, and tells us we should keep trying. She has asked Willow if she wants a little brother or sister, in the same breath as she has asked Willow if she would like a sticker and a toy from the prize basket. As if a sibling were a commodity as easily created and given as plastic trinkets.

And yet… despite feeling incredibly uncomfortable and angry every few months for the past two years, I have continued to go to the place by our house, because it is part of our routine. It’s convenient. It’s cheap. We can walk there. I’ve told myself that I’m just overreacting and need to be polite and keep the peace, and that I don’t want to offend the woman who does a decent job cutting my husband and child’s hair. I politely listen to the woman insult my family, then quickly try to change the topic to something that doesn’t make me want to cry. Every time, I leave the haircut place feeling resentful and angry. Every. Single. Time.

This time, the interac machine was broken at our usual place, and I had no cash to pay, so we had to go somewhere else to get Willow’s hair cut. Our (un)comfortable routine was disrupted. Willow was sad and disappointed for a few moments, then decided that she was willing to give somewhere else a chance. We drove around for a bit until we found another place that did walk-ins. The hairdresser there did a great job and asked “is she your only child?” I said “yes”, and provided no further details. I waited for her to grumble about “spoiled” children and to ask me when we were planning to have another… but it didn’t happen. That was literally the end of that part of the conversation. She moved on to talk about her holidays, and the loss of literacy in her first language as a result of coming to Canada at the age of five and trying desperately to assimilate. She chatted with Willow about Elsa from Frozen. We had a wonderful conversation. It was MAGICAL. I left feeling content and peaceful. I wasn’t resentful and angry. I think that this should now be Willow’s “regular place”, even though it’s a bit farther away.

As humans, we sometimes resist changes in our (un)comfortable routines, but once in awhile The Universe forces us to discover that change can be a good thing.