WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Peacocks and Fantasy Chairs

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I’ve recently come to the Uber chapter of parenting.  Podcasts, the radio, and – if I’m wily enough to trick them into talking to me – conversations with my children fuel my trips around town.  On one recent drive we heard an advertisement for a kids’ hair salon.  The place has fantasy chairs (which sound a little risqué to me), touch screen TVs, bubbles, and balloons all in the name of easing kids’ stress around getting a trim. 

Now, I’m not here to decide what’s stressful enough to merit a fantasy chair for you or your children.  The way we respond to stress relies on the complex interplay of genetics and the environment, and we differ in these areas.  What knocks the socks off one person is small potatoes for another.  That said, nobody gets a free pass.  It’s a stressful world out there with plenty of fuel for anxiety and worry. 

There are people with too much who sit right beside people without much at all.  There is cruelty when kindness is possible.  There is hurt and shame where there could be comfort and compassion.  But there are also funny signs in front of country churches, really good cups of coffee, and teeny acts of goodness with infinite reach.  And we risk missing all of that if we quit paying attention to the world for fear of feeling some discomfort.

Fantasy chairs and comfort peacocks are quick fixes and distractions from stress (ever heard a peacock honk?), but they don’t substitute for reliable, long lasting antidotes for anxiety and worry.  For those we need to build our connections with others and find trust in our own resilience.  These grassroots efforts often start by finding a few likeminded others brave enough to connect in this real world instead of numbing out in a fantasy chair. 

If you do decide to sit yourself or your kid in a fantasy chair for a haircut, give yourself the truth of knowing you want to do it rather than the deception that you need it.  And, when you do choose to stay in the unease for a moment and then two and then a few more, know you’ve always been able to do so and leave the peacocks to their preening.

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Photo:  Cain, W. (c. 2010).  Third Child's First Haircut Sans Fantasy Chair.

Whitney Cain