Trips to the store with a toddler — or, heaven forbid, multiple stores… or perhaps multiple toddlers — can seem like a daunting task at times. At least with my son, trips to the store became very much the opposite of fun once he learned to crawl way back when. He’d squirm and scream in the cart, maneuvering his little self out of the safety belt until I’d either force him back down, making him cry harder which is something I usually prefer to avoid in public places for any extended period of time, or I’d pick him up to hold him in one arm while pushing the cart around the store and trying to super-speedily grab the things I needed with the other, while also making an effort to look as graceful and composed and I-totally-got-this as possible.
And then I discovered a trick that seemed pretty obvious, but by some of the looks and comments I’ve received, realized it may not be that obvious. When I’m at any store with a toy section, I like to make my way there first. I tell my Desmond ahead of time, usually while driving, “We’re going to Walmart/Target/Kohl’s/TJ Maxx/etc. Mama needs to get some things, but we will look at the toys first and you can pick out x amount to play with in the cart while I shop–but we are only playing with them at the store. We’re not buying any toys today. Does that sound good?” He says yes, and most of the time, everything goes according to plan with no tantrums or fits, I shop in relative peace and leisure, and my son plays happily with some new and different toys. As with many situations with toddlers, informing him of the plan and setting the rules beforehand is key.
If we have the time and he seems to be getting bored or restless with the toys in the cart, I tell him, “If you keep being good and let Mama finish getting what we need without whining, we’ll go back to the toys once I’m finished, put away these ones, and you can get out of the cart to look at/play with some more toys for x minutes.”
I suppose bribery + toddlers is no new combination, nor is it a standard for good parenting. However, I like and feel okay about the fact that this particular bribery doesn’t involve buying some junky little toy as a be-good incentive at the end of each shopping trip or repeated questions of “Are we done yet?” so we can finally stop by McDonald’s to get that ice cream cone I accidentally promised. At least this way neither of us are crying or wanting to pull our hair out, because the trip to the store with a toddler in itself is a pleasurable experience.
But fair warning: as I mentioned previously, not everyone seems to be aware of this trick. Like me, you may get some shocked and disapproving looks from shopping passersby, to then hear muttered comments like, “Did you see all those toys? You’d think it was Christmas!” or “That’s why kids these days are so entitled; parents are spoiling them,” or “I hope they’re buying gifts for some triplets’ birthday party.” So be prepared. Have a comeback ready if necessary, or just keep on walking like you didn’t even hear, feeling confident as always in your parenting skills. When going to the store with a toddler, you do what you gotta do, and feel pretty darn good when you’ve figured out something that works and makes you both happy.
Happiness is altering your expectations. Better yet, happiness is having no expectations at all.
From a young age, I’ve been practicing the “don’t get your hopes up” way of life. It may seem like a negative way to live, but I think of it as realistic and smart, because few things in life lie completely within our own personal control and it’s always nicer to be surprised by good news than bad, or even no news at all.
And having no expectations is actually pretty easy… if you live alone under a rock, and are completely content with living alone under a rock. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: things get hard when the comparison game comes into play, when we see what others have and want it too, when we don’t want to be jealous of the Joneses but how can we not be when they display all the achievements of all their ridiculously high expectations literally right under our noses via social media like: beautiful house by age 21, start decorating with the most stylish and high-end furnishings immediately–check. Travel to five continents by 22–check. Complete PHD by 23, marry most gorgeous of spousal specimens that same year–check. Have amazing career with amazing salary, pay off mortgage by age 24–check. Have perfect, great-sleeping baby at 25, plenty of loved ones around to help take care of baby but still be a super-devoted parent, continue awesome career, exotic travels, write and publish best-selling novel, begin successful modeling side career on a whim–check, check, check, and check.
We all know someone like this, right? Or perhaps this is just the way they appear to us, based upon the culmination of all the good personal news they’ve chosen to share with the world, and perhaps the fact that many of the checks off their lists happen to be the very things we haven’t even yet written down on our own lists because they still seem like such far-off-in-the-future achievements. Everything seems so easy for them. Why can’t it be easy for me too? Happiness is always within their reach but just out of mine. They have everything I want but don’t have, even though I deserve it as much if not more than them… why is that? Why them and not me?
Whenever I find myself thinking this way, here’s how I handle it:
First of all, while we may seem to deserve certain things based on our hard work, years in school, admirable qualities, or past struggles, none of us are actually entitled to anything. Certainly not just because our same-aged friend already owns a home therefore we should already own a home too. Or because our friend three years younger than us is already married with two kids therefore we should already have at least two kids or at least one kid or at least be married. Or because our friend who finished school to be a doctor at the same time as us already has a thriving practice therefore we should already have a thriving practice too.
Isn’t that how it usually goes when we find ourselves wondering why we can never seem to keep up with so-and-so? I at least never seem to feel too jealous of friends 5 or 10 years older than me, because it’s easy to believe/wish/hope/pretend that in 5 or 10 years of course my life will look just like theirs. But when it’s friends my age or in a similar stage of life… that’s when it gets hard not to view them all as Joneses.
But similar age or stage of life does not make us all the same. We all face different challenges and fight different battles in life, so doesn’t it make sense that our good fortunes and blessings would be different as well? Whether you believe in God, a next life, the universe, karma, or chance, I find it impossible to believe that any person can get through this life scot-free, without having to endure a number of personal challenges, however they may come.
Your friend may have the nice new house you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade it for the happy, loving marriage and home-life you do have. Your friend may have the husband and kids you don’t have, but it doesn’t mean they don’t struggle every day with feelings and the resulting guilt that they missed their opportunity to begin a successful career, travel, and/or have the social life that you do have. Your friend may have the thriving career you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give it up to have a loving and close relationship with a still-living mom that you do have. And maybe you have a friend who truly hasn’t yet faced a single large difficulty in life, but just to give some perspective without wishing anything bad on anyone, perhaps they’ll be forced to battle a terminal illness a few years down the road or face the heart-breaking death of a child.
These are random examples from my own imagination given with no intent to jinx anyone, but the point I wish to make is this: I truly believe we all have our own easy breezy, smooth-sailing facets of life as well as our own rocky, tumultuous, how-will-I-ever-come-out-on-the-other-side facets of life. I read a quote by Regina Brett a while back and it’s stuck with me: “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”I believe there’s a lot of truth in that. Of course, if we all threw our blessings in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d probably want to pick and choose amongst all of them. But that’s just not fair and that’s not how life works.
So I’m telling myself right now: Stacey, stop trying to gyp everyone else of their blessings and good fortunes if you’re not willing to gyp them of their problems too. Stop being jealous of the achievements others have made in life when you honestly don’t know the hurdles they’ve had to overcome. Stop believing everyone else has it easier than you, making yourself out to be some sort of victim who deserves to be sad and mopey, discrediting them of all the struggles they have and will endure. There are too many people in the world and too many possible problems to really believe you’ve been dealt more than most, while so-and-so is getting through life without a care. So suck it up and be happy. Be happy for yourself and the blessings you do have, the challenges you have and will overcome, and the problems you will never have to face, and be happy for the so-called Joneses.
Because happiness is having no expectations. Okay, actually, that’s not true… Happiness is having realistic expectations based upon what you can personally feasibly achieve in your individual life according to the blessings and challenges you’ve currently been dealt. Happiness is not formulating expectations for your life based upon what awesome, enviable things the people around you have achieved. Happiness is finding joy exactly where you are right now, and finding it again every day for the rest of your changing life. Happiness changes. Happiness is altering your expectations.
I started doing this side french braid in the summer when I still remembered what it was like to feel hot outside and just wanted to have my hair off my back and neck and in one place where it would stay all day and not make me sweaty or drive me crazy.
And guess what! This side french braid fit the bill perfectly. Not to mention, I think it looks super cute but is simple enough it can be done for any occasion. I also like it because it’s actually two french braids that connect to form one braid. The first time I did it, I was in the process of growing out bangs, meaning they were at the huge-pain-in-the-butt length. Not long enough to put behind my ear, constantly falling out of ponytails and regular braids to annoy my face and eyes. But this hairdo kept them braided and in place nicely all day–bonus!
First, brush out all your tangles and part your hair the way you like. On the side of your head that you want the braid to be once complete, begin french braiding from the top of your head and working your way down to the nape of your neck, only adding in hair from the front (near your face, not from the back of your head). Once you’ve reached the nape of your neck, finish your braid off with a little piggy-tail braid that should contain about a third of all your hair. Secure with an elastic. Pull braid apart a little from the bottom working upward to make it fuller.
On the other side of your head, start french braiding from the top of your head working downward in the same fashion, adding hair from the front. Instead of stopping at the nape of your neck, keep braiding toward the other side of your head, adding in hair from off your neck.
Once you’ve reached the other side of your neck where your completed piggy tail braid is, your across-the-head braid should contain about another third of your hair, with the last third being the unbraided hair in the back of your head. Keeping these three sections separated, hold them all in your hands and use them now to form your side braid. Braid to the bottom of your hair, secure with an elastic (can be the same elastic you used to secure your first small braid; just pull it out once you reach the bottom of the braid and use it for your new, big braid) and pull the braid apart slightly from the bottom working upward to make it fuller.
One of my favorite parts about this hairstyle is the braid within the side braid. It adds great texture and a little extra pizzazz, I think. Not to mention, it really helps the braid stay looking nice (i.e., no random long strands of hair falling completely out) all day. This braid within a braid technique could of course be used in other non-french braid styles.
Hope this tutorial is helpful and you like this hairstyle as much as I do! If you try it, comment with pictures of your side french braid so I can admire your beauty.