Friday, January 15, 2010

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails (and princess shoes)

Last month, on the way to meet Santa, I decided that Maggie's scuffed, red, hand-me-down, patent-leather shoes simply would not do. In a pre-Christmas fit of unchecked spending, I ducked into StrideRite to remedy this imbalance with a shiny new pair of Mary Janes.

The offending red shoes, seen here

What I didn't expect to discover is that I had been shoving the poor girl's foot into shoes that were a size-and-a-half too small. Suddenly, my maniacal shoe-shopping became just another case of responsible parenting. I love that.

Because I am smart like this, I deduced that if Maggie's feet had grown gargantuan, then Ollie's probably had too. A quick trip to Payless a few days later confirmed my suspicions (I can not afford to replace all my kids shoes at StrideRite, let's get real). We were on! Sneakers, school shoes, maybe some boots; all of it was suddenly so necessary and blameless.

I let them lose in the aisles of cheap Hannah Montana blinker boots and sinfully ugly "water shoes" to pick what they wanted. Here's your size, go crazy. By which I meant, "Here's your size, now pick out something that lives up to my own self-image as a hip mom. Preferably something retro and orange."

Now this I would let him go out in

It was in this way that I came face to face with the ways in which I am conditioning (read: screwing up) my children.

The first shoes Oliver brought to me, breathless with excitement, were a snazzy pair of white patent Mary Janes. "Aren't they beautiful?" he asked.

After I confirmed that while they were indeed beautiful, I believed they were for girls, he brought me a pair of pink, blinky princess sneakers. Again, breathlessly in love.

This time, my declaration that those too were for girls was met with a bit more suspicion and some palpable disappointment. Maybe even a lip quiver.

The third pair? Silver flats with a cross weave and a kicky little tassel.

By now I was feeling like a monster of gender propriety. I realized I should have just let him get what he wanted. There could even be a certain panache to a pirate t-shirt paired with pink, blinky princess sneakers. But I also suspected that very soon after exiting the store, some bigger child was going to put him in his place and embarrass him right out of his new shoes. The shoes would be not only a waste of money, but Oliver's very first lesson in shame. I couldn't do it.

This time, his disappointment got the better of him. "All the shoes I like are for girls," he cried, real tears running down his face.

Earlier experimentation with accessories

And what do I say to that? It is a universal truth that girls get nicer clothes and nicer shoes. It's a way of the world thing. But why, at 3, must he be denied the simple and pure pleasure of a pair of pink blinky sneakers?

Had all the hours of listening to Free to Be You and Me as a child meant nothing? Had William Wants a Doll fallen on deaf ears? Apparently.

Our compromise? A pair of black and white blinky sneakers and some camouflage converse low tops that were on sale for $7. And I don't even approve of camouflage; it's done the world way more harm than princesses.

In my defense I also nixed Maggie's Hannah Montana Uggs.


Lisa said...

I feel for the boy. It's just not fair that his sister gets (almost) all the fun shoes. Great post.

Samantha B. said...

Brilliant post...had me laughing out loud (especially when I got to the hair accessories photo!) My son (now 7) went through a phase at age 3 of wearing black patent leather shoes adorned with gold buckles. They were absolutely dreadful but he loved them dearly...I miss them now that he only wears generic white sneakers.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin