In her Words
If The Shoe Fits
Parenting lessons from walking in someone else’s shoes
What do you get when you mix a 5-year-old princess, a 4-year-old superhero, an 18-month-old tomboy, and a husband with too many hobbies? A house full of shoes. If this sounds like a bad joke, it’s not. It’s actually not a joke at all; it is the daily fabric of our home. There are trails of shoes from one door to the next, up the stairs, around the corner, under the bed, and rarely, into the shoe basket by the front door. I guess I have to add myself into the mix because it has been said that I love shoes, but really, the truth is I never met a shoe store I didn’t love. The point is, what does a mother do with more shoes than she knows what to do with?
Luckily for me, I have Lucy. She is 18 months old (who thinks she is a 4-year-old boy) and is obsessed with shoes. Every day she is literally “walking in someone else’s shoes.” She never fails to find the stinkiest, most stained, tragic shoes around and have them delicately balanced on her hands, while on her feet is another pair, invariably on the wrong feet. Seriously, I mean it’s a 50/50 shot of getting it right but it never happens.
Lately though, I have gained some great insight from viewing the habits of my tiny runway model in soccer cleats – one must always consider how it feels to walk in someone else’s shoes (oh yes, and get up each time those shoes make you fall). We are taking life lessons here from my toddler.
The composition of a family is a unique structure in itself. When I finally figured out how to communicate with my first child, I had another who has zero response to the hard learned tactics I used the first time around. Then we have my husband who is sometimes Dad, sometimes lover, sometimes fourth child, but always the other bookend on our adventures in daily life. Constantly trying to figure out what each other needs and how somebody feels can be a daunting task in a family of five. Lucy has helped me focus on what really matters and has made the trail of shoes an important and delightful part of each day.
Case in point: Last week was my oldest daughter Cece’s birthday, always a catastrophic event for a younger sibling. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to ship my middle son Clayson away, or take him to Disneyland. Nothing I did made the tragedy of his sister’s birthday any easier to handle. I was at a loss for consoling his hurt feelings and at my wits end. As I was cleaning up the birthday party I heard the familiar steps of Lucy, in someone else’s shoes, approaching the kitchen. As she walked in I noticed not only one pair of shoes, but two. She had on Clayson’s shoes, and over the top of those, one of her dad’s and one of mine. Funny, I thought, and then it dawned on me – THAT’S IT! He is feeling lost inside this family.
I realized that he needed a little spotlight time and some individual recognition to get him out of this funk and this shoe epiphany couldn’t have come at a better time. We had The Clayson Scooter Show and we all “oohed and ahhed” as he showed us every “awesome” trick a 4-year-old boy can come up with on a scooter. It worked like a charm! (Thanks Lucy.)
Watching Lucy trudge heavily in Dad’s shoes, wobble tenuously and stressfully in some of mom’s heels, stomp around in her sister’s tap shoes, or trip over her brother’s cowboy boots, the lesson is clear: we don’t understand what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes because we don’t “fit” anymore. Only Lucy, the essence of childhood simplicity and understanding, can still “fit” into everyone else’s shoes. She also fits very nicely and comfortably into her own shoes (another topic for another time).
So, I can’t begrudge the girl a good old-fashioned shoe fetish. It may be one of the most important qualities she picked up from her mother. All I know is, my little girl knows some things that she is not telling me (having a vocabulary of 12 words makes deep conversation a little tough). As I watch for those moments of childhood brilliance and search for patience in the trying moments that inevitably come, I will take a different approach to picking up the shoes.
I will look for meaning and understanding behind the stench, beyond the appeal, and before Lucy gets too big to “fit” anymore. She will help me to remember the importance of walking in someone else’s shoes for a little while each day.
Written by Katie Woodward of Shabby Apple, an online dress boutique that offers women’s dresses, maternity dresses, and girl’s dresses.