(originally published at MotherhoodLater.com)
You are having a great day when you remember you need to buy black party shoes for your daughter’s school play. You are happy you remembered on a weekend when you can go to a store and she can try them on, and you won’t have to comb through 58 pairs on-line and coordinate with the UPS man to return the ones that don’t fit. And I bet you are feeling just a bit proud that you can go to a discount shoe store in your neighborhood rather than a fancy one, because how often does one wear black party shoes these days before growing out of them? (The answer, 4 times, maybe 6, at the most.)
When you walk into the store and are present enough to use it as a retail navigational experience—“Let’s find your size, 1½ ” — you are feeling so good. A wall of choices, but not too many that it is overwhelming.
You hold your cool when she picks out the most inappropriate shoe there—part of you had to know it was a possibility—even then, the fact that this shoe exists in this small size is still surprising. But you are calm—you strap them on, and then watch your child stagger and lurch her way across the floor. The rhinestone studded heel blinks in front of you, and you wait for her to say, “No, these don’t fit.”
But instead you hear, “I love them! They’re perfect!”
What? You point out the front of her foot hanging out of the shoe, to be met with, “It’s supposed to be that way.” She agrees to try on the next biggest size, which both of you can see is practically falling off. She wants the first pair, convinced that all she has to do is move her foot back so the front will fit.
You walk back to the wall of 1½ and point out some others, including a larger size of a shoe she already owns and loves. No interest. Don’t be surprised that she is throwing a fit. Don’t be surprised at the tears, the pronouncements, “I’m never going to wear those!” and “I’m only going to buy these!” Don’t try to point out that she can’t walk in them. (This will backfire; trust me.)
This is a time to keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak. Acknowledge what she is feeling: “I know you like those shoes.” And WAIT. Deep breath. “You need shoes for the play at school that you will be comfortable in and that match your dress. You point to the larger size of the shoes she has recently grown out of. “I remember when you wore these. They looked good and you were really comfortable even at the end of cousin Ariel’s bat mitzvah.” You’re calling up good memories to reset her brain into happy mode. (It won’t work, this time, but there’s always next time.)
Keep waiting. Don’t freak out. There may be tears. Everyone in the store will be looking at you and saying things. The good news? They will be speaking Spanish, which you don’t really understand.
You leave the store with many “Thank Yous” and a very upset child. You think, you’re going to hear about this for a while. She’s in it, she’s disappointed, she had this vision of her foot with a fancy shoe. You get it. And you get that it is your job to make the fancy shoe for your 8-year-old a fantasy, and not a reality. You text your husband, who doesn’t like to shop for anything and who commiserates. You call yourself a goddess in your text back because you are feeling centered.
And then, six blocks later, as you are walking and talking about the plan for the rest of the day in order to shift the focus from the inappropriate heels, your 8- year-old makes a joke. And you think, “Oh, interesting…” and you keep talking, cautioning yourself not to rush into this new topic with gusto lest you ruin the moment. And your 8-year-old keeps going. And then you walk past the playground, and she asks to go on the swings. And that’s it. Really? Really. Later your daughter tells Dad about the shoes—not excited, but not upset. You think about that first winter cold, or a stomach virus, where you wonder if you will ever feel better. You always do—it just takes time. In this case, 6 blocks.
Enjoy every moment.