As moms, we not only tend to worry a lot; we also tend to feel guilty about the most ridiculous things. Like shoes. Like many moms, I don't have an unlimited shoe budget for myself, much less for my 3-year-old. I usually end up finding the cutest knock-off baby Uggs $20 can buy at Target and rarely treat Lucy's feet to shoes from places such as Stride Rite unless they're on sale. So when it came time to purchase a pair of shoes for Lucy's first season of school, I was delighted when my mother-in-law handed me a $50 bill and told me to buy Lucy a good pair of "school shoes". Since her teacher made it quite clear that gym shoes were the required shoe for school, as they would be running and jumping on both the indoor and outdoor playgrounds all year, I set out to find something durable, comfortable and cute.
Not the easiest task, as it turns out. To begin with, the idea of having a 3-year-old sit still in store after store while half-annoyed clerks shove shoes on and off her feet, poking her toes to find where they end, is just plain ludicrous. Not to bad-mouth Stride Rite or anything (but I guess if I have to give you an honest account, I must)-- let's just say I was not impressed with the one we went to. The store clerk could not have been more grumpy, barking mumbled orders at Lucy like she was a dog in training "stand up! sit down! step!". I couldn't even understand half of what she said because she mumbled so much. At one point I am almost positive I heard her say, "Don't buy shoes here", but maybe that was just me reading too much into her body language (back turned toward me). After measuring Lucy's feet, she brought out TWO whole choices-- yes two. I asked if she was sure there were really only two different styles available in size 8 and a half girls, and despite it being a pretty common shoe size, there really were only two options-- both plain and boring. If I was going to be spending someone else's money to get a decent pair of shoes, I definitely wanted them to be cute.
After leaving Stride Rite and the mall scene altogether, we found a really cute place, "Gotskind's Children Shoes", near where I live in downtown Naperville. We were greeted by something surprising-- a friendly, smiling shoe salesman. From the beginning, he made it fun for Lucy, joking around and complimenting her princess shirt (yes, 3-year-olds eat up compliments too). He was also very quick, measuring her feet and bringing out 6 different choices in a matter of minutes (Lucy didn't even have time to start begging me to leave yet-- phew!). I knew this was definitely "the place" we were going to buy shoes. Lucy's taste is currently such that we were able to quickly rule out the pairs she didn't like-- basically anything that wasn't pink, sparkly or shiny.
There was one particular pair of shoes that the gentleman helping us brought out that he mentioned was usually a hit with the kids, but he made sure to open the box at an angle that only I could see before showing Lucy so that I could give him the "nod" that it was okay to show her since, as he explained, once little girls see this pair, they usually want them. Glancing at them, they looked pretty fancy for a gym shoe, but I figured they were worth a shot. They had a comfortable, gym-shoe-type sole and were a mary-jane style on top with silver glitter and different-colored gemstones scattered over the shoe. Lucy's eyes widened; she was in love. The salesman explained that the stones would stay in place and would not fall off but that the glitter would wear a bit over time. I immediately had visions of silver sparkles shedding everywhere and a note from Lucy's teacher requesting she not wear the shoes because they had littered her classroom with glitter. In hindsight, the glitter wearing probably meant that a few sparkles here and there would fall off, but at the time all I could envision were millions of sparkles and a vacuum cleaner that I didn't feel like pushing. So, despite the shoes falling within my $50 budget, at a perfect price of $48, and despite the fact that my daughter who hated shoe shopping and had earlier told me she didn't want new shoes, was now madly in love with them, I shook my head no. The salesman was a quick-thinker and pretended that he didn't have Lucy's correct size in the shoe, whisking the sparkly shoes away in an instant, which helped keep Lucy's disappointment to a minimum. He showed us a Geox Respira (a European brand, I believe) pair of pink, white, and silver velcro shoes-- a more traditional-type gym shoe but with a shiny, pearly-white material on the top and sides plus a few small strips of sparkles that gave them a sleek look. They were $68, but since Lucy was okay with them and the other comparable pairs he brought out weren't any less, I decided to cough up the extra $18 beyond my mother-in-law's gift and buy the shoes. I could tell Lucy was not in love with these shoes but she liked them well enough, and since she was able to pick out several stickers at the cash register, she was a happy camper. But as we walked outside, and I looked down at her little marching feet, already sporting her new pink and white sleek shoes, I was hit by that feeling. You know, that sinking feeling that creeps in and says, "you should have done this or that". Yet she was already walking on dirty pavement with the new shoes-- too late now.
Of course, Lucy is just fine. She probably will not even remember this shoe-buying experience at all, yet for me, these silly guilty thoughts keep creeping their way into my head at odd hours of the day. We'll be sitting watching cartoons, for example, and I'll look down at her feet and think, "What other time in her life will she be able to get away with wearing super-fancy gym shoes with sparkles all day?" and "Why couldn't you have just let her pick out the pair she liked?" and "What kind of precedent are you setting for the future, already controlling what shoes she wears?" Yes, I do realize the ridiculous nature of these thoughts, but I still can't help but think I crushed her little feelings in some way. So I'll do it differently next time, right? Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll make the same dumb decision about some other small matter in my child's life. I guess that's part of being a mom; we make a million little decisions that affect our children every single day-- what they will eat, drink, wear, do, watch, etc. And we just hope that all these small decisions will add up to a healthy, happy kid. And I guess for me, I kind of like to think that if I happen to mess up on some of the small decisions, perhaps I have a better chance of getting things right when it comes to the big decisions, which I don't even want to start listing right now since all those future big decisions would just send my thoughts reeling. For now, while she's 3, I'll stick to thinking about all the small decisions that today holds.