Before I begin…this is not a post about a child who will not listen. It is not about a child who is troubled…or a child I should ‘cater less’ to. It is a post about love and a very special type of human.
These are my youngest daughter’s shoes. Not a pair of her shoes. These are her shoes. For two years. The only ones she wears. Every day. The only ones that feel right. The ones that she wants.
When she was a baby, she started with soft soled walkers. Then tiny light up Skechers. Then glittery dress shoes for private school. Then Sofia the First shoes for public school. She wore them all down to nubs. Then, in kindergarten, she started asking to wear her water shoes because they were “softer”. I bought these because they were waterproof and washable. She took to them. They were big on her. But she’s grown into them, and they are so worn they have stretched. I’ve provided so many options. So many choices. But these are what she wants. No bending.
We have one dog who has systematically pulled one of each alternate pair out of the cubbies and eaten them. Two different flip flops. One velvet tennis shoe. One water shoe. And two different Keens. Many winter boots. But he will not get these shoes. We have a rabbit who eats rubber if its on the floor. But she will not get these shoes.
My daughter will not wear socks. And I don’t make her. When all this first started, I was beside myself not wanting these ‘quirks’ to become habit. Not wanting her to be so particular. Wanting her to be flexible with her needs. Not wanting her to have these anxieties…not wanting her to be like me.
I have finally grown to not be afraid or embarrassed of saying that I don’t often step out of the box. I eat the same foods, travel the same places and read the same philosophers as I did twenty years ago. I watch the same movies and shows repeatedly. I wear the same clothes from year to year. I have the same hobbies. It is terrifying to embrace anyone new for those pains that will follow. Once I have learned to rely on someone, I do not let them go by choice. I like things a certain way and have quiet opinions on anything you can name. I know me. I suppose I am comfortable now saying that that will have to be good enough. And that perhaps dependability and attachment are not sins aligned with boring or strange.
Why, then, would I steal this simple comfort from my child. Why would I tell her she has to branch out, when even I am afraid to. Why would I tell her she must bend, in a world that is never going to bend for her. How will I teach her not to judge another if I express worry she’ll be judged for her own choices. For these shoes. For anything. Why would I expect her to change. With all that I know.
There will be people who enter our lives who will accept us. Wholeheartedly. And there will be many to pass through who simply do not care to know us. People, to whom, we will be insignificant. But…we are all a sum of every day that’s led us here. There will always be more to learn of someone. More to know. More to understand. More to care for. And that we are just as we are intended to be because of it. I believe that’s exactly the point in existence meeting acceptance. Of self and others.
For now, it is my job to be the one who knows her. The one who provides comfort rather than taking it away. My daughter is creative and loving. She is happy. She has already had to bend so much. She has had to recover from abuses, abandonment and suffered more change at six than most people do in a lifetime. She has had to grow up fast. But there are some things she does not have to change.
She is headed to second grade soon and she will be wearing these on the first day.
We are not fancy. We are survivors. Of many, many things. The shoes stay. And I protect them with my life.