October 02, 2007

Orange

“Would you like to wear red shoes or blue shoes?” I ask my two-year old, dangling the options in front of him.

“Orange!” he chirps with a smile.

“Orange wasn’t a choice. Red or blue?”

“Orange!”

The orange shoes: our family’s participation in the rampant Crocs trend. At some point during the summer, my son’s appreciation of them blossomed into a full-blown crush. No matter the weather, no matter the outfit, they are the only shoes he wants to wear.

On this particular morning, I make the choice for him, lacing on blue sneakers once he is trapped in his car seat. As soon as he comes home from daycare that evening, he makes a beeline to his true love. “Hi, orange shoes!” he coos. He’s thrilled to be reunited.

The next morning he issues a pre-emptive strike. Before I’ve even lifted him from the crib, he makes his wishes known.

“Orange!” he declares. “Shoes,” he carefully adds, making sure to close any possible loophole.

I appeal to the seasons. “Sweetie, the orange shoes are summer shoes. Summer is over. It is too cold to wear the orange shoes. Your feet will be cold.”

He considers that. “Socks,” he says firmly.

It’s not about the weather, of course. Autumn has only just begun, and he is right that socks with sandals (ack!) would keep him plenty warm. It’s about me—me and my vanity. In the summer sunshine the neon orange was cheerful and fun, the perfect finishing note to his brightly colored outfits. But with the sky turning grey and summer colors giving way to the drabness of fall, they’ve become a clear fashion liability. I worry what people will think of me. I want people to see my child in his affordable-yet-charming outfit and think I’m a good mom. A mom with taste and a touch of style. A mom whose child is always appropriately dressed. A mom who has her life (and her child) under control. A mom who doesn’t lose battles over a pair of shoes.

Before I became a parent, I said I would never quench my children’s creativity. I would encourage self-expression; I would never impose my own ideas. I would value them as individuals, not merely extensions of myself. I was also determined that they would always be impeccably dressed. I somehow never saw the obvious conflict headed my way.

I’m learning that becoming the parent I hope to be means not seeing every choice of his as a reflection on me. I want to be able to look at whatever weirdness and uniqueness and creativeness he comes up with in the coming years with an honest smile, saying, “That’s my son.” No matter what the rest of the world thinks. Letting him become whoever he wants to be means I must let go. And thanks to the inherent grace of parenting, I am allowed to start small. Tomorrow it may be going goth or bucking college to find himself. Today it’s just a tiny pair of mismatched orange shoes.

So on this day I tell him, “Of course you can wear the orange shoes.” We head off to the library for story time. It’s a windy, rainy day—coats have been pulled out of closets and sweaters donned. My son’s scuffed sandals get a few curious looks as we enter. I check my resolve.

At the end of the songs and stories, the children crowd around the librarian to have their hands stamped. I lose track of my son, his generic shirt and jeans blending in with all the rest. Then I think to look down. In an instant I find his cheerful orange feet working their way though the jumble of look-alike brown and blue shoes. I watch the orange shoes’ tiny dance of joy when his hand is stamped, see them turn to run back to me and jump into my arms. “That’s my son,” I think with a smile.

Maybe standing out isn’t such a bad thing after all.

*This post is my entry in the Write-Away Contest at Scribbit. The September 2008 theme is "Colors" and this memory seemed like just the right fit.*

16 comments:

Kohana said...

Yesterday we saw a girl at the playground with a cotton dress over a pink tulle tutu over white ruffled bloomers. I just smiled. It's really more fun that way.

http://gettingitoffmymind.blogspot.com said...

what a great story! I know my day is coming soon -- I can only imagine what kind of fashion statments we will be making!!!!

childlife said...

Sometimes you just have to let 'em wear those Superman PJ's to the grocery store and enjoy those days while they last : ) I just LOVE this post! Made me smile, smile, smile!

mama2roo said...

This summer/early fall Woob's true love was the pair of blue and lime green surf shoes I bought for the pool so he wouldn't slip. They're a little too small, they smell funny and they're...well, blue and lime green! But if the boy MUST wear them, I'll let him. they only staythis precious for so long. Thanks for the sweet story.

Mandy said...

My daughter wears her wings and pink cowgirl boots everywhere. I see it as a positive thing and the only kind of reflection it shows on you as a parent is the you are open minded enough to let your child express themselves.

Heather.PNR said...

See, you all have the lighthearted attitude I wanted to have from the beginning. It just took me a little internal prodding to get there. :)

StorkWatcher said...

Just think of them as bright pumpkin or fall leaf orange for a while.....

Our foot style fetish currently are the black and yellow rubber boots I bought Chub Foot to wear to the barn. Apparently, they're also great for running around in the house, playing outside, and walking the dog....

Scribbit said...

This reminds me of seeing what Lillian was wearing yesterday--purple shoes, pink socks, a black and red flowered dress, a lilac shirt topped off with a green dragon scarf. Funny thing is she was kind of pulling it off in style!

Gabrielle said...

That is so darn cute! and what a great reminder to allow our children to be free to make their sometimes "mismatched" choices and for us to be accepting! Thanks for the great story and the sweet reminder! Congrats on your honorable mention.....well deserved!

a Tonggu Momma said...

Very well-written. It helps that I so identify with this post. I gave up about six months ago. I always told myself that I would NOT be the mother escorting her fairy princess/ ballerina/ whatever around the store. After a year of fighting with the Tongginator (our daughter), I realized it just isn't worth it to me. Bring on the Princess tiaras and tulle skirts. Sigh.

All Rileyed Up said...

My children wear the silliest outfits, but it makes them happy, and I figure, there's no way anyone thinks I dressed them like this...

Fawn said...

You may not have gotten the very top place in the Write-Away Contest, but THIS is MY favourite post! Congrats on the honorable mention. Well done! :)

Daisy said...

so cute! My daughter has always enjoyed her rainbow of converse shoes. It just gets more and more fun!

Christine said...

Love it. Smiling at my computer screen right now...

jubilee said...

"It’s about me—me and my vanity. In the summer sunshine the neon orange was cheerful and fun, the perfect finishing note to his brightly colored outfits. But with the sky turning grey and summer colors giving way to the drabness of fall, they’ve become a clear fashion liability." - so funny b/c I can so relate. And you are right: sometimes we have to check and re-check our resolve!

Great post. Love it.

ZenMama said...

What do they tell us - be sure to pick our battles? I remind myself of this A LOT when I'm dealing with my little one and her clothing choices. Last week it was her brother's old Captain Hook Halloween costume over what HAD been a darling Gymboree outfit. What's worse - it was a day we were running errands all over town. I can only imagine what people thought of BOTH of us! Thankfully there are moms like all your commenters who get it. And like Storkwatcher pointed out, orange is just the right color for fall or Halloween! :)

Zen Mama Wannabe

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