More on the Independent Kid

I took Javi shopping for new shoes last weekend. Yes, at the mall. How suburban am I? (Don’t get me started, ugh.) Our mall has a great play area and a Stride Rite store conveniently located nearby, and because I suspected he’d grown out of his shoes (he was refusing to put them on), I needed him to be measured.

While there, we perused the options for little kids. I was surprised to note that most required pretty deft skills to put on – on the adults’ part, much less the kids’. Double Velcro straps I can handle, but elastic is hard to stretch over a little dude’s fat, round feet and many of the foot openings were too small or contoured to be able to slide the shoes on without me pulling or him stepping down into them.

After explaining that I needed shoes my 18-month old could put on by himself for school, the friendly shoe dude gave me an “Is she crazy?” look, then called in reinforcements, all of whom gave me the same look. One older woman clucked at me while telling me how sorry she was that he had such strict school rules!

I tried to explain that I was very happy with this requirement. “He CAN put on his own shoes as long as the openings are big enough and the clasps don’t require too much dexterity! Look!” And he put on a shoe, but still, they were somehow sad for him that he would have to put on his own shoes. “Next thing you know, he won’t need you at all!” said the older woman. Well, yes, until he needs something from the top shelf in the fridge, I replied. (I couldn’t help needling her a little bit.)

I’ve encountered worry and concern and amazement at the independence and access we offer our son, but never, until then, pity and sadness! We continued to do our thing, though, and walked out with some really adorable shoes that he loved so much he had to wear them out of the store, shoes with a wide, single Velcro flap and sides that open all the way out so he can put his foot in and then wrap the wings and Velcro over them, shoes he can put on himself (with a bit of help) and then clap in pride while saying, “Ice!” (I did it myself!”)

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He handed the clerk my credit card, waited while she ran it, took it back and put it in my wallet again, then waited for the receipt, which he also put in my wallet. I offered him the option to walk or ride (he chose ride then asked to carry his shoe bag, so he did). Off we went! They stared. I waved. He blew a kiss and they smiled.

None of this is to imply that my way is the right way, at all. My way works for us, with our kid, with us as parents, today. So many variables determine how you parent your kid, many of which change as you go, so who am I to tell you how to raise your kid? We make different choices and that’s okay. In fact, it’s necessary! How scary would it be if we all had to raise our families the same way?

But I’m still surprised when what seems pretty normal to me is so weird in public. I remember being a little freaked out by the idea of a floor bed (what about bugs? – well, bugs crawling around is a no-no whether my kid is on the floor sleeping or playing, right?) and giving a little kid direct access to the bathroom (both of which we do now), but I honestly never considered a little dude being taught/ allowed to put on his own shoes weird.

I guess I like weird. And I’m grateful to other mamas (linked above) who shared their weirdness so that I could come around to ideas I hadn’t considered before. This is my pay-it-forward.

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