Our mission was tri-fold: (1) Gym Shoes for the running she loves to do, (2) a Tankini Swimsuit to bridge the gap between parent and tween desires for a full-body scuba suit and a string bikini, and (3) Summer Attire. We found comfortable shorts and bright, colorful tank tops with ease. Even the tankini selection was nearly painless.
Then we landed in the shoe aisle.
We’ve been up and down countless shoe aisles in the years since she learned to speak, and it has never ever ever been easy. But I was prepared to hold my tongue. I had my phone. I could distract myself for hours. I was here for the long haul. Because I knew. I know. And sure enough, here it came, the unstoppable commentary.
She likes laces, doesn’t like laces, wants black, then blue, not pink, maybe green. These are dumb and those are boyish and these are high in the heel — they cut into the back of her ankle when she walks. These are high tops. Those squish her feet.
“What about these?” I slipped. I spoke. Oops.
“No,” she said, simply.
There is never a pattern I can discern. There’s no brand that’s better than another, no singular color or style she’s searching for. Her shoe goals are elusive. Every time, it is a solo journey, a kind of Shoe Quest.
Those are what so-and-so wears and these are too babyish and those there are just – not – going to work.
After twenty minutes, or maybe an entire day — I don’t know; I was on Facebook — I told her we could shop again for shoes in three weeks if she didn’t find something now. It was our third store. Today was not the day. I was done. She was tired. And she hadn’t tried on a single pair.
She looked at me, really looked at me, running her hands along the soft fabric of the shorts she had tried on hours and hours and hours ago. Then she chose (in one minute flat) three styles of shoe and we found them all on the shelves. Miraculously. After we laced them up, she jumped and stomped and walked around the store and then, wrinkling her cute little nose, she said to me, “Mommy, they don’t fit right.” My heart dropped to the floor. I tried to remain upbeat. There were no more options.
“What do you mean? Where do they not fit?” I pushed on her toes, and squeezed the sides of her shoe against the balls of her feet. What had I missed?
“They don’t fit like my old ones.”
Ohhhhhhh. That. Right.
I softened my impatience – or tried – with my reply. “Nothing will fit like your old ones, Honey. It takes time for new shoes to form themselves to your feet. They always start off a little stiff. But look how the heel and the top, and the whole shape of the shoe is so much like your old pair. I think you’ll really like these. What do you think?”
For the first time in an hour, she smiled. My little girl just wanted the familiar, the soft, the well-worn, the perfect fit. Who doesn’t?
She stood up again and walked some more with her head tilted to the side. “Can you not throw my others away?”
“We can keep them for a little while.”
“Okay,” she said, finally. “These are good.”
* * * * *
After she had worn them for a full day, I asked, “How do they feel?”
Her eyes lit up. “Great. They fit me, Mommy!”
“They’re the right size?”
“No. Well, yes, but no – they FIT me.”
“They FIT you. I’m glad, Honey. I’m so glad.”
And I was, and I knew: Now, we could let the old ones go.
Now, we could let the old ones go.