Today I was busted by a complete stranger. I was rude to my kid. Insulting, really, and I feel really bad about it.
She gave my daughter a nice compliment, and then I insulted both of them by making an excuse for it, virtually erasing it. Rude.
It's all about the shoes. First, there is a backstory to these shoes. This is my daughter's favorite pair of shoes. I hate them. We were doing a photo shoot for fall clothes, and I went out into the world (Natomas, really, since I had only 15 min to find all of the shoes we'd need for a dozen high-end fall outfits) to find shoes. I hit 5 stores, and nothing. I had something in mind, but couldn't find anything like it. And here's the thing: Payless, Marshall's, The Children's Place, Wal-Mart, Target, Ross and Kohl's aren't exactly great places to find high-end, interesting shoes. But I only had 15 minutes. I scooped up a couple pair, thinking I'd go ahead and just return them if they don't work - but I knew they wouldn't. After walking out of the Payless, Wal-Mart was staring me in the face. It was just right there.
Now, I usually don't shop at WalMart. Just on principle. Not because it's cheap, but because it's CHEAP. Because WalMart doesn't give a crap and all that stuff. Sometimes I think that, hey, they really are doing good things for the environment sometimes, and they really do have the power to make everything they do more green. Big stores and big trucks are more energy efficient than small ones. They are a big enough company that they can really have influence on the environment and society. If they choose, it can be a better influence. But they don't, and you've probably already heard enough horror stories. WalMart is what's wrong with the world. So any time I've even gone there, much less purchased something there, there's a whole inner dialogue that goes on, complete with shame and everything.
BUT, here's this WalMart. They have shoes. I have looked virtually everywhere else, and Ross is going to be a crap-shoot anyway. Wal-Mart is not going to have what I need. I know they aren't. They never do. I walk in.
Right to the shoe section, eyes forward, no browsing. I've got 15 minutes. Well, 4.3 minutes now.
And there they are. The fateful shoes. They are the right style. They are the right color. They are fully stocked, and come in her size. They are $8.99. They are cheap as hell. They are hanging on a plastic holder thingy, more like slippers than real shoes. Thin, rubbery soles, no structure, no heel stitching, flat toes. Slippers. They are the right style. They are the right color. They are $8.99. And they are right there. I buy the damn shoes.
I walk out of there feeling terrible and spend the next 2.5 minutes trying to find better ones (better?) at Marshall's on my way back. Nothing.
I get there and explain how I hate the cheap-ass shoes to my photographer. They are cheap. I make excuses. More like slippers, really, I say. They are cute. They are perfect. "I think they will go," she says. They go. They go with everything. They are going to ruin her feet, I say, taking heart that she will wear them for only 30 minutes, maybe only 10, and then we can donate them or something. Keep them for photo emergencies.
Do you know that she wore those shoes with most of the outfits? Those damn shoes are in a magazine. Those cheap-ass shoes were perfect.
And they are her favorite shoes.
She wears them with everything. She wears them around the house, in the garden, to school. With and especially without socks. They might even be making her feet the sweatiest of any shoes she has ever had. And you know what? Even after gardening in them, they still looked good enough for another photo shoot this season. Those damn shoes will not die. $8.99 for the perfect shoes. I hate those damn cheap-ass shoes.
Cut to today.
Yesterday I told the kids we could go to Starbuck's so they could buy themselves breakfast with their gift cards they got for Christmas. Oh Joy! A field trip to Starbucks!! Hot Chocolate here we come!! I shout across the house, "Hey Sonja, you wanna wear some jeans today? A dress, a skirt?" That's our daily conversation. Getting dressed in the morning is fun when you are 5 and everything fits and your mom is in the boutique industry.
My husband points out, "oh, she's already ready." I hear a smirk in his voice.
She bounds in in the cutest little puffy, fluffy dress, with matching bolero and leggings and holding the matching hair pouf. "Will you do my hair, mommy?"
"Sure," I say. And I look at her shoes. I suggest black shoes. She likes these. I explain that the red shoes don't really go with the magenta dress. In fact, I point out, they clash horribly.
"I don't care" she says. These are her favorite shoes. After a few minutes of trying to disuade her from the red shoes and trying to talk her into a pair of beautiful, Italian made Primigis, in tasteful black, I give up and decide she can wear them. I never wanted to be the kind of mom that dressed my kids. She is 5. She can pick out her own outfits. I want her to be happy, independent.
It's just that, well, they clash. I've provided her with the very best of everything. She's wearing a $125 outfit and $8.99 shoes. From last year. From the Evil Empire. She has a closet full of Italian shoes. She doesn't care. She likes what she likes. Same with the clothes. She'll pick what she wants, she doesn't care how much it costs or if it matches. She wears what's comfortable and what she likes. Do not take that to mean that she likes plain, simple cotton clothes and I'm overdressing her. Oh, no. She likes the fancy, expensive stuff. She doesn't want it to be plain. It must have ruffles, rhinestones, embroidery. It must have "something on it." But she likes what she likes, quality be damned.
So she adds some beads (!) and grabs her purse. I add a jacket that more-or-less matches and a hat & gloves that don't, but they were a birthday gift and we must wear them before it's warm again. Besides, it's cold out there. Even more than making sure your kid looks good, a mother's job is to make sure they are warm. These things are warm.
We go to Starbucks.
A very stylish woman notices Sonja and compliments her on her outfit. She's smiling, Sonja is smiling, I am smiling.
And then I get foot-in-mouth disease.
I explain that it's a great outfit, thanks so much, but too bad the shoes don't match. It's not my fault, I'm explaining, I suggested black ones, but you just can't change their minds, can you?
A moment later, she says to me quietly, to the side, "Well, I think she looks great. Red goes with everything."
"You're right," I say, "and it does go with everything." They are cranberry, really, a beautiful color, and red really does go with everything.
After we leave, I start to thinking. Wait a second. That lady was giving my daughter a very nice compliment, and I basically tried to excuse it all away - to erase it - by pointing out how imperfect her outfit was. Who cares? She looked great anyway. Sheesh, I don't get the kind of compliments she does, and I match. Well, usually. Am I such a well-dressed woman that I can criticize a 5 year old for her choices? This is exactly what I don't want to be. The truth is that those shoes embarrass me. I hate them. They are cheap and poor quality, even if they are kindof cute. It's like I didn't want this lady to think that I would have the poor taste to pick out that outfit with those shoes. ?? I'm sure it wouldn't even occur to someone to blame me for my daughter's appearance. What was I thinking? I realized that I have done this exact thing at least one other time.
After that, I realized that that's what the lady was trying to tell me. I am horribly embarrassed. Why would I want to write about it and tell the whole world how lame I am?
Because I think it might be something that people do, in small ways, in other ways, sometimes. And because I don't want to be that kind of mom, and I don't want other people to be that kind of mom.
I had a friend in college who asked me once, drunk in a bar, "Am I embarrassing you?"
I simply answered, "You cannot embarrass me, you can only embarrass yourself." I have thought often on this simple wisdom and wondered how I ever got so smart that I thought of this all by myself, and off the cuff at that.
This is a similar situation. Sonja wasn't embarrassed that her shoes didn't match her dress. She likes them. She didn't care. Why should I be embarrassed for her? And now I'm left being embarrassed for my self and my poor behavior.
My daughter got two more compliments after that. Once, I said to her, "what do you say?" When I realized she wasn't going to thank the lady without prompting. Also WRONG. Even though I try to teach my kids good manners, I think it would have been better to whisper it to her, instead of saying it in earshot of the compliment-giver. I want them to know that I'm teaching my kids good manners. Again, it's all about me, not about the kid. Again, I was wrong.
The third compliment, the lady asked if she was dressed up for some special occasion. I said, "No, that's how she dresses. She's a fluffy girl!" I'm proud of my fluffy girl, and I like it that she has her own style and it's different from mine. But again, maybe I could have given her more of a chance to answer for herself. She gets shy and hides behind me, but surely other people can see that. Perhaps I could just let it go? No response? Why must I put words and explanations in her mouth? Maybe going to Starbuck's WAS special occasion to her.
So I promise to stop measuring my children by my standards and let them create their own. I will do my best to keep my mouth closed and let them direct their own interactions.
My daughter is beautiful, graceful and polite. She often compliments strangers on their appearance, their words or their manner all by herself and just because she noticed something about them. She is thoughtful, caring and sweet. And even if she clashes, you gotta admit, she does have style. :)
And I love her just as she is. The infamous shoes
Too big dress & clashing shoes
The infamous shoes, pictured with at least 3 outfits from C.C. Clothing's Fall 08 collection, including this dress which appeared in an article in Baby Couture Magazine.
All material on this site (c) Sunshine Gladish-Cowgill except where otherwise noted.
The Cinderella (also known as Maid with Movie Magazine) in my title is by Norman Rockwell from The Saturday Evening Post. I think it particularly captures a moment in domestic life, especially for a young woman.