The boys needed new shoes. So a few weeks ago we were up to our ears in the shelves at Nordstrom Rack searching for kicks.
Baby Woww chose Tonka Truck shoes. K-Pants had eyes only for the princess rock-star Sketchers.
They were the pinkest, sparkliest, most bejeweled shoes in the store. I think I’ve captured their glory sufficiently in the picture. What you can’t see are the lights that blare out of their rhinestone-packed toes when you step—definitely the same lights used at Katy Perry’s Superbowl show.
I was surprised about these shoes.
We let the kids pick their own clothes, and K-Pants pretty much wears sports clothes every day, finished off by a pair of cleats. He wears cleats to the library, to kindergarten, to church.
As we looked for additional shoe options to try, K-Pants became more and more fixated on the Twinkle Toes, and I noticed myself feeling uneasy.
“What do you like about these shoes, buddy?”
“They’re really bright! And I love pink! And Caran has these shoes!”
I paused, What will the other kids think? He’s in kindergarten. Kids are going to say, ‘Those are girrrrl shoes!’”
Fluorescent department store lights don’t make you feel great in a bathing suit: They also don’t leave you a place to hide with your thoughts.
I don’t want the bullying to start now. Will my husband be okay with this? What about our family?
I blamed my reticence on our culture: I only want to protect him from feeling like an outsider so early. People don’t need to judge him now.
My unease mounted, but it started to shift from the shoes to myself. Here I am, letting culture protect me from cowardice. I’m surprised about when and where the rubber meets the road in terms of following my morals as a parent. I often imagine big discussions and decisions, but it turns out it’s in the small stuff where most of our map is drawn.
I shifted from imagining K-Pants’s first day wearing the Twinkle Toes shoes at kindergarten to our dinner table fifteen or twenty years from now.
“Remember when you bought me those pink light-up shoes, Mom?”
“Those things were blinding. You loved them.”
“Yeah, thanks for buying those crazy shoes.”
Even in my fluorescent-bulb-induced daydreaming I realized that there’s little chance of K-Pants specifically affirming my parenting choices, but I’d rather him have the chance, than to be able to look back and say, “It’s too bad you told me kids would make fun of me for wearing girl shoes when I was little.”
So the decision was made.
Plus, I realized I would encourage the Fairy Pig to choose Tonka Truck shoes when she’s older if she wants, so I should encourage K-Pants to stick with what he likes, too.
K-Pants wore the Twinkle Toes to church the next day. He received jovial surprise and admiration. The shoes are so bright that they demand attention, and it was overwhelmingly positive.
Then he wore them to kindergarten. On the way in a friend said, “Why are you wearing girl shoes?” K-Pants didn’t really know what to say, so I spoke up, “We really like pink at our house.” His friend’s mom backed me up, “That’s awesome!”
K-Pants has gotten one or two comments that have bothered him, but without the pink shoes, we wouldn’t have reason to talk about if there are really “girl” or “boy” things, and how it makes you feel when people single you out. Plus, he makes people smile a lot more that I would have imagined.