Tag Archives: pink shoes

Seven, OR I’m Tired of Trying to Positively Discipline My Way Out of Every Situation

K-Pants Turns 7. MomsicleBlog

K-Pants turned seven last week. He still loves pink, but he doesn’t wear his pink shoes to school. I was chatting with him before his birthday, and he told me that you don’t get teased before you start school or in college, “but the middle years are the teasing years.”

He’s smart and intuitive and thinks deeply about a lot of challenging things.

K-Pants is 7. MomsicleBlog

Parenting him is getting harder. I expect to say that every year on his birthday.

We fight every day. “You’re the meanest,” he says. And I counter, “It’s not my job to be nice. It’s my job to teach you to be independent and kind.”

The irony of teaching him to be kind while being the meanest person he knows does not escape me. But in his world, he would eat unlimited Twix bars and never sleep. And he would make sure everything about his life was better than his brother’s. So tough sh*t, dude.

It’s liberating to live into the title of Meanest Mom. I’m tired of trying to positive discipline and collaboratively problem-solve my way out of every situation. I have the love and the logic. But I can’t stay calm in the face of his rages and my exhaustion.

Last week we escaped to the Columbia River Gorge–the kids and me and my grandma (but remember, you don’t know she exists or gets in our car). At the beginning of our trip, we headed to Lyle, Washington. It has a rugged and stunning outcropping of rocks just above the Columbia River. I knew this spot would etch a hard line into K-Pants’s soul. When he’s in nature he sings and dances.

Lyle, Washington. MomsicleBlog

He had to use the bathroom when we got there, and there was no port-o-potty, which would have been a stretch for him anyhow because he likes to sit in a nice bathroom and take his time. So I taught him how to go outside.

He hated it. Then he was hot, and he didn’t want to pull his pants up. Or drink water. Or go to the river. When the rest of us started down the path, he dug in his heels.

We were there for him, and he preferred to stand next to the scorching hot car with his pants down. His brain was shutting down and he couldn’t access any executive functions. I should have kneeled down to his level and empathized.

But I was done.

It takes a lot of planning to take a seven-year-old, a four-year-old, and a baby on a magical outdoor adventure. After hours getting there, I didn’t have it in me to keep it together and empathize with him.

“Too bad: We’re going,” I said. “You can’t LEAVE ME!” he said. “YES, I CAN.”

I couldn’t see him down by the river, and I didn’t really look back. It was enough to deal with a whining four-year-old and a fussy baby, and to try to allow my eyes to take in the beauty around us rather than letting my anger at K-Pants ruin everything. But then he popped up on a hill nearby.

K-Pants at Lyle. MomsicleBlog

I left Boy Woww with my grandma (remember, she wasn’t there, but also God bless her), and I set off, with the baby in the carrier, to trail K-Pants. He would bob down into a small ravine, and then pop up again. I had to be careful not to be caught following, or he would add space. He knew that if I got too close he would lose his freedom–I would lunge him like a spirited horse, making him buck and run until he had nothing left and I could put a saddle on and guide him where I wanted him to go.

Finally, after he sat down looking out toward the river, he let me get within scratching distance.

K-Pants Meditating at Lyle. MomsicleBlog

“Do you know what I’m doing, Mama?” he said. “I’m meditating.”

***

On our way back home to Portland, we stopped at my sister’s tiny cabin near Mt. Hood. Our collective chaos can inflate one of those winter bubbles they put over tennis courts or pools, so shoving us into a tiny cabin with a steep staircase up to a miniscule loft with no railing—it felt like we were precariously everywhere and about to crash it all down.

My sister’s boyfriend is one of three boys.

“Did your mom survive raising you?” I asked him as I shoved people back into the car at the end of our visit. “And do you speak to her?”

“We have a great relationship–and she used to say to us, You’re sucking the life out of me!

***

So K-Pants is seven. As we head toward the summer and the shock of new routines, I’m feeling free. I’m going to lure my wild horse down to the river with all my meanest mom tricks. When he gets older, we’ll see if he’s independent and kind, but my goal right now is just that I survive it all.

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The Pink Shoes Stand Alone, At Home

Earlier this year I wrote about how I struggled to let K-Pants—then five—pick pink, bedazzled light-up shoes.

Pink Shoes. MomsicleBlog

I was worried about the world making fun of him for wearing girl shoes, but we decided that was not a good reason to say no. And those pink shoes have been worn everywhere.

K-Pants Six, Voodoo Doughnuts. MomsicleBlog

Pink Shoes on the Road. MomsicleBlog

The pink shoes post inspired my good friend Kelly to let her preschool son pick out a My Little Ponies sweatshirt he craved. This picture is of him and his sister blissed out with their new shirts.

MyLittlePonies. MomsicleBlog. Photo Credit: Kelly

I was so proud to see this—to know that we can walk these paths together.

But this past weekend I found myself back in the shoe aisle with K-Pants, looking for a pair of bright sparkly shoes that weren’t girl shoes. It only took one day at his new, big elementary school for K-Pants to be made fun of. I was heartbroken.

I watched him get on the bus for school wearing the most awesome rock-star shoes, and I picked him up embarrassed, having been pointed at by other kids, telling me he didn’t want to wear the pink shoes again. He wanted “bright, light-up shoes that they would think were boy shoes.” But he still wanted them to be pink. I was crushed. These shoes don’t exist.

I wanted to report back to Kelly that K-Pants was paving the way. That making the decision to wear the thing that’s not normal emboldened and armored him, and that her son, too, would be fine. I wanted K-Pants to say to those kids, “I’m a boy and I can wear pink shoes because I love pink things. And shiny things. And if mostly girls like pink things that’s fine, but I can like them, too. And I love football and baseball and Iron Man, and girls can like those things, too.” And then I wanted him to keep wearing his pink shoes, and to have tons of friends, and be the champion of all the other kids who don’t fit the mold.

I didn’t want him to give in.

I didn’t want to buy new shoes just so he could fit with everyone who teased him. They won, I thought. They’re shaming him and he’s changing who he is.

We talked to the teacher and kids at Boy Woww’s Montessori school, where they feel like kids can wear anything they want and there are no “girl” and “boy” colors. They have the power to enforce this in their magical, forested bubble.

We talked to our neighbor who taught K-Pants martial arts two summers ago. “Do you like your shoes?” he asked. “Yes,” K-Pants said. “That’s what matters. Now you have to decide if what other people say is important to you.”

We saw the elementary school principal the next day and told her what happened. “You should be able to wear whatever color of sparkly shoes you want!” she said; and she promised to talk to K-Pants’ teacher and the school counselor, who likes to talk to classes about inclusiveness.

We looked at pictures of boys wearing pink shoes that our friend Mana found. I’ve never been so grateful to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for getting athletes to wear pink.

Every day I casually bring up something related to the pink shoes. But they still sit at home.

And so I am reminded: nothing is simple. Allowing your son to choose bedazzled pink shoes does not magically arm him to deal with criticism and feeling singled out. Even the nicest kid might ask, “Are you wearing girl shoes?” They’re not trying to bully. K-Pants would say the same thing about something else to another kid. I thought the hard part was making the initial decision to let him get the pink shoes. But I wasn’t thinking about the bigger context: How do I raise this kid to be resilient and tenacious? How do I teach him to notice and be kind to others in similar situations? It’s an advanced emotional intelligence course, and the kid is six.

I don’t think he’ll ever wear the pink shoes to school again.

My friend Ali had this wonderful message for K-Pants when I asked about the pink shoe problem on the Momsicle Facebook page:

I’m sorry those boys laughed at you on the bus. The bus is hard. Maybe you will want to wear your awesome shoes to church or to the playground with your family. It’s okay to choose different things for certain situations. I’m traveling for work right now and wearing some shoes that I only wear for work things when I have to show a certain side of me. But at other times I choose to let it all out.

And my friend Anne gave me this advice:

He may be strong enough to just shrug and say “Whatever” if he gets teased, or he may decide to have different shoes for different moods. For sure his shoes are a twinkly sparkly announcement that he is his on his way to being his own man. This will not be the last time he will have to decide whether to run with the pack versus howl at the moon.

So the pink shoes may not be the fight he chooses to live and die by.

But he has still worn them to church. And he got off the bus a few days ago and said to me, “I saw a boy with a My Little Ponies backpack in another class.” “Did you tell him it was cool?” I asked. “No. He was older. But it was cool. It was shiny.” K-Pants is evolving, and beginning to put situations like this into a file in his mind. He may not have been paying attention if it weren’t for the pink shoes. If it weren’t for the pink shoes, he may have thought, “Why’s that kid wearing a girl backpack?” So even though the pink shoes are shelved for school, they still have some magic in them.