Girls and Their Shoes

I’m the kind of parent that lets my kids dye their hair blue, watch R-rated movies, and walk to the library by themselves. Sometimes I think I’m just naturally a liberal parent and sometimes I think I’ve needed to become one because the children have signaled that’s what they need. Okay truth: Eleanor has signaled that’s what she needs. Magnolia will adapt a little better.

I live in a small town, so the kids have walked to school for K – 2. When Eleanor was in second grade, and I was student teaching at the local high school, we had a very snowy day. But not enough to cancel school. Just enough to make shoveling the driveway an occasion to curse the Hell out of it. I saw Eleanor about a block away, getting ready to cross the street (with the crossing guard, don’t worry) but, she turned back. I knew what had happened before she got to me. She’d forgotten her gym shoes. It was something like the fourth time in a row. I was right.

I decided that I needed to try correcting this behavior in a different manner. Reminding her wasn’t working. And I hate shoveling snow; I’m unreasonable that way, so I may have been doubly angry (Sorry, Eleanor). “Go to school without your shoes,” I said.

She was upset. She refused. I persisted. I won. I’m the parent. I watched her mope all the way back to school. She was going to be late, on top of being unprepared. It sucked. I felt awful for her. In the land of parenting Eleanor, though, this was a HUGE victory. Twenty minutes later, I finished shoveling the snow. I was now freezing in some regions of my body and sweaty in others. As I pulled out of the  driveway, I saw Eleanor walking back home. What the Hell?

“I need my shoes.”

“You walked out of school? We talked about this. You have to stay in school all day.” This was the second time she’d done this. The first time was her first day of school when we’d first moved here (Second semester of Kindergarten.) She’d gone to the wrong playground for recess with a class that wasn’t hers. When they all went in with their teacher and she realized she was alone, she walked home. Luckily I was there. That was out of confusion. This shoe thing was different.

“I need them.” she insisted.

“No.” I put her in the car and drove her to school without her shoes. “You know I go to work today. What if I weren’t home?”

“I was going to get them and go back!”

“Don’t talk to me like that.” I was so confused. I was pretty sure other second-graders didn’t walk home from school to get their shoes. Why did mine feel so free?

“Why can’t I get my shoes?”

“I want you to live with what happens when you don’t have them.”

I went to work. I dealt with high school freshman. It seemed easier. I started wondering, why DID I need her to go without her shoes? Were the consequences going to teach her to conform to school rules? Or improve her memory? If I set aside the weirdness of her walking home for them (Kind of a genius move, really), I wasn’t sure what I was teaching her. Was she being the stubborn one, or was I?

The next week on gym day, she forgot again.

My solution: a pair of shoes that stayed at school. To Hell with trying to make her follow the normal patterns. Sometimes you gotta work around what’s normal.

Published by jody sparks

Jody Sparks Mugele spent her first career in marketing writing and leading teams of writers and editors. After her son came out as transgender in 2015, she dedicated herself to advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. For two years, she led the Indianapolis regional chapter of PFLAG, a nationally renowned LGBTQ+ advocacy group. She has given many conference talks about parenting trans kids, healthcare in the trans community, and suicidality among LGBTQ+ youth. And with GenderNexus, an Indianapolis-based advocacy organization, she created programming and led support groups to work with parents to help their children through all aspects of gender transition. She recently moved to Northeast Georgia where she is excited to develop opportunities to continue to strongly and proudly advocate for LGBTQ+ members of our society. She also LOVES kitschy Christmas crafting!

8 thoughts on “Girls and Their Shoes

  1. And here I thought we were going to get the rolling-all-the-way-home-with-one-boot story. No matter — I love that girl! We’re getting one of those snowy days down here today. Much to the dismay of my son, school started right on time 🙂

  2. I HAVE THIS CHILD. He is my youngest, and at 14 it sometimes seems that NOTHING that worked with the older two works with him!! I had such great tried-and-true methods for everything, and he blew them to hell!

    If confronted with Eleanor’s shoe problem, he would do the exact thing, and make these exact arguments… and in the process he would cause me to question what, exactly, I was trying to teach him (because I would have done the same thing you did) and whether or not is was me who needed the lesson (don’t anyone tell him, but it’s more often than I’d like).

    Here’s to compromise! (Even when it’s compromise of previously held and worked-like-a-charm-before parental convictions. Sigh.)

    1. Stovall, that going on my top ten list of best compliments!

      Tammara, sometimes I think I had Magnolia just to make sure I was right in thinking that Eleanor was as challenging as I thought she was.

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