Walk a mile in her non-Crocs
photo by lrargerich
Last week, my daughter needed new summer shoes. Sometimes I’ll buy name brands, and other times, I won’t. I care about how they fit, and whether they’re reasonably priced and of high quality, and I allow for a small amount of input from her because she has to wear them. We went to the store, and she picked shoes she wanted within two minutes. Zoom. She’s a girl who knows exactly what she wants. She picked a pair of comfortable shoes. They had a bit of princess flair in the form of faux jewels. They weren’t expensive, and I didn’t check them for a brand name. Can you see where this is going? I paid for them, and that was that. She was happy with her new shoes and wore them home. I thought she might even go to sleep with them.
The following day, she came to me and wanted to know whether her shoes were Crocs. She told me the girls in school told her they weren’t Crocs. My daughter is 5 years old. They look like Crocs, but they aren’t. I asked her whether she liked them. She does. I asked her whether they were comfortable. They are. But she seemed bothered that her peers pointed out the difference. I stress the importance of being your own person to all of my kids. We’ve had the whole monkey-see, monkey-do and “lemmings” talk. (Yes, I know, it’s a myth.) I won’t cater to their every whim, but my kids know that I’m not so strict with frugality that I’d cause them embarrassment. But shoes for a 5-year-old and the whole social hierarchy? I wasn’t ready for this so soon.
A part of me felt bad. I had the money for name-brand shoes. I almost apologized. I wanted to lie and make her question go away without her feeling hurt. But disappointment is a part of life, and this was an opportunity for me to enforce our values. I told her they weren’t. I was racking my brain for an Aesop’s fable and was coming up empty-handed. I asked her whether she thought it mattered. She said, “No.” I told her the next time someone commented to simply say that she liked them.
I’ll bend to a point for her to fit in. I want her to be liked. I don’t want her to be picked on. But I also want her to stand up for herself and for others. I also know my daughter has to find her own place and sense of belonging. In the end, her identity is her own journey. I told her I understood school was tough sometimes, and that classmates can make you feel like an outsider. I reminded her that not everyone is the same, and that I was a square peg in school. I told her that I sometimes don’t fit in and feel uncomfortable in groups. I assured her that I’d arrange some play dates over the summer. I talked about choosing friends, and doing things for herself and not because of others, and that you can’t please everyone.
After I went on with my message and empathy, I asked her if she was OK. She said, “Mommy, can I go now? I only wanted to know if they were Crocs.” Then she walked away to play. I had a moment of clarity. I’m the one who worries about frugality because I never want it to be viewed as being cheap.
Later that night, as I was falling asleep, I remembered the fable. Can you guess which fable it is?