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Walk a mile in her non-Crocs

By on July 4, 2008

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?


  1. Ann

    7/17/2008 at 3:53 pm

    Thats a good story about your daughter and the shoes. I have not yet had mine question the brand of something. When she does I hope I don’t make a bigger deal out of it then it really is.

    I too doing what frugality confused with cheap. Cheap is an ugly word .

  2. Sara Noel

    7/17/2008 at 4:40 pm

    She wasn’t questioning the brand. I assumed she was. She just wanted to know what her shoes were. To her ALL shoes similar to Crocs are Crocs. So if they’re not Crocs, what are they is what she wanted to know. That type of shoe has become a common word like Kleenex.
    I assumed she was disappointed they weren’t the brand and I felt I needed to reaffirm our values about that type of thing. And she was like umm mommy OK they’re shoes that look like Crocs and not all shoes like this are Crocs. That’s all she needed to know.

  3. Romy

    7/22/2009 at 7:46 pm

    Hi Sara
    I am a loyal reader. I read your post everyday in the Jewish World News…in fact sometimes on a busy day, yours is the only column I can get to. Anyway, you always inspire and have great ideas. This column on the crocs really hit home. I live in a ridiculously affluent area. We live on the outskirts of it and by some miracle my kids go to the highest rated school district in the state. We are surrounded by million dollar plus homes and we live in a modest colonial. Some of the kids at my kids school families have their own plane and I try never to miss a buy one get one free special especially if I have a coupon. You can guess where this is going. I am in a constant struggle over whether to buy the crocs…and of course my kids could care less. Just happy to know I am not alone…and bracing for the day when my kids care as much as I do.

    Take care and keep up the great work.

  4. lorri

    9/3/2009 at 8:54 am

    hi sara,

    New to this site. Fun! My Daughter is 14 and not a clothes snob. She goes to a private school the only difference is that her school there are children from all socioeconomic levels. My friend went to her church’s clothes swap and brought home a pair of sneakers for my daughter. They were plain black. I made the offer to buy her new sneakers if she didn’t like them. She said they were fine. I thought she was being polite. I offered again. She got defensive and said all she wanted was a siler sharpie marker. Okay??? She decorated her shoes with band logos and lyrics. Her friends thought they were cool. go figure!

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