I stared at the shoes trying to hide my disapproval. They looked like moon boots. They belonged on an astronaut making his first walk in space not on my little man’s feet.
He searched my face for approval and I just couldn’t give it to him.
I didn’t like the shoes.
I had already tried to show him a couple other pairs that were sleeker, less clunky, more suited to his thin frame but he kept turning back to the big white ones.
He turned the smooth black ones over in his hands and I could see that he was trying hard to like them. I could see the turmoil in his eyes. He wanted to please me but he liked what he liked.
“Why don’t you like them?” he asked, his voice almost pleading for approval.
“I don’t know, I just prefer the other ones” I replied “but I don’t have to wear them you do.” I added.
This was hard. We always agreed on style. We are both shoe lovers. I remember walking through a shoe store one day and both of us simultaneously reached our arms out and pointed at the most beautiful pair of navy blue high-tops.
We always agreed on style.
He loved the shoes.
I hated them.
I hated them so much that I had to walk out of the store for a second.
I stood outside the store, my mind racing, wondering how I could convince him to buy the nice sleek black shoes that suited him perfectly.
As my mind raced, I caught a glimpse of him standing in the store, walking around with the big clunky white shoes on his feet.
He loved the shoes.
I could see it in his eyes. I remembered the fight I had with my own mother some 25 years earlier when my mother refused to leave the house with me as long as I was wearing my purple tights under my cut off jean shorts. I remember loving that outfit so much that I refused to take it off. I remember the stand off and the fight that lasted hours before my mother finally caved and took me with her to the mall, purple tights and all.
This wasn’t my choice to make.
I walked back in and pulled him aside and reminded him that I wasn’t going to be wearing the shoes. He was. He had to like them not me.
“You get the shoes that you like, not the shoes that I like” I said. “Which shoes do you like?” I asked.
He looked up at me, a little nervous and held up the white ones.
“So those are the shoes we are getting” I said.
Later, as we put labels in his brand new shoes, I told him that I was proud of him. I told him that I knew it wasn’t easy for him to make a choice that he knew I wasn’t on board with and that I was proud of him for making his own choice.
I explained to him that there were going to be lots of times in his life when him and I weren’t going to agree on his choices but they were his choices to make not mine.
As he tried on his new shoes for the dozenth time, I told him that I will always be proud of him for following his own path in life.
I will always give my children my opinion and won’t lie to them when I don’t agree with a choice they make but giving my kids the freedom and ability to follow their own paths, even when it’s not the path I would choose for them is so important to me.
“You don’t have to make anyone happy but yourself” I said to him. He smiled and hugged me and packed his new shoes into his school bag and I couldn’t help but be thankful that these would be his indoor school shoes and I would never have to see him in them.