I recently told my daughter a story from my early elementary school years. I feel like it must have occurred somewhere in the 2nd to 4th grade range, because I still resided in the bedroom with the rosebud wallpaper that had a slight metallic sheen to it. In that room, I slept on an antique bed, played in the window seat, and enjoyed 2 closets- one for toys and one for clothes and shoes.
One morning, I ran upstairs to put on my shoes in order to finish getting ready for school. I had one shoe successfully on and was in the process of putting on the second shoe when my toes bumped against something. I stopped and looked into my shoe, but I didn’t see anything. I tried to put it on again, and again my toes bumped up against something foreign. Perplexed, I removed the shoe again and shook it.
Tumbling from the shoe came a solitary black cricket. I had instantaneous feelings of guilt that I may have hurt the poor, little fellow while shoving my foot into my shoe and of disgust that my socked foot had touched an insect. Twice.
I don’t remember what I did next that day way back in elementary school, and I certainly didn’t tell this story to my daughter in this much detail as we were having our own struggles to get out of the door and arrive at school on time. Nonetheless, the story clearly made an impression on her and, using her own vivid imagination, she seems to have created her own details and attached her own emotions to the story. How do I know this to be the case?
This morning, my daughter thought it was absolutely hilarious when her pink and green striped soccer sock got stuck to her hind end with the help of some static electricity. I mildly acknowledged the humor and strongly encouraged her to continue getting dressed by putting her shoes on. She exited the room while I finished up in the bathroom, then I went to put on my own shoes. The first boot went on without a problem. With the second boot, my foot met with some resistance. Upon inspection, what did I find in the toe of my boot but a bright pink and green striped soccer sock.
Friends, it matters not if my shoes are in my room, in my closet, on the living room floor, or waiting for me by the kitchen door, they are quite regularly full of surprises. Legos, crayons, orange wiffle golf balls, small plastic La La Loopsy dolls, and various other treasures have taken up residence in my shoe in an attempt by my daughter to recreate that element of surprise from the cricket-in-the-shoe story.
On a morning that finds me irritable and in a hurry, these little surprises in my shoe can elicit an exasperated groan. On a morning that finds me happy and ready to conquer the world, a shoe treasure can bring a sentimental tear to my eye. This morning was a response mixed with irritation and curiosity about why this behavior lingers on. It has been weeks, maybe even a couple of months, since May Lee and I actually discussed and had a little chuckle over the shoe surprise bit. I realized this morning that I have been quickly dumping the shoe intruders onto the floor and carrying on with business for some time now.
Something about that response didn’t sit well with me as I thought it over this morning. As I continue to ponder it this afternoon, it is starting to feel like my daughter is trying to engage me in a playful way and in response to a piece of my childhood that I shared with her, and I have been completely ignoring her attempts. On a morning like this morning, it is likely my daughter’s way of saying “Lighten up, mom. Life can be fun if you let it”. While it may be easy to fall into a parenting shame spiral at this point, I see no need to go that route. I’m not going to catch everything every time. I simply do not possess superpowers that morph me into the Perfect Parent.
Now that I do recognize the potential importance of this little game, it seems clear that I need to respond. Lately, I have been learning that it really is never too late to go back and make something right if you missed it the first time. In the same vein, I’m learning that showing up is always important-the most important- even if you happen to show up a little late. In this case, I also better show up silly and with a light-heart.
Therefore, in the spirit of this new parenting revelation, tomorrow the shoe will be on the other foot, if you can pardon the pun. Come morning, May Lee just might find a surprise with her little toes.