It was recently brought to my attention that my little darling does not own one "proper" pair of shoes. Oh, she has lots of those soft-soled crib shoes that babies wear, but those aren't really the best for running around in the summertime. We've recently attended several functions where there have been little toddlers in attendance, and the other girls were all sporting fashionable strappy sandals or sweet Mary-Janes, whereas my little gal was running around in a frilly dress and Robeez. "Can't she walk in these?" one mom asked me, referring to her daughter's fancy footwear (which actually resembled a miniature version of prom shoes). I didn't know what to say -- I had no idea if Clara could walk in "toddler heels;" she'd never had the occasion to try.
I therefore decided it was time to get Clara some decent (if not super fashionable) footwear, and so I recently took her on an outing to a local outdoor mall, where the closest Stride Rite store is located. We entered the store and I was pleased to see that we were the only customers. I've been there in the past when it's been really busy, and getting anything accomplished at rush hour in Stride Rite is a bit like herding cats -- it just doesn't work, and there's generally a lot of hissing and clawing involved.
I had no idea what size my daughter's feet were, so I coaxed her out of her stroller (she's extremely shy) and took her little soft shoes off, all the while cooing to her in soft tones to relieve her anxiety. Of course, the employee got close to her and gave her a huge grin, which only succeeded in scaring her. She turned purposefully toward the door, yelled "Bye-bye!!!" and stomped away.
I scooped her up and carried her back to the employee, who proceeded to attempt to measure her little feet. Clara was having none of it. She arched her back and thrashed about while the worker tried to gently put her little heel in the metal foot sizer. She screamed and scratched at me while we tried to lay her foot flat to see how long it was. When the deed was done, she pouted and sobbed and reasserted that she was more than ready to go "Bye-bye!"
I gave her a big smile and told her in an overly-excited sing-songy voice that we were going to buy some shoes, as if this was about to be the most thrilling thing she has ever done. She knows the word "shoes" and apparently thought I was asking her to fetch me some. She began purposefully running from display to display, haphazardly grabbing shoes off the shelves and throwing them at my feet triumphantly, yelling "Shoosh!!!"
I was just relieved that she was no longer crying, but I could tell that her behavior would soon result in the destruction of all the displays in the store. I suddenly had a flashback to a year ago when I had brought my son Evan (then three) into the same store to buy a pair of sneakers. He had thrown a tantrum, run in circles through the store, then used his arm to sweep all the shoes off the displays into scattered piles on the floor before opening the glass doors and letting himself out of the store while I crouched on the ground, frantically cleaning up the mess. I remembered the panic I felt when I looked up and saw that he was gone, and how I had abandoned my purse and bags to hysterically run down the street screaming his name and creating a scene, before finally finding him in the toy store across the street. I had ended up spending $90 in Stride Rite that day, more out of guilt than anything else, and I was determined not to have a repeat of the whole incident. I took a deep breath and quietly reassured myself that I was a capable mommy, and I could deal with this.
I called Clara's attention to a display of books on one side of the store, and she immediately took the bait. While she was exploring the book collection, I talked with the employee about which shoes might be best for Clara, and we selected a few pairs that might work for her. That's when I looked up to see that she had abandoned the book collection and was now pulling the socks off the wall and throwing them over her shoulder. She had also discovered that the metal rods that hold the socks in place actually come out of the wall if she jiggles them just so, and she had begun dismantling the display and casting metal rods this way and that.
"Clara!! Stop it!!" I scolded. She giggled and ran off in the direction of the door. Oh no...
Fortunately she wasn't strong enough to open the door, so she instead made her point by ripping down a Barney poster that had been taped to the door and running off with it. She actually made it into the storeroom in the back with the poster in her little mitts, all the while shouting "Bah-neeee!!!! Bah-neee!!!!" The employee stepped in front of her and Clara stopped in her tracks and backed out of the storeroom, the poster still clutched and now completely mangled in her little paws. "Bah-neee!!" she wailed, uselessly, as I scooped her up and plopped her on my lap.
"I'm so sorry," I said sheepishly to the employee. She laughed and said, "Oh, it happens all the time. We're used to it." I thought... my gosh, if this happens every day in here, they all deserve medals of honor in my book. I made a mental note to never encourage anyone I knew to take a job at Stride Rite.
I sat on a bench with Clara on my lap, and the worker and I took turns trying to wrestle the shoes onto her kicking feet. The first pair of sneakers seemed to work well... she ran to the door pretty quickly as soon as she touched the floor in those. The Mary-Janes seemed a bit too loose -- she stumbled as she tried to escape in those, but a couple of other pairs of sneakers also seemed to fit well.
I turned the contenders over in my hands, weighing my options and trying to make a decision. Clara sensed that my attention had wandered and used the opportunity to clear a couple of racks of their wares, throwing all of the displayed shoes into a scattered mess on the carpet and shrieking "Bye-BYE!!!" I noticed that one of the pairs of shoes was on sale for $30 and examined the shoes a bit closer.
The employee saw me scrutinizing the shoes and said, "Those are machine washable, you know."
SOLD. Despite my daughter having the tiniest feet in the house, she somehow manages to have the smelliest. She has one pair of rubber-bottomed shoes called Skidders which, when removed, are downright toxic to anyone within a three-foot radius. We would have had to toss them weeks ago, except for the fact that they are machine washable.
"I'll take them!" I practically shouted while digging out my credit card. I wrestled my daughter, who was wriggling and squealing like a piglet, back into the stroller, and happily purchased the shoes.
That evening, I proudly presented the shoes to my husband. He loves a great deal, so I made a big show of how the shoes were on sale as I took them from the bag. He looked at them closely and then remarked, "Well, you didn't get that great a deal. Did you see what the original price was?" I had just assumed they were at least $45 originally, as most Stride Rite shoes are. "They were originally $36. You only saved six dollars."
I sighed and wondered briefly why I even bother trying to get him excited about things like children's shoes. Then I said, "But they're machine washable!" To this he replied, "Hmmmmpppfff. Well, that's good I guess," with zero enthusiasm.
I considered regaling him with the entire ordeal of how the shoe shopping trip had gone and how difficult it had been to make a decision with Clara destroying the store, then thought better of it. I would undoubtedly just receive another dismissive, "Huh," and be left frustrated.
"Well, she wants to play outside," I said to my hubby. "Would you put her new shoes on so I can take her out?"
My husband agreed and got one sneaker on our daughter, but when he tried to put the second one on, she started screeching and yanking her foot away.
"Clara! Stop scrunching up your toes!" my husband snapped at her impatiently. He continued shoving, and she continued screaming. Pretty soon she was looking at me and screaming "Mama!! Mommmeeeee!!!!"
I think I muttered something along the lines of, "Oh for goodness sake, do I have to do everything?" and came over to help. Surprisingly, I couldn't get the other shoe on her foot either. That's when I looked closely at the shoes and saw that the worker at Stride Rite had sold me two different sized shoes.
So this evening, after picking up my son from preschool, I went back to Stride Rite with both children in tow, risking disaster yet again as I tried to straighten out the mess and exchange the bum shoe for one in the proper size. Fortunately the trip was not as painful as expected. The employee easily located the correct shoe, and we even found waterproof sandals for my son to replace the Spider-Man sandals I had purchased for him at Target that had fallen apart after a mere two weeks of wear.
I arrived home and had just decided that the evening was looking up when my Clara shrieked from the other room, where she was playing with Evan. "What's she crying about?" I called out to my son.
He responded, "She accidentally bit her leg and hurt herself." What?
I ran to the front room, where I found a giant purple bite mark on Clara's leg, in a size and orientation that did not look self-inflicted. Just to be sure, I grabbed her leg and tried to shove it in her mouth. It didn't fit. Sigh.
I gave Evan a hug, told him how much he had disappointed me by biting his sister and then lying about it, and sent him to his room sobbing. The "you've really let me down" approach always gets him; he was so sorry for what he'd done that I genuinely felt bad for him by the time he went upstairs to his room.
The thought of food cheered me up a bit, and I retrieved a tub of Maryland Crab Soup out of the fridge that I had been looking forward to enjoying for dinner. Unfortunately, while trying to open the plastic seal, I somehow lost my grip on the container and ended up spilling the soup all over the counter and down the front of the dishwasher. Despite my best efforts to clean up, our kitchen now smells like a Red Lobster. Double sigh.
Oh well... time to light a scented candle and look at the bright side -- at least our kids have shoes that fit.
Clara's well-worn Skidders, ready for retirement!