Photo: Ursa Major testing out his new school shoes…
Last Sunday, we got up, had breakfast, and went to the shoe store for the last back-to-school purchase we needed to make. Since Stride-Rite closed its physical stores, this shoe thing has been less fun than it used to be. However, we’ve made do, and discovered that there is a Famous Footwear fairly close to where we live (we used to go practically to Boston to do this). Since they were the littlest of littles, the boys have loved lights in their shoes (who wouldn’t?), and Sketchers has had a great selection of boys shoes with lights. So, we got into the store, went straight to the Sketchers section, measured little growing feet and then went to work making the selection.
We split the children. Me with Minor, The Husband with Major. Shoes were selected. They were tried on. Then came the all-important parenting game of “how big of shoes can we buy them so they have plenty of room to grow but won’t be flopping around in clown shoes?” This usually takes two or three tries, but we got it. Minor chose adorable little Sketchers with the usually lights on the bottom. He ran around the store with pride. Major watched his brother, walked around in his shoes for a moment, then declared:
“But shoes with lights in them are for babies.”
Furthermore, he added, “I think I want something else. Something for running.”
Me, having a sitcom mom moment: “But… you’ve always like the shoes with the lights? You have perfectly good shoes right there.”
“But they aren’t running shoes…” My child said, shedding off the childish things on his feet, then sauntering in his socks over to the “more serious” kid shoes.
The Husband followed him, a move that I considered to be mutiny.
Ursa Major walked around the shelves of shoes and found the Under Armours pictured above. And then he said the sentence the broke my heart and signaled a significant shift in our collective family development:
“Oh yes, these are cool. If [School Friend] were here, he’d say that these are cool shoes.”
Oh, no… say it ain’t so. No, no no….
So now, [School Friend] is a kid who has been in Major’s class since kindergarten. I don’t mind the child, but don’t think of him much, as he is not mentioned as much as other kids. I am not terribly fond of his mom, who I find to be frigid and closed in the worst possible of New England ways. The only time Major spends time with this child outside of school is on the obligatory birthday party circuit.
The old-school Black mom snapped right out of me: “Baby, I’m not here to dress you for the other children. I’m here to make sure your feet are supported, warm and dry. This ain’t about impressing other people’s children.” (my grandmother, I’m sure, was laughing at that one.)
Major was nonchalant: “Well, but, it’s cool. These are real running shoes. I’m going to be fastest in the class.”
He put them on, spring up and down on his toes for a second, took a position and took off. “Yeah,” he said, satisfied. “These are great.”
I looked at The Husband. He shrugged. I looked at Minor, who also shrugged. “I like my shoes. They have lights.” Oh baby, please always stay my baby.
“Well, these are cool,” my eldest declared.
After we made our purchase ($65 total for both pairs. Not bad!), we got into the car and the air was different. The Husband and I were shocked by what had happened. Major and Minor reacted to our shock with confusion. Remember when you were a kid and you had a feeling you’d done something wrong, but you didn’t know what, and your parents wouldn’t tell you? Yeah… So the boys were watching us closely for the cue. We didn’t give it. We just absorbed the moment and steadied ourselves.
My Quiet Thoughts today are about the breakaway points in life and how exhilarating, terrifying and heartbreaking they will be. The job of the eldest child is set the standard of development, letting us know at a very steady pace the whens and wheres of growth and change. Major has made an art of declaring his independence, his separate humanity from me and my husband. Major is. He is not of. Major thinks and knows and therefore he is. It’s his job to do that. It still hurts my feelings. And of course his job is to start looking around his peer group, figuring out who to follow, who to emulate. I can’t dictate his self-imagery forever.
But damn, dude… I wish you would warn me when you’re going to do that.
Parenting doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. This is true and this is true and this is true. Sure, I no longer endure tantrums during shoe shopping. Instead I have to pay closer attention to his peer group: listening for who is cool, what they’re doing, where they’re going, what they’re wearing and how I’m going to navigate the yeses and nos of his evolving identity and social standing. My motherhood is leaving the physical circus of the early stages and moving into the cerebral minefield that, frankly, all the girl moms have been dealing with for a while now.
and it sucks.
Quiet Thoughts in the morning? Oh yes, Dear Reader! Look at me! I didn’t get everything I wanted to accomplished this week, but that was my fault: I set myself up for disappointment by having too-high expectations for the week. There was no way to get all my work done, get this house “back to clean,” and write fiction this week… a short, hot week. No way. I’m an idiot. Next week won’t be much better… but I’ll try anyway.
It’s a blessedly cool morning with heavy clouds overhead. Not much birdsong, a few bugs making noise. Traffic is light, the world seems unhurried. Good. I’ve got a lot to accomplish today.
But I wouldn’t leave you without wishes, Dear Reader: I wish you that first good Autumnal breeze. The one that brings a little prickle to your skin. Let it give you an excited feeling about the season to come, but let it also remind you to savor the last of these true warm days. Winter will come in its time. Let’s linger here… let’s soak in this warmth while we have it. Indeed, Lingering is something I wish for you this weekend as well. Linger in bed for a few more minutes one morning this weekend. Linger over coffee, or over your book, or over your garden, or over lunch with a friend. Linger over a thought or a poem or a prayer. Give time to something small, yet powerful this weekend, Dear Reader. Allow that small thing to be a seed for something bigger to come. I wish you something fun and new this weekend: new clothes for the season, new books for your semester, a new class for the season, a new recipe you can’t wait to try. Season change doesn’t have to just be out in nature, Dear Reader. Bring some fresh air into your life with one small newness as well. I wish you the best kind of story, one that makes you laugh and makes you think. I wish you the best kind of hug, one that squeezes and lasts for more than just a breath. I wish you a joke told in the quiet of an intimate moment, just you and your favorite person. Some sentence told only for you designed just to make you smile. These, sometimes, are what life is truly for.
These are the transition weeks, when change comes blowing through and happens in the blink of an eye. As the world transforms from lush green to golden dormancy, let this be a time of transformation for you, too. Adopt a truth to strengthen you and strengthen others you encounter along the way. Adopt the truth that you are loved beyond measure. Adopt the truth that you are infinitely beautiful because of the marvelous nature of your bright soul. You are the light against the darkness, the beacon that guides others toward their own happy destinations. You are the embodied encouragement that others need in a world where there are few and fewer great leaders. When you choose to reach out, to lift up, to serve, to know, and to love others along the way… you choose to shine as brightly as possible. That’s why you are so deeply loved and admired, known and unknown. Do not hide your infinite beauty, Dear Reader. Strengthen it, especially now, as our days get shorter and the winter threatens once again.
Until Monday, Dear Reader, be swift to love, make haste to be kind, shine on, and take care.