Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Dear First Shoes
Dear First Shoes,
I came across the two pairs of you when I was looking for Dear Daughter's baby shoes to pass along to my Dear Niece. When I uncovered you in your tiny little shoe boxes, my heart instantly melted into slobbery goo.
When I see these baby shoes, warm memories gush into my mind. I think of the tiny feet -- no bigger than the palm of my hand -- that fit into them. Those feet are the archetypes of perfection. Soft, stubby toes extending from chubby, thick feet. Smooth and flawless skin, without an ounce of dryness or an inch of roughness. The high insteps, rolls around the ankles, and rounded heels. Feet that begged to be smooched.
Those were the feet that I would hold in my hands and squeeze ever so gently to feel every bit of fat roll between my fingers. I would kiss them and pretend I was gobbling up toes for dessert. I would dig my nose deep in between the toes and take long breaths inhaling that sour, salty, pickled cabbage smell of feet. Ewww, you might say. But not me. The stinkier, the better. Foot fetish? you ask. Well, I only love feet of individuals that had once resided in my uterus. If you're not one of those two people, I'd like to have nothing to do with your feet, thank you very much.
Unfortunately for me, feet don't stay small and cute. DD's feet are so ginormous now that they threaten to inherit my entire shoe collection. Those once fatty toes have turned into slender, elongated ones, so pretty, that they can be in foot product commercials. But the only time I touch those feet are when I clip DD's toenails on her just-showered, spotlessly-clean feet. My nose do not go anywhere near those toes anymore, for fear of passing out. Dear Son's feet, on the other hand, are still small and chubby enough to smooch and sniff... but not for long. I'm counting the days to when his feet will no longer be kissable anymore. I'm hanging on to my last days of feet-sniffing joy.
Foot fetishes aside, these first pairs of shoes also represent memories of another kind that truly should stay with me as a parenting reminder.
When a child enters the developmental stage of walking, everyone is filled with excitement, hope, and nail-biting anticipation. A child toddles along furniture or holds onto a parent's hand to gain enough strength and confidence to walk alone. When the time comes and the child is ready, the parent holds out her receiving arms, wears the most loving smile on her face, and speaks the most encouraging words to the child: Come, sweetheart, come to Mama! Again and again. Until the child masters walking. It's that overwhelming support enveloped by unconditional love that is the very gesture I need to remember to keep alive.
Because the child gets older, and things get more complicated. She masters walking, but still needs to learn to run, jump, climb, and leap. She then goes to preschool and gets progress reports, and is placed as a dot on a scale for literacy, computation, and social behavior, just to be compared with other kids her age. Then she goes to grade school and participates in sports games, contests, competitions, and a long list of activities that are fenced around by measuring sticks, award placements, and winners/losers. In the midst of life's busy days, weeks, months, and years, I sometimes forget to hold out my arms, wear the knowing smile, and say the assuring words. Between juggling homework, school testings, violin lessons, PTO events, and household chores, I sometimes fail to remember to cheer my kids on the same way I encouraged them to take their first steps.
These baby shoes are a great reminder for me. Perhaps teaching the kids a new math concept or the writing strokes of a lowercase letter is a little more complex than holding out arms and smiling, but the symbolic gesture remains the same. And my kids deserve it.
Seeing you, first pairs of shoes, not only reminds me of the warm, chubby feet that used to wobble inside you, but also the way my DD and DS were able to let go of their fears and place one foot in front of the other to walk into my arms. Thank you for bringing back these memories, and I shall remember keep my arms open wide until they are able to walk to me, past me, and finally, on their own. At which time I will miss much more than sniffing their stinky feet.