I remember before I got pregnant, I saw a picture of Suri Cruise wearing heels. A friend shared it on Twitter or Facebook, appalled that her parents would let her wear such shoes. I agreed.
And now, I am the mother of a three-year-old who wears heels.
This past week, my mom bought my daughter a “princess kit” from Toys R Us which had a ball skirt, tiara, earrings, necklace, bracelet, scepter… and a pair of heels. Yeah, they’re clear plastic mules with pink heels and my kid LOVES them. She wears them EVERYWHERE and is so skilled, she can run in them, and walk up and down steep hills without issue.
So what do you do when you’re Suri Cruise’s mom and she wants to wear heels? Do you fight against it? Do you feel like a hypocrite when you tell your child no but slip on your own stilettos? What excuse do you give as to why the heels are bad? Is it a health issue? Societal issue? Feminist issue? Do you really worry about a pair of plastic heels when you’re dealing with things like hitting, potty training, eating a balanced meal, reading, being a decent human being in this world?
Do you fight it… or do you choose to just pick better battles?
I didn’t like the shoes, but she walks well in them, and knows she can’t wear them in the rain or to the playground or to bed. She doesn’t wear them every day so there’s no issue of shortening tendons or anything health-related. The only problem I can see is the issue with everyone else. The people like me three years ago who didn’t really factor in all the reasons as to why a child may be dressed the way in which she or he is.
Saturday we had no decent food in the house. My husband went to help out a friend – the husband just got out of the hospital and my husband went to mow their lawn and do some yard work. I decided to take my daughter to the grocery store. So we get to my car and I realize the carseat isn’t installed because she had an accident in it earlier that week and we had to wash the cover. So I put the cover back on and try desperately to get the carseat back in. My kid is crawling all over the front seat of the car, pressing every button imaginable telling me she’s hungry, she’s thirsty, can we go to the store NOW? Can we go NOW? How about NOW? Then she gets out of the car and is tugging on my shorts while I’m bent over into the backseat and she says, uh oh Mommy I went pee-pee and I turn around and there she is soaking wet. So I lock the doors and carry her back to the house where I wash her down and replace her shorts and underwear. And she’s all upset, apologizing, asking me if I am happy and if I still love her. And of COURSE I still love her so I slow down and let her talk and I let her know it’s okay, we all have accidents and I was sorry for ignoring her while dealing with the car seat. And she asks if she can wear her “princess shoes” to the store. Girlfriend just busied herself for 15 minutes while I wrestled with a carseat and peed all over herself on the sidewalk… who am I to deny her princess shoes?
She gets all gussied up and feels so much better. I give up on the carseat and we decide to walk to the local market. We get to the store, and she wants to be a big girl and pull the basket, so I let her. I am proud of her, getting past the accident, putting the groceries carefully in the basket, navigating it through the aisles. I look at the other patrons and realize they don’t think she’s cute and smart and strong. They are looking at her with disdain and giving me THAT LOOK. That same look that Katie Holmes must have received when Suri was sauntering around town in heels. The look that the parent is projecting her superficial materialistic man-getting ways on her poor innocent child. I catch myself apologizing to the woman next to me at the deli, blaming my mother for the princess kit that Emerson won’t take off. She smiles, but she judges.
We head home. She gets in the stroller for about a block, but then wants to walk. We walk down a steep hill and up another. My husband calls my cell. I am pushing the empty stroller, telling him my ETA at the house, and we walk past a yard where a woman looks at us, gives me THE LOOK, looks at my kid and clucks. I tell my husband I need to get off the phone and right at that moment, my daughter is so busy saying hello to the woman that she walks right into a wheel of the stroller and falls down. I put the phone in my pocket and pick her up. “She wouldn’t have fallen if she was wearing proper shoes,” the woman says.
“Fuck you, you judgmental bitch!” I say.
Yeah, I didn’t say that. I wanted to, but instead, I picked up my kid who didn’t even have a scratch but was in need of a nap and crying, dropped her shoes in the stroller, and pushed it home with one hand, the other holding her on my hip. I didn’t say a word, and I didn’t look at that woman again.
The crazy thing is I was embarrassed. I was angry, but I felt as though I was at fault because I did let my child wear heels. That she was sauntering around town in a flower headband, two necklaces, clip-on earrings, a satin purse, and a pair of Lucite slides. That I was a bad parent.
If we see a little boy decked out a Rambo headband, a gun holster for his water gun, a pair of cowboy boots, and a camo tee shirt most think, “Boys will be boys.” But a girl dressed up like my daughter and people think she’s a little superficial princess or a slut in the making. Boys can dress up like adult men, but girls have to dress up like an animal or cartoon character.
I don’t tell my kid what to wear. As long as she’s wearing shoes and pants, I really don’t care. If she wants to wear rainboots on a dry day, fine with me. If she wants to wear two tee shirts and a dress and leggings and a tutu and two different shoes, fine with me. And if she wants to wear princess shoes, fine with me. Others can judge and make assumptions, but now I know just as Katie Homes knows… there are some battles that aren’t worth picking, especially if it’s to appease complete strangers.