By Sue De La Bruere
Last night my daughter hit the wall. Not “hit the wall” as in exhaustion in the midst of an overly grueling marathon or an inability to continue due to obstacles. I wish. No, she literally hit the wall.
Scott (hubby) and I, along with 4 year old Paige, were making an emergency run to the local department store. We had picked Paige up at day care just 10 minutes prior, and I could not stand one more moment of my baby suffering in ill-fitting shoes. This kid outgrows shoes like a teenage girl outgrows boyfriends. Even though the lights still flickered on her pink princess shoes, I determined that they just didn’t fit right. When my now-14 year old, Bradley, was this age the determining factor for when to get new shoes was when the red super-hero lights quit their incessant blinking with every hop, skip and jump. Not so with Paige and her feet the size of snow shoes. Thus, the emergency run to the store.
We were walking along, the three of us, Scott and I deep in conversation. Conversation that now escapes me but likely focused on his complete intolerance to shopping in general and his massive distaste for the particular big-box store we were moseying up to. I, too, am not a fan of the big-box store, but I am, in fact, a fan of saving money. That said, about once a month we suck it up and march into the local Massive Savings R Us and stock up on the essentials of life such as shampoo, aluminum foil, garbage bag and, oh lest we forget, the super-size box of plain milk chocolate bars that hubby seems addicted to. But this journey to Massive Savings R Us was for the ill-fitting shoes.
Just as we were about to enter the gleaming clear doors of the store, Paige ran smack into the brick wall. Face first. Blood was spewing, tears were streaming (both hers and mine) and, hubby looked uncharacteristically panicked. “What happened?!” we implored. It appears that 4 year old Paige just wanted to see what it was like to walk with her eyes closed. The thought that a brick wall may jump in the way of her little experiment never crossed her pre-school mind. So there we were, creating a scene right in the front of the store complete with blood and tears and shrieking.
I have a natural aversion to embarrassment, something that Scott does not share, and wanted to brush this off and keep moving along. Run to the bathroom, grab a wet paper towel and continue on our money saving mission. Hubby saw this as an opportunity to run the other way and skip the shopping expedition in its entirety, but as far as I can recall I blocked his path and scowled, “Buck up, buddy!” Honestly, once we mopped up the blood (while shopping, by the way) and assessed the swollen lip, she really was okay.
With the teenagers we seem to just continue the warnings when it comes to the big and bad. Drugs, sex, cheating in school, smoking, that sort of thing. But when it comes to the more mundane, we seem to throw in the towel at some point. If Kayla wants to wear sweatpants with black heels (imagine!!), should we warn her that she will look like a fool? If Bradley wants to wear tennis shoes two sizes too big, do we tell him that he looks like a clown or do we just leave that to his pals? My instinct is to warn them - - “Stop, you look ridiculous!” - - but my dear husband is more a fan of just letting their peers shape their behavior and shame them into straightening up.
This isn’t a matter of letting them express themselves with a Goth look or a punk look or something of that ilk. This is more just a general inability to pull together a decent look. And it is not just the way they look. It may be Kayla singing at top volume in public, or Bradley making endless farting sounds. These aren’t the standard dangers, this isn’t the wall they are about to hit, but if they move forward like this they will be embarrassed or, more importantly, embarrass me! Maybe that is what this is all about, ME. It affects me, it embarrasses me, it is a reflection on me. If they don’t care, why should I? Oh, but I do. I care. If they hit the wall, if the blood flies, if I am scrambling for the wet paper towel, and trying to make it all right have they learned their lesson?
Late in the evening of The Wall Incident, Paige was all cleaned up and dressed in her pink princess jammies (yes, everything with her follows the pink-princess theme). We were watching television and vaguely watching as she played around us. It was then that we saw it. Paige walking around, again, with her eyes closed “just to see what it was like”. Lesson not learned. But at least this time I am not embarrassed…so we’ll simply move the furniture, provide her with some boundaries and allow this experiment to run its course. That, too, is what we vow to do with all the kids. Boundaries + experimentation = gentle growth without the danger.
About the Author:
Sue De La Bruere graduated from Northern Illinois University with her degree in Psychology. She is a happily married mother of two and freelance writer living in the Chicago area.