I looked up to see a little boy staring at my daughter while asking his question again:
“Why are you wearing your brother’s shoes?”
We were in the 4 and under area of the kids museum and the little boy looked closer to six. My first thought was to walk over and intervene, but something held me back.
My husband is always the first to go up and stick up for my daughter when kids are giving her a hard time. She wears hot pink glasses for corrective reasons and is a bit shy in uncertain situations, so she can be an easy target. I know little kids are mean, but I don’t like to get into it with a six year old unless there is any kind of serious threat.
I know why he is asking her. She is wearing her favorite shoes (and probably only shoes that currently fit) – black Dusty Crophopper tennis shoes that light up. They are probably from the boy’s section, but she loves that plane. She is also wearing a Frozen-themed t-shirt and girly pants. But her shoes are definitely of the boy variety.
I was adamant when she was born that everything wouldn’t be pink and fluffy. I made sure my daughter’s room was jungle themed in browns and greens. She didn’t wear pink until someone bought her a frilly outfit that she insisted on wearing.
My daughter loves robots and Legos, and anything Frozen. Her first favorite show was Elmo and she loves Super Why. She always wants to go to work and build robots with daddy. She wants to know how things work and never ceases to ask questions. I hope one day she will be an engineer, or at least something technical.
I hope she never loses the passion for the “boy stuff.”
It is a hard road to like “boy stuff.” I loved tearing apart engines in high school, and worked alongside my mom doing basic renovations. I was never super girly – I famously pulled off my acrylic nails the Monday after a school dance so I could work more efficiently on the wiring harness of the old car I desperately wanted to rebuild.
As I got older, the desire to be cherished and adored as opposed to self-confident and capable started to recede. I was in relationships with men that didn’t want a smart girl or one that could take care of herself. I started to become what I wasn’t. Instead of being confident, I became a second-guesser.
I have been with my husband for nine years now. I am still less confident than I once was, but have become to embrace the self-contained person I used to be. I can do anything I set my mind to; I can “do it myself.” I remember once getting mad at him because he didn’t “take care of me.” I felt that he expected me to take care of myself.
He did. I was in a problem that I put myself into. I needed to work through it to get out of the situation. He could have fixed it and made it go away. But he didn’t. He made me take care of it myself.
Looking back, it was a rough time in our relationship. But at the same point, I think it was a great time for me. I was in the driver’s seat again. I was making decisions for myself and making my life better by myself. I didn’t rely on him, and I think I am a better person because of it. And I think I love him more because he pushed me to do what I needed to do.
Finally, I started to see that I didn’t want someone to take care of me and make decisions for me. I wanted someone to be my partner and push me to be a better me. We still push each other to do that. He is my greatest champion, my confidant, and my friend. And although I am not coddled like I once was, I feel like I have a marriage with someone who really loves me for me, and also respects how amazing I am.
If I do say so myself.
So as I watch my daughter, I want to see how she handles this kid. I know I can step in at any time, but I want to see what she does.
“They aren’t my brother’s shoes.”
“Really, are they just too big for him so you took them?”
“No, silly. They are mine. They are my Dusty shoes.”
“But they are black! Those are for boys”
“And orange! They are my favorite.” With that, she turns around and walks away. The kid looks slightly stunned. He was trying to tease her and she didn’t care.
In that moment, I knew that we were doing something right. I expected tears, or her complaining to daddy that night that a kid was being mean. She didn’t give it a second thought.
It is such a small victory, but it has taken me 33 years to realize how important it is not to care what others think.
My 3 ½ year old has already gotten that memo.