DR tells me that her daughter also has shoe, um, preferences, and suggested that maybe m’s issues with her mary janes is the grown-up-ness of the shoe itself. that got me thinking. i had already considered that maybe m was reacting to the shine of the patent (p)leather. and then m exhibited such determinination to fasten the straps herself, i thought maybe those little flowered straps were responsible for her fetishization.

and then one morning m brought her new shoes into my bedroom and put them down on the floor, next to my black shoes that i was getting ready to put on.  aha! my daughter wants to be like me.  like most mamas, i was happy to believe that.


last night we needed diapers and a window scraper (turns out we’ve lost ALL of ours — we used to live in minnesota, for god’s sake) and now we’re driving around with frost-encrusted windows. so m and i bundled up and headed off to target.

once inside the store there are many, many ways to get to the diaper aisle. i happened to choose the one that went past the shoes. and we were no more than 3 or 4 strides in when m started pointing desperately at her right foot, which she had lifted as high as the shopping cart seat leg-holes would allow, and started making that charming “unnh, unnhh” toddler sound. i asked her if she wanted her shoe off. she nodded. i took it off. then she pointed at a pair of shoes on the shelf and repeated the process– lift foot. point. whine. i asked her if she wanted to try on that shoe. she nodded.

i swear. i swear i had never taken her shoe-shopping before the first mary jane incident. nor have i had money to shop for shoes myself in m’s recent memory. she has not learned this behavior from actually shopping for shoes. i have no idea where this is coming from. but it is here.

we spent the next few minutes trying to find shoes she liked. seriously. one shoe she requested made her cry as soon as i put it on her. another shoe she liked so much that she wanted to hold it, not wear it. we finally found a really, too-cute pair of brown mary janes with pink flowers around the edges. no glitter, no shine, and as an added bonus, softer soles than her black shoes. (say bye-bye to the clomp-clomping of little feet!) m was thrilled.

for the rest of our shopping time she wore one black mj on her left foot and one brown one on her right. the match to the new brown shoe was dangling by an elastic thread from the shoe m was wearing, but that dangling seemed preferable to me trying to take the shoe off (NOOOO!) and separate the pair and then fight over which shoe — black and shiny or brown and flowery? — was meant to be on her left foot.

she was tickled to show her dad her new shoes when we got home, and was very happy to put them on this morning. so happy, in fact, that she eschewed the fleece jacket her dad tried to dress her in and opted for — i’m serious here — a brown sweater with flowers on it. yeah, you got it — a sweater that is a perfect complement to her brown shoes with flowers on them. is it possible that she loved the shoes so much because they reminded her of a sweater she wears all the time? or, holy christ, does my fifteen-month-old have both a shoe-fetish and a highly-evolved fasion sense?

when i was pregnant with mairin i had a lot of anxiety about having a daughter. in part i was worried that i would lose her, as i had lost her older sister. but once that seemed unlikely, i was simply worried about raising a girl. more precisely, i was worried i would raise a floozy.

every time we go to a park and i see little girls running around in frilly skirts with nail polish (invariably chipped, because manicuring a 3-yr-old’s nails can NOT be an easy thing to do) i cringe. at summertime parties when i see girls in grade schools wearing belly-baring halters i look away. i mean, really. what are their parents thinking? who let the girls out the door looking like that? and worse, who made such outfits possible in the first place? don’t buy it for the kids, i reasoned, and they won’t have a chance to wear it.

even gifts of clothes can require careful management. a good friend of mine who travels regularly to italy brought m back an italian bikini. the top is the classic two-triangles-over-the-breasts style; the bottom is a thong. A TODDLER THONG! that’s just not right. but i dutifully took the bikini with us to the beach this past summer, and one day even put it on m. all the sane people on vacation with us agreed with me that it was a little creepy — a little too sexualized for a young child. (luckily, the diaper underneath the thong made it more funny than weird. but still.) m did NOT leave the house until she was wearing her jaunty, surfer-inspired outfit, with all her little baby girl parts appropriately covered.

well. my fears and failures — those that are obvious as well as pending — are here to haunt me. on a recent expedition to buy m an extra crib sheet i decided to have a look at shoes for her, since her older cousin handed down a lovely red velvet holiday dress that m can wear this year. now, m is a rough-and-tumble, robeez-wearing kinda kid. she falls a lot, and rarely cries while she picks herself up and toddles off. there is nothing demure about her. nice dresses and fancy shoes are not her thing. but every girl needs a party dress, right? and since all great outfits are built from the shoe up,  we needed to check things out.

as we looked at various shoes — a novelty for m, who typically gets little to no say in what she wears — she became enraptured with a pair of black patent mary janes. ok, i thought to myself. that’s kind of classic: red dress, white tights, black shoes. i can live with that. so we find a pair in her size, i take off one of her yellow-sunflower robeez, and i slip on one of the mary janes.

and that was that.

m would not let me take the shoe back off. i mean, i COULD take it off, but i was certainly going to hear about it. even the magic snack bag — a baggy endlessly supplied with cheerios, raisins and cheddar bunnies, and which makes all bad things seem bearable — did nothing to assuage the poor kid. she eventually had a meltdown in the baby-bedding aisle, the kind that requires you to hold the screaming child and rub her back while she snots and blub-blubs all over your shoulder. she eventually calmed down and was willing to sit back in the cart…as long as she could wear one of her shoes.

so ok, i think. it’s a bit of a novelty for her, she’s come down with a cold from her cousins over thanksgiving, and she’s suffering from massive holiday-craziness-induced sleep deprivation. she’s not herself. we’ll get home, we’ll show daddy the shoes, and when she’s ready to have them taken off we’ll put them away. all will be well.

[insert maniacal laughter here]

yesterday morning i got a call at work from s, telling me that m had cried and cried when he tried to put her brown robeez on her. she gave him sad face and the ASL sign for “all done” — what don’t you understand, daddy? i DO NOT WANT TO WEAR THOSE SHOES! she kept whining and reaching for the mary janes, which s dutifully put on. m spent the rest of the day gleefully clomp-clomping around in those stiff-soled shoes.

when i came home from work she came to show me her shoes. i took some pictures. (so what? a little enabling never hurt anyone.) then eventually it was dinnertime, and then bathtime, and then jammy time, and then…NO. NO BOTTLE. MUST HAVE SHOES.

the mary janes are NOT made to fit over fleece footed sleepers, but m would not rest until both shoes were on her feet. i wanted to win the small victory of at least not taking off  her pajamas. so we crammed and squeezed and shoved until, lo and behold, the kid was walking around in flowery-blue fleece jammies with black patent leather mary janes on her feet.

i didn’t even try to take them off until after she was asleep. i put them out of sight. i was not going to repeat this nonsense tomorrow.

alas, when it was time to put m’s robeez on this morning, she fussed, whined, looked completely forlorn, and practically screamed the “ALL DONE!” sign at me. she reached and reached for her shoe shelf, even though she could not see the shoes she wanted.  i caved. i pulled out the mary janes and put them on her feet. she was instantly as happy as, well, as a toddler who got her way. she clambered down off my lap and joyfully clomp-clomped her way around our second floor.

so there it is: mary jane as gateway drug. this is undoubtedly the beginning of a long and tortured relationship between my sense of propriety and m’s insistence on being her own person, dammit.

now how i do i make sure she doesn’t turn out to be a floozy?