Parenthood stretches us. We all know this. It stretches us thin, it stretches us proud. Six years in, this is the stretching I’ve come to expect. The moments of pure frustration, the moments of bottomless love.
Then there comes a day like I had a few weeks ago where I found myself stretching, again, but in ways I never expected.
As you may know, my daughter is a tomboy. She never combs her hair, she wears boy clothes and is mildly obsessed with skateboarding. And a few weeks ago, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she needed new shoes.
“My toe is at the end,” she said. “And the back is bumpy.”
“The back is bumpy?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said, “back here it’s bumpy on my heel.”
I ran my fingers along the back of her shoe and, where shoe meets heel, it was, in fact, bumpy. The inside of the shoe had broken down to the point that it was scratching her heel as she walked. This, I imagine, is the result of putting said shoes on without untying them, but whatever, she was right. It was time.
We went to our local discount store and she immediately picked out the pair of shoes she wanted. Black – not high-top, not low-top – Vans. For those of you who don’t know, Vans are, as they say on their label, “America’s #1 Skateboarding Shoe.” When we asked for her size, the sales clerk disappeared to a back room then a few minutes later found us apologetically and said they didn’t have that shoe in Eliza’s size.
“We do have this one,” she said.
Before I could let out a defeated sigh, Eliza began jumping up and down.
“I want those Mama, can I PLEASE have those!”
I looked inside the box and saw, not a pair of black shoes like the ones she’d picked our earlier, but a pair of navy suede, navy and white checkerboard mid-ankle Vans. How was I supposed to say no?
Navy is my least favorite color and I personally am not inspired by the checkerboard motif but my daughter, she couldn’t have been more inspired with the shoes in front of her.
She tried them on, they fit and she immediately started removing the white laces.
“I want to use these Mama,” she said of the navy ones in the box and, so, without thinking, I began bar lacing her new Vans so the laces went straight across rather than crisscrossed her shoes.
There is nothing in my history that suggests I might know how to bar lace a pair of skateboarding shoes. I’m Southern, I was in a sorority, I use hair product. My only interaction with the skateboard crowd amounts to blushing adolescent moments when a boy named Chuck passed me in the hallway in seventh grade. He had hair down over one eye and was rumored to like the song New Sensation by INXS, a band I’d never really heard of. I was middle-school shy, 13-year-old awkward and, Chuck, he was perfect.
I was never brave enough to go out with someone like him when it came time to jump into the dating. I had a clear sense of the kind of people I as supposed to date. Boys. Boys who didn’t ride skateboards. And dating someone was with a skateboard was my only option to experience that particular subculture, really, as I had never seen a girl ride a skateboard or even show any interest in it. I suppose good Southern girls didn’t do that sort of thing, or, at least, so I thought.
Times have changed, or they haven’t, but I’ve moved on from my seventh-grade limitations, my growing up in the South tunnel vision. My daughter loves skateboarding and wearing her shoelaces like RUN DMC did on the cover of their first album. I had it on tape and can still remember unfolding the paper cover to look at their bar laced Adidas.
And here I am all these years later lacing Eliza’s shoes this way because she thinks it’s totally awesome. Totally. Awesome. And she thinks I can do anything. There’s that, too. And with the help of Google and YouTube, so far, I’m keeping up. But really, I’m only rising to her expectations. Stretching, everyday, in the process.