Even without looking, the sound of little brown feet pitter patting against the hardwood floor let’s me know that she’s headed to the mountain of shoes I can never stop from accumulating by the front door. Daddy’s “mowing the lawn” sneakers, two or three pairs of Mommy’s sandals, and two pairs of her own shoes are piled messily by the coat rack.
“I got ’em, Mommy!” She calls out with a giggle.
My mommy gut says something ain’t right. You know the mommy gut, right? It’s that sixth sense that tells you that your child is up to something even if you don’t actually see them up to something.
When I walk into the living room from the kitchen, K is now caught up in full-blown laughter. Chuckles are spilling out of her from every which way.
She’s put on shoes alright. Not her pink and orange sneakers. Not her white, blinged out sandals. Nope. Baby girl’s tiny toes have found their way into MY shoes. There she is scooting across the floor in these monstrous black leather wedges with the straps only barely flailing behind her.
“Mommy’s shoes big!” she says between giggles.
“I wear Mommy shoes,” she says as she walks like a mini-Frankenstein with her arms straight out to keep her balance.
She wants to walk in my shoes, huh?
I ponder this for a minute as I watch her, then I come to a conclusion that might have been way too deep for the moment. *shrug*
If it’s up to me, she will not ever walk in my shoes.
Are my shoes that bad, you ask?
Hmm…depends on your perspective.
As a child, I was molested. As a young adult, I was raped. In between those years, I wrestled with poor self-esteem and a desperate desire to please. I cared deeply what people thought about me but assumed that most people didn’t think much. As a result, I used overachievement and ambition to cover up a broken heart and spirit. I saw glimpses of my true self in my thirties only to be slapped around by bad relationships, bouts of depression, a serious case of PTSD, and a couple of miscarriages.
And I guess if that’s all you know about me then yes, my shoes are, as my southern family would say, run-over something terrible.
But here’s another lens: I graduated early from college and followed up a Bachelor’s degree with two Master’s degrees. I wrote my first book at 27, signed my first book deal at 34 and I’ve been able to piece together a career out of writing and teaching for the last decade. I’ve run businesses and helped others launch theirs. I married my friend at 33 and finally gave birth to the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever seen at 36.
So from this angle, my shoes have held up pretty well, I suppose.
Yet, I still maintain that I would never want my daughter to walk in them.
And it’s not necessarily because of the tragic stuff in my past either. Of course I don’t want her to experience the awful, ugly heart-wrenching pains I’ve lived through, but the reason why I don’t want her to walk my path is much simpler than that.
Bottom line: My shoes don’t fit. Just like when she puts her toddler feet in my grown woman sandals, she cannot walk upright and confidently in my life’s shoes. Yes, she is so much like me I often call her my mirror. Yes, by virtue of being my child, she will deal with the generational stuff that will inevitably come up as she wrestles with her own identity. But at the end of the day, my journey cannot be hers. Parents who try to recreate the lives they wanted through their children or who force their kids to take the routes they did, are just wrong.
K will have her own hardships and failures, for sure. Her own victories and triumphs, most definitely. But trust, when she’s nearly 40 years old, she will look back over her life and not see her mother’s story but the story of her own life, born from a combination of her own choices and God’s purpose. Hopefully, it’s mostly the latter. I pray even now that it will be. But just like her faith journey, as her parents, her dad and I will set boundaries, guide her, talk to her and support her while she is a child, but the choices she makes and the experiences she has later will be her own. Like an archer pointing our bow and arrow in the direction of the ideal target, we will do our best to set the trajectory of her life in the direction of love, peace, joy, patience, discipline, grace, mercy, fun, and prosperity.
But we do not control the wind.
Boy, do I wish we did.
The winds of life, which includes her own will, can change her destiny, I know. But I believe that it all has a purpose. So as scary as it is to watch my nearly three-year-old try to walk in my shoes and realize that one day she will walk fully in her own, have her own great, good, bad and ugly experiences, there’s comfort in believing that God is control and, no matter what, she will be alright.
I have to believe she will be alright.
* * *
This piece is a part of the Faith & Motherhood series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.
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Amen. Thank you for the beautiful and inspiring essay.