Monday, August 4, 2008

They're Just Shoes - Aren't They?

Big boo boo! I cleaned my son's Converse All Star high tops this morning! Now I didn't put them in the washer or anything. We learned that lesson the hard way about a year ago. The pair we ran through the washer and dryer never were the same again. So I wouldn't repeat that mistake again to save my life. But I just cleaned the shoes up a little. It occurred to me that if that little Mr. Clean bar that we use on our walls get scuff marks off walls so well, it would certainly remove the same scuff marks from the toes of his sneakers and the white trim around the edges of the shoes. I didn't touch the black high top canvas fabric. And guess what? That little magic square does a pretty good job of removing the black marks from the rubber parts of the shoe. By the time I had finished with them, those shoes looked mighty fine.

But I found out I'd made a huge mistake when I told my son, nonchalantly, that I had cleaned up his shoes for him. (He was having some portraits made in which his shoes just might show, so I had tidied them up for him.) Suddenly he turned into the Incredible Hulk. His eyes grew large and intense, the muscles all over his body tensed up and doubled in size and I think he even turned a little green. Now this Incredible Hulk didn't throw anything or lunge at me, fortunately, but he did growl! To skip over the dramatics that I experienced for the next 30 minutes and get straight to the point, suffice it to say that Daniel was greatly disappointed in me for cleaning his shoes.

Turns out, Daniel likes for his shoes to be dirty, scuffed up. And somehow those scuff marks, according to Daniel, are directly linked to his persona, his identity, his history, and, in short, his essence. Go figure. I had no idea. Just so you can better understand how traumatic an event this was for Daniel, let me give you a play by play of a snippet of the conversation.

Daniel: It'll take weeks to get those scuff marks back! I can't believe they're gone. I hiked mountains, worked at Target, and walked the halls of Buena to get those marks. They're a part of me!

Kay: Daniel, I'm sure you'll have them scuffed up again in a couple of days. Just take the shoes and wipe the bottom of one across the toes of the other!

Daniel: I can't believe you'd even say that! You're trivializing those marks!

Kay: I just thought you'd want them cleaned up for the you'll look nice.

Daniel: That's it! You don't want a picture of the real me; you want one of me with shoes that aren't even mine! You don't even like me.

Kay: (pause to figure out how we got here...) Daniel, I love you and thought I was doing you a favor. I just wanted you to be wearing clean shoes, so I thought that rather than make you wear some other shoes, I'd clean up your favorites so you could wear them. I promise you my intentions were good.

Well, I won't give you all the details of this crazy conversation. But you can surely see that we were talking from two completely different perspectives. I thought I had done a good deed and Daniel thought I was assaulted his essence!

Here's the thing I learned. By the way, my son probably doesn't think I learned anything from this. To hear him talk, I'm just the mean mama who looks for ways to ruin his day. But honestly, oh well, you've heard my side already...

Here's the thing I learned. (I'll try not to get sidetracked this time!) It's amazing the things we tie our identity to. For my son, his shoes speak volumes about him. He wears Converse high tops because he likes the old-fashioned style of them. But he also wants them to look lived in. That's important to him. For me, my jewelry is something that I think kind of identifies me. I want only silver and I like it to be kind of big and chunky. My silver charm bracelet is like the story of my life in miniatures. If someone were to try to "help me out" by turning all of my silver jewelry into more costly gold, I'd freak out too. I know gold is more valuable, but I don't want gold. I want silver. It's who I am.

Turns out, for most of us I think, the little things in our lives say a lot about us, or so we'd like to think they do. We like certain colors, textures, logos, and styles and we choose to wear, drive, carry, and live in them because we want the world at large to know who we are. We feel that in some small way even the perfume we put on or the color of our nails reveals something about the person within. And maybe it does.

At any rate, whether you can identify with this theory or not, I know my son can. And right now that is all that matters. I'm proud of who my son is - bright, witty, caring, godly, and full of unbridled potential. His Converse All Stars may not say all that, but I know that's who he is. While I'm still his mama and will continue to insist on cleanliness, order, and good manners, if he wants to keep his sneakers scuffed up, so be it. After all, they're just shoes. Right?
Daniel and his beloved Converse All Stars gathering scuff marks on the trail.

1 comment:

*JRF* said...

Whata great post!! I can totally see Daniel saying all that you wrote about your conversation with him! :) He's a good kid!