Let them run shoeless
There is this thing about parenting.
You are completely alone and also completely connected to not only all other parents, but really all other people in the world.
Because, even if not many people seem to appreciate this, everyone knows that children are the future. Children are the ability for our human race to continue.
So, if I'm thinking about this on a macro level it seems obvious why strangers would feel they are enabled to have a say in choices you make for your children.
But, as we zoom back in to a micro level there is that sense of aloneness. That sense of, I'm the parent and I'm parenting this child every day and my decisions are mine alone to make (I'm not including the very real aspect of parenting with a partner).
And sometimes that individuality of parenting is freeing and welcome and you embrace it.
And sometimes it is loneliness. And you yearn for a village, a community, others to be a part of your choices and to lift you up and support you.
Last week we were on vacation with family on the North Fork of Long Island. A beautiful spot on the Long Island Sound that is windy, rocky and impossibly blue at most times. We made our way one day, with the help of two ferries to the Eastern most point of Long Island, Montauk. At the very end of the Island there is a lighthouse. Up high on a hill, overlooking the Atlantic.
We arrived with a punchy toddler, who had slept for about 45 minutes sitting on my lap at lunch. A toddler who had spent most of the day in a car. A toddler who is smart, and sassy and speaks her mind quite clearly.
As we made our way up the hill to the Lighthouse we explored grasses, signal rooms and the views of surfers in the Atlantic waves.
At some point, Ava's shoes came off. As they often do, for any toddler who is seeking a modicum of control.
We moved in to the lighthouse ready to make our way up the stairs. I can't remember if I was holding Ava, or holding her hand. But either way she was barefoot.
I chatted with the woman in charge of taking tickets to walk up the 100+ steps to the top of the lighthouse. I confirmed with her that Ava couldn't go up, she looked at me and said, "No, she can't go up." I looked back and said, "I know, she can't go up." And in that moment I could already tell the type of person I was dealing with.
You interact with people in the world, on a daily basis, whose parents probably didn't let them take their shoes off as toddlers.
People who are grasping for authority and control at all times.
So you treat them like a toddler.
You use short sentences. You focus on doing statements so they're sure to hear you.
As we clarified and the family lined up to walk up the stairs, the woman looked at me and Ava.
"She doesn't have shoes on? I would be careful with that, who knows what she could step on. It is dangerous."
I was already expecting this.
I'm pretty confident in my parenting choices. She wasn't going to get to me.
I shrugged and said, "She's fine." with a smile.
Because she is. Because I parent her.
Because I'm secure in my aloneness of parenting, and because I've found my community of parents to seek out when I need it. People who I sought out and invited in to my life, or vice versa. People who have always been there and are now parents too.
I know many people are not secure. Many people fall prey to the advice and judgement of strangers. And yet, by following along what others tell you to do, for better or worse, you lose sight of yourself as a parent.
Don't allow others to take that away from you. Read, talk to people you trust, follow your parental gut (you have one), connect with your partner and together determine how you want to approach this journey.
Parenting means unpacking our own childhoods. It is why so many strangers lash/reach out. They see children and they become them. You have children, and suddenly again you are yourself as one. Unpack productively.
It is a journey, and one that requires confidence, self awareness and strength. You have it. Tap in to it.
Let your child run shoeless and then smile at a stranger when they judge you. You can say "Fuck off" silently to yourself.
They'll never know.
*A note to make it clear, as I have in many posts, that I'm a successful parent because of the partnership Matt and I have in parenting our children. While this post doesn't touch on it as much because of the tone I was looking to capture, it is a very real and true part of my parenting. We are both aware, involved and present and parent together.*