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The Footwear I Won’t Let My Kids Wear

Erin Zammett Ruddy

When it comes to your kids’ wardrobe, do you ever look a gift horse in the mouth? I do. But only when it comes to certain things….

My mom took Alex and Nora out to buy sneakers last week. Their feet grew over the summer and we were too busy enjoying the season to notice. It was warm enough that Nora had been wearing crocs to school for the first two weeks and Alex was shoving his feet into his New Balance sneaks that we all loved but, alas, were too damn tight (though he didn’t think so). I was on deadline so my mom volunteered to take them after school to get some footwear that fit and looked back-to-school worthy. My sister, Meghan, went too. I was so grateful for the help, but I was also a little nervous. Because I have a certain taste with my kids’ clothes and my mom has different taste.* This text exchange with Meghan explains it all:

ME: How’s it going?

MEGHAN: Going well. Think we found a pair for each.

ME: Nice. Thanks!!

MEGHAN: Al got power rangers and Nora’s are cute pink tinker bell.

ME: Ok great. Thanks. Let me know when you’re on your way home so I can start their dinner.

ME AGAIN, TOTALLY PANICKED: Are the shoes cheesy? (Don’t tell mom I’m asking)

MEGHAN: Very. But they fit.

ME: F***. Did u already check out?

MEGHAN, AFTER ABOUT FIVE MINUTES OF MAKING ME SWEAT IT OUT: Ha. I’m kidding they are both Nikes and very cute. No characters.

ME: OMG, I was hoping u were kidding and didn’t want to be a b****. Thank god!

MEGHAN: Hahahah sorry couldn’t help myself. On our way home now.

Let me back up and say that I am not a kids’ clothes snob at all . Anyone who knows me—and my half-disheveled kids—knows this. 75 percent of the clothing Alex and Nora wear is probably cheaper than a venti coffee at Starbucks. But that doesn’t mean I’m not particular about what I put them in—especially something like sneakers which they’ll be rocking almost every day (a cheesy shirt can be worn at home or to bed or even get lost, but a good pair of sneaks are around for the long-haul). My kids’ clothes don't have to be high quality or designer or even super stylish, but I do have an aversion to certain things. Like sneakers with TV characters on them. There, I said it. (I am not opposed to characters on all clothes, though mostly I avoid—unless it’s the vintage Disney character tees, which I love.) I also try to avoid super pink/girly/frilly princessy things for Nora. Until she starts asking for this stuff, I’m not going to offer it.

Of course, I realize what this probably sounds like. My mom was doing me a big favor. She was being generous. She was taking care of her grandkids, which clearly they needed. And yet, I was being picky with what she got. But then again, I’m the one who has to put these shoes on the kids every day and I’m not gonna lie, if they came home with lights and bells and princesses and power rangers, I probably would have taken them back. Does that make me an awful person/daughter/mother? Don’t answer that. But I am curious about how you handle clothing gifts from family members—do you put your kids in whatever you get or are you more particular? And if your mom (or mother in law )is buying clothes for the kids, do you give them parameters? I think that’s acceptable, no?

*My mother knows my aversions well and there is a part of me that thinks she sets me up. Presenting me with, say, silky Elmo princess pajamas for Nora and then watching me try to accept them graciously and then her baiting me and asking if I like them and then me being the bad guy and having to say, No, actually, I don’t. I really think she might do this on purpose. But maybe I’ve been watching too many psychological thrillers lately. I did chase Revenge with Homeland last night. Heaven!