As he danced around the church in his bright colored rain boots, I couldn’t help but notice my friend’s son reminded me of my own rain boot-loving toddler who insisted he wear his bright green frog rain boots every day, no matter what. Seeing him twirling around, blonde curls flying about, tugged at my heart.
He wore them with shorts and with his pajamas. He wore them with jeans that got caught in the boot tops and were never tucked in completely. From the moment the shiny boots caught his eye on the clearance aisle, with the big frog eyes on the toes, he had to have them.
Since he was born, this son of mine has been fiercely independent. “I do myself” was a sentence repeated a thousand times a day. I learned quickly that some battles were not worth fighting and getting dressed fell into this category. He would come downstairs, his shirt inside out and his shorts on backwards.
“Buddy, I think the pockets need to go in the back. The zipper should be in the front,” I would say.
“Nope. I meant to do it this way,” he would reply with absolute confidence, settling the matter completely.
The compromise became that on special occasions, Mom had veto power. Otherwise, if he wanted to go to the donut store in his pajama onesie with his boots over them, so be it.
This strong-minded son taught me swiftly that he was completely unlike his go-with-the-flow older brother. Sometimes, I thought it might be my undoing. Other times, to be perfectly honest, I prayed for eyes to see how his personality traits could be a gift with great purpose. Those prayers came often on days I was worn thin from the demands of mothering a child who felt parenting advice isn’t necessary.
My husband knew the surest sign of a day gone wrong was if he came home, and our three cherubs were all splashing in the bathtub with water dripping down the walls while I sat on the floor. The bathtub, by the way, was one of the only places where my guy would willingly remove the boots.
Those green frog boots were a battle I was choosing not to fight. They were my compromise, which at times delighted me because I was letting my kid be a kid. Other times, they seemed to taunt me, as if I somehow lacked in mothering because I was being bested by a three year old.
It was hard to miss those bright green boots. They drew attention, and the responses I got either affirmed the choice to fight my battles or they brought criticism about compromising. Perfect strangers seemed to weigh in on whether I was being wise or being weak. It’s so hard to know the difference between the two most days of mothering.
Experience and time have given me great hindsight, however. Now, I’m the stranger telling Elsa she looks beautiful in her princess dress-up clothes at the store. I’m the friend in church telling the blonde-haired boy that his dinosaur boots are so awesome I wished I had some. I’m the creepy lady in the airport walking up to offer help to a young mom wrestling a baby, a stroller, and bags.
If you are a mom battling over rain boots, wardrobes, and other such tedious toddler madness, then I want you to feel encouraged. The same boy who once wore the green frog boots no matter what anyone thought has grown into a man following his deep convictions, boldly charting his own course.
Here’s the truth about so many of the everyday battles of childhood. I often thought my son was rejecting or questioning my authority. But, all along, the heart of the matter was about believing that he could think outside the box and dream big.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, whether it’s the green frog boots or the Superman cape in the grocery store. You have a trailblazer and innovator on your hands, and the world better watch out for the greatness to come.