Shoes do so much more than cover your feet

Shoes are clutter at our house. They laze by the door, sometimes making it to the shoe rack, sometimes making only a half-hearted attempt and hunkering down near the rack. I guess after walking all day, they’re just too tired to make the extra effort to go those few remaining steps to their proper place. Our daughter, though, isn’t bothered by the clutter; in fact, she prefers it.

My green shoes were on the rack, driving moccasins I bought on sale years ago. She took them down and tried to put them on her feet (I do love that she understands so much now: she knows where shoes go, she knows where keys go, she knows what doorknobs are supposed to do, she knows how to close the dryer door and how to hand me silverware from the dishwasher to put away…), then she slipped them on her hands and walked around, a four legged creature reared up on back legs. Then she clapped her hands together, making a slapping sound with her shoe-hooves. “Me-me-me-me-me!” she said in delight. She put them at my feet, and I put them on – until she grew upset: they were only a temporary gift, and their home was no longer the shoe rack but whatever place in the house that she wanted them to stay. The same went for her daddy’s sandals. I only thought shoes were clutter; they are, apparently, toys, exciting possibilities which adults have far too long overlooked.

Blankets, too, are underutilized by the grown set. Napping has been rough lately, as has been early morning sleep (so say I after waking up at 5, taking her to the potty and nursing and caressing her back to sleep finally at 5:35, only to have her wake up undeniably at 5:40 right after I’d fallen back into bed, full of hope and sleepiness), and the other afternoon, she wouldn’t nap at all. She did, however, play in her crib and talk to herself for nearly half an hour, talking to her stuffed animals and blankets with one of her favorite phrases of late: “DUP-uh-DUP-uh-DUP-uh-DUP-uh.” She sat and surveyed her small world, wrapping her blanket around herself, pulling it over her head, around her, wearing it like a babushka – a private game of peek-a-boo. When I walked in to take her out of the crib, admitting defeat on the nap front, I felt as if I were intruding and was sorry I’d interrupted her alone time.

Today, too, the blanket is playing a strange but significant role. Normally, she kicks off her covers or wakes up or fidgets if you try to cover her up. This is worst at night, when she kicks off the covers and therefore partially uncovers a sleeping mama or dada, too. Right now, this very right now, however, she is napping, and she put the blanket around herself. This is no covered-from-toe-to-chin blanketing, however; it goes from her waist to her head. When I first peered in (she’s been putting herself to sleep sometimes for naps, which is exciting – she can do it! – and sad – she doesn’t need me!), it was wrapped around and covering her head. All of the warnings of blankets in the crib came back to me, and I wondered: could a fourteen-and-a-half month old baby smother under the covers? Was a nap going to bring about her untimely end and begin what could only be unimaginable sadness and grief for me? Torn between waking a sleeping baby and fearing worse than that, I stepped into the room and hesitated.

The floor squeaked a bit with the weight of my foot, and as she worked to extricate her head from the wrapping of her choice, I stepped back, avoiding the gaze of the near-sleeper, relieved. She lay back down, face out of the blanket but back of the head covered, and slept the sleep of her choice – and sleeps even now.

She’s recharging, and as she naps, I’m recharging, too. As she grows, she knows more about how the world works and bends it, moves it, wears it, wraps it to fit her needs. I love watching her develop her own ideas of play, and I wrap those ideas and memories around myself, happy like the blanket to be held tight for as long as she’s willing, happy like the shoe to take my place in her life, wherever she deems that to be.

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