The event coordinator in me planned an afternoon of errands and dog walking. I even ordered breezy, reasonably warm weather to make the day better.
In the lobby of the Humane Society, a volunteer greeted us. I told her we were there to walk a dog.
“We don’t allow open-toed shoes,” she said.
I don’t think this volunteer remembered us from our previous visit, but I remembered her. “No one said anything about this rule when we came last time,” I said. Certainly, this would be an excellent defense. She’d understand her faux pax and let us in.
She said, “We probably didn’t need to. You must’ve been wearing the right shoes.”
I looked at my kids’ feet. Don’t those rascals ever listen to me? (Before biking, for example, I tell them to take off those flip-flops and put on good shoes.) Until then, I hadn’t noticed what they decided to wear. I had other things on my mind like packing Cheerios and diapers for the baby, and juice boxes for the girls. And where is my coffee mug? Sunglasses? Did I shave my legs? Oh, and there’s that return I need to make to Target? Where’s the receipt? And sunscreen. Where’s the spray stuff so we don’t have to get all lubed up with greasy lotion? I had forgotten to check the shoes.
Melisandra wore Sketchers. Corrigan wore a generic version of Keen sandals. Both covered their toes. Both represented sensible choices in footwear. But me? I wore my strappy Crocs, the ones that showed off the worn and chipped pedicure, very comfortable but not worthy of walking dogs. Damn.
The baby kicked her bare feet in the stroller. Melisandra hugged me at my waist. She looked up at me in tears as if to say, isn’t there something you can do, Mom?
My first thought: com’on, Lady, really? We plan to walk a small dog. Not a Rottweiler. Not a Great Dane with long nails that could puncture my big toe. I wanted to say–since I like to make rules and not follow them–that we had exerted a lot of effort to even be here and doesn’t that count? I wanted to tell her I would sign a form waiving the Humane Society of any liability from an injury inflicted upon me because I wore stupid shoes. Just please, please, please let us walk a dog.
Like me, my kids will negotiate around rules or structures put in place. They get by with it because I pause and consider their spectrum of requests. I contemplate their reasons to bend or rewrite rules. Just because of who I am I create murky waters in my own parenting. I have been known to be in the middle of a negotiation before I realize I’m negotiating with them. Sometimes, out of pure principle, I stop myself and make what I said stick (“No, you can’t go on that playdate/have that dessert/watch another Phineas and Ferb.”) even if they have persuaded me otherwise.
The volunteer said, “Do you have any other shoes in the car?”
I thought about the items in my van–a volleyball, McDonald’s wrappers, banana peel, beach blanket, cargo net, noodles for the pool. No shoes. I shook my head. She said, “We’ll be here until six, if you want to come back.”
I didn’t want to come back. I wanted to be quick with witty reasons for why we should be allowed to walk a dog; I wanted to beg her to let us go play. But I kept quiet. What would I do if she said no again? Keep arguing? Sometimes rules are rules, and I need to follow them, too.
We returned to the van disappointed, of course. I apologized. And then, I took the kids on their next adventure of walking with carts and filling them with ingredients for supper.