When I was a kid, we would get two pairs of dressy shoes a year--white ones for the summer months, and black ones for the winter months (following some sort of fashion rule?).
New dress shoes approximately every 6 months was the average amount of time it took for our growing feet to need a new size, anyways, so this was a very practical system. Except for the occasional overnight growth spurt which required a sudden trip to buy yet another pair of shoes.
I distinctly remember one time our family went to Meijer--it was time to pick out a new pair of black MaryJanes for the winter.
However, I got sidetracked. I saw the most beautiful pair of sparkly red ballet flats, in my new size. They were the quintessential Dorothy shoes.
It was a family rule that we weren't allowed to ask for anything at the store, but I guess I figured it was safe to suggest this alternate pair of shoes, since I needed shoes anyways. I excitedly pointed out the shoes to Mom, suggesting that we replace last year's black with sparkly red, instead.
Mom said "No."
She had a couple of reasons, which I distinctly remember her explaining to me. One, red sparkles don't match everything, while black does. You only get one pair, so you have to make sure they match everything. Two, the red sparkles will eventually fall off and then the shoes will look ugly. Plain black shoes don't carry the risk of sparkles that fall off.
I knew there was no hope--it was fall, so I couldn't even 'suggest' a birthday present, as my birthday present would not be due for another 10 months. We left Meijer, leaving those pretty sparkly red shoes behind.
Now, it would be a good thing if I could say that I learned my lesson from this outing, and for the rest of my life consistently bought only practical shoes that would last a long time and would match everything I need to wear them with.
However, if you've seen any of the shoes I wear on a regular basis, you'll know that a practical color choice and sturdy materials are not why I choose my shoes. Angel picked out these purple sparkly Keds for my anniversary gift and gave them to me on Friday. Obviously I wore them on both Saturday and Sunday. They're awesome.
I understand why Mom didn't buy the sparkly red shoes when I was eight. Mom was at her practical best that day--it made a lot more sense to spend the shoe money on practical shoes that would last instead of pretty ones. How was she to know that I would turn out to be the kind of person who might cherish a pair of pretty shoes and remember them for the rest of my life? My mom isn't the kind of person who cherishes shoes...how could she have guessed that her eldest daughter would be so shallow?
Parents aren't born perfect--neither do they suddenly morph into perfect parents with perfect knowledge when their first child is born. It takes them time to grow, too.
You know what the twist in this story is? About 5 years later, we were at Meijer for the same old routine. New winter dress shoes, this time for my little sister Anna. Her eyes were caught by a strikingly familiar pair of sparkly red ballet flats. "Mom!" she said, "What about these? They're beautiful!"
Mom bought her the red shoes.
It is the special right of oldest children to whine about how soft their parents have turned with the years--how the lives of younger children are much easier than theirs ever were. I, and siblings #2 and #3 certainly claim that right, and have a lot of fun with it...but at the same time, I respect the fact that my parents learn from their own experiences and grow and change as needed.
As for me--I'm probably going to be the mom who will offer a stern refusal to frivolous requests for a dog or for ballet lessons. But if we were going to buy shoes anyways...I'd let them pick the sparkly ones if they wanted them. Who cares if the sparkles will eventually rub off? The MaryJanes would eventually get scuffed, too. I have a soft spot for sparkles.