Friday, April 8, 2011

High Tops

I cried buying shoes for my son the other day. I was standing there in  the department store looking at the display of sandals and spring shoes and  the tears welled up and rolled down my face. There was nothing I could do but let it happen, I needed to have that cry as I bought shoes for my boy.

Let me explain.

In September I bought new shoes for my boys. Calvin wanted high top basketball shoes with laces. I agreed, he loved those shoes. He wore them constantly even on the hottest days of fall, he took the time to tie and untie them and gave up wearing his sandals all together. Then winter came and the runners went away and the snow boots came out. They made an occasional appearance for cub meetings and such but really, in much of Canada in the winter it is all boots all the time. We pulled the much coveted high tops back out last week and he was excited to see them again. He talked about his love for his shoes and how they made run faster and jump higher. He wore them one day and then commented the next day that they he needed new shoes. I said don't be silly and had him put them on again. He and I had a few arguments back and forth about them and he kept saying they were old and dumb and he needed new shoes. He would not wear them and went to school in his rubber boots for a few days.

I was at a bit of a loss as to why the coveted shoes sucked so badly all of a sudden and then the penny dropped.

It hurt to put them on, it hurt to bend down and tie the laces, it hurt to push his feet in, he still loved them but he could not wear them because putting them on was just painful. He was sad about the loss of his favourite shoes and so he decided that he hated them to protect himself from the frustration of not being able to wear them.

In February of this year Calvin stopped walking, he was complaining about leg pain one day and then the next morning he stopped walking. After many visits to the ER and a few specialists he was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis. At the moment it is in his left hip and knee, he is in pain most days and often starts his morning out using crutches to help him get around. He has good days and bad days but putting on shoes has become one of those tasks that is just really, really hard even on a good day.

I have dealt with this with this new diagnosis for Calvin with broad shoulders and a stiff upper lip since it was delivered in a sterile exam room at the end of a long day of tests 7 weeks ago. My lip was good and stiff until the other day when the grief of what it means for his life overwhelmed in the shoe aisle.  As I stood there looking at the shoes the tears welled up because I was sad for my boy. Sad that his favourite shoes caused him pain, sad that this is his reality, sad that he hurts and sad that I can not fix this for him. It is not a broken toy or a ripped book, there is nothing I can do to fix this. Yes there are medications and dietary changes that will help but there is no cure. He might grow out of it but he might not.

I can't get rid of his pain but I can make sure that my boy has shoes that he can put on that he loves just as much as his coveted high tops. But I wish, like all parents, that I could just make it all better when I see him hurting.


J blogs at Stellar Parenting 101 about being a parent to her sons and the issues around older child adoption. She and her son Calvin are counting the days to flip flop season.



  1. Grief creeps up in unexpected places, doesn't it? We all would take the pain from our kids if we could. Here's hoping your son does outgrow it.

  2. I, too, have cried when buying shoes but for a different reason - I can't seem to get any to fit over my daughter's braces. It's amazing how such a mundane thing like buying shoes can be so emotional, but it is. I hope your son does grow out of the JA and, in the meantime, is able to find shoes that *rock* and don't hurt him!

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about this diagnosis for your son. One of the most helpless feelings as a parent is when we can't take the pain away for our kids. I totally get the crying over shoes thing too :(