Thursday, May 24, 2012

Recurring "Trauma"

Edited to more realistically portray the level of "trauma" and drama
and give my attempt at the light-hearted view of the actual events.
Really, it was not nearly as traumatic as it was dramatic.
I promise, I am not torturing my child with my need for pretty shoes.
Nor am I oblivious to her sensory issues. She has them. This is one of them
And we work it out with her. A little at a time. Truly.

Every May, for now the 4th year since Li'l Empress came, she has had the strangest reaction to something that most girls LOVE about spring and summer:  She freaks out about going barefoot and wearing sandals. I kid you not, the reaction to the change is so extreme and it startles me every time.  I've said it before, I'm a little slow on the uptake like that. Booo hisss. 

I should have known it was coming, between the previous spring-to-summer transitions she's gone through with us AND the slightly anxious conversations she's been having as the weather has gotten nicer and nicer. Questioning my choice of footwear almost daily since Mother's Day. Comparing her choice of shoes to mine, to LadyBug's, to Shaggy's, to anyone who has bare foot showing. Aaaah, the gift of hindsight.

I started to get a bit more of an inkling of her stress the other day when I painted her toenails. She was so anxious to put her socks back on and she didn't even care that to do so would mar her pedicure. I made her wait for a specific amount of time and then tried to distract her when I started to get an inkling of what was going on. No dice. No way. No how. She is one seriously focused and intentional kid. I suppose that will come in handy when she is a world-famous nuerosurgeon some day. But now, in a pre-schooler? It ain't pretty. Neither are the sock prints on her little toes. Heh.

But yesterday took the cake. We were given an adorable pair of brown leather sandals by a good friend. (And by the by, while I'm thinking of it, what is with brown sandals for girls in the stores? WHY on EARTH are they so stinkin' hard to find these days?!) As part of our yearly "desensitizing process" (yes, we have a process whereby we slowly introduce the concept of naked piggies and strappy shoes that bare her feet to the world!), I showed her the sandals from our friend and asked her what she thought of them. Heh. She was indifferent, in a "I'm trying to show you how indifferent I am" kind of way.

When I took them out of the bag and asked Li'l E to try them on for me, her whole demeanor changed. I am not being dramatic here. She stiffened up, got a shaky tone to her voice and begged me to give them away. I admit, I was a little surprised at her response. She begged me to let her keep her socks on with the sandals. I declined, nicely, and asked her just to give them a try. I reminded her that her pretty brown and green sundress needed a snazzy pair of sandals but she was adamant. "I dohn want dem, Mommy. No sanks."  I persisted; I just really wanted her to figure out that it is SO.NOT. the big deal that she makes it, before it even actually happens to her. I wanted her to taste the confidence of conquering a fear or anxiety again, as she did when we switched the kids' rooms. Or when she had to get used to Daddy driving her to school when he came home full time. I knew she could handle it, we'd been through this same issue last year. And the year before. AND the year before that.

Through her tears and shaking little hands, she chose to heed my request and tried them on. I congratulated her for choosing to give them a try, thanked her for trying to obey nicely and helped her fit them. Then The Boss came to my aid and properly "oooh'ed" and "aaaah'ed" over them, complimenting her pretty purple toenails, mentioning the pretty flowers on the sandals. She ate that up. Truly, I could see her fighting the excitement over the pretties while she was also fighting her frustration over naked toes.

Sheesh, you'd have thought we were torturing her or asking her to eat raw squid.  It was THAT dramatic.

So I made a deal that she didn't have to WEAR them all day, as long as she'd just try them out while she was eating her peanut butter and honey sandwich. I'd even give her some extra honey drips on the sandwich if she could try for me. 

She reluctantly agreed and commenced eating that sandwich through her sobbing and slobbering. Hiccuping through her tears that the sandals were too tight and they were hurting her feet. Then that they were too big and falling off. That they were not pretty. That she needed her socks. OMYLANDS. It was PIT.EEEEE.FULLL! Again, I am not exaggerating. It didn't last all that long, but it was so pathetic and dramatic. I was pretty deadpan and matter of fact. Just reminded her that lunch is quick and she'd make it through. That she did it last year, she could do it again today. And I went silent.

Finally, as she was turning the corner from anxious and sad and getting quite rude and defiant, I figured out that there was something else going on. Again, I'm slow on the uptake like that. She had been up quite late the night before and up early for school that morning. So I encouraged her to go somewhere else with that noise and anger because Daddy had an important phone call to finish and she was interrupting him. She stood in the garage and cried and muttered with angry bursts and sobs. For all of three minutes. Seriously. Three.LONG.minutes of sobs. What on EARTH?

But all of a sudden, she decided she was done - just DONE, so she came in. She climbed up into her chair. She finished her sandwich, had a bite or two of my left-overs, and drank her juice. She chatted away, in her "over the top, look at how cute I am, I will win you over" manner and as SOON as the last bite of that lunch was done, asked if she could take off the sandals. NO distraction on my part would work. NOT.ONE.

So Daddy and I gave her the go ahead. We thanked her again for at least trying them on and seeing how they felt. (She was happy to tell me that they felt "TERRIBLE." Yes, she said "terrible." Oy.) Daddy extracted a promise from her to give them another try another time, just to see how she felt about them later. She grudgingly promised and sat right down to remove them. She happily ran them upstairs to her shoe bin and dropped them in and walked away.

And the whole thing took less than 15 minutes. I could have sworn it was four hours. Suffice it to say, it's not just the sandal issue either. She HAS to have socks on every night for bed. She could be so hot that she's stripped down to just her Kai Lan undies but she WILL.HAVE.THOSE.FEET.COVERED! I have never ever figured out what is going on and later, when I asked her if she'd need to wear her socks out to the patio and even in the pool she looked at me like I was insane. She scornfully said, "Moooooommmmmeeeee, you don't wear socks in da pool. Dat's just silly."

Heh. Yeah. And gagging on a pb& honey sandwich while you cry over cute new sandals is so sane.



RamblingMother said...

Just so you know you are not alone. My G had the same reaction to panty hose (on others she never wore them), boots and gloves. She couldn't stand to have them on at all. She would have the same reaction the shaking and crying when she saw boots and panty hose so I never wore them around her.

I suppose summer is best for us where winter is for you guys but G has since grown out of the fear of boots and loves cowboy boots. She tolerates gloves on herself and panty hose on others but not on herself so no cute tights for her. And she refuses skirts or dresses of any kind at any time for any reason!

It got better for us so hopefully it will for you too!

Trish said...

While I can empathize with your frustration, I do have to say that my heart breaks for how scary and painful this seems to be for her. Michael had trouble with the transition for years. A combination of time and therapy with an OT for sensory processing disorder has helped a lot. I would highly recommend talking to her OT about doing a sensory profile and seeing how they can help you with this.

Love you and wishing all the best for you both!

Joan said...

I wish we knew what was going on inside her head about shoes...just like how we wish we could read any child's mind sometimes. Hopefully one day you'll look back at it and you'll both laugh. My mom told me how I'd throw a huge tantrum for wanting to wear a skirt in winter, which now sounds ridiculous to me because I remember a time when it was the exact opposite. Maybe it's the same maybe it's different :) Keep doing your best!

The Gang's Momma! said...

Dear Anonymous- Please see my note about leaving comments. "Nicely please" is the rule around here. Your words were anything but nice and have been deleted in moderation.