Dao begets One (nothingness; or reason of being), One begets Two (yin and yang), Two begets Three (Heaven, Earth and Man; or yin, yang and breath qi), Three begets all things.
-Dao De Jing
One day a few months ago, I was surfing the internet mindlessly when I saw that Crocs shoes were on sale.
It was snowing heavily outside, but it didn’t take away the attractiveness of these summer shoes. The $9.99 price tag made my eyes glow, and my heart beat fast: Just buy a pair for each of my daughters, we are good for the entire summer for less than $20!
When other moms were working hard dressing up their little girls, I was all excited about saving a few bucks.
But after all, they are Crocs. The wonderful magical shoes.
The first time I saw them, I was shocked and confused: what on earth is this design that’s completely anti-aesthetic?
But American people didn’t seem to mind.
They were everywhere.
After seeing them many many times on many many people, I got used to them. Sometimes their big dumb faces even looked cute, in an ugly way.
Then I went on a trip to Hawaii. I needed a pair of shoes good for walking on a lot of surfaces. So I got a pair of Crocs.
And this trip changed my view completely.
They are the most perfect shoes in the world!
I could put them on in a second and take them off instantly. If I didn’t want them off, they were attached to me like the chains on my bike.
I wore them inside, outside, to the mountain, to the sea. They resisted water, dirt, smell…
They were very much like my husband, despite the appearance, they were practical, trustworthy, reliable and low maintenance.
I brought many pairs of shoes on that trip, but these, the crocs, starred in all my pictures.
My daughters had never had Crocs.
The older one, Elle, was in the phase of the pink princess. I saw some pink ones and added them to my cart immediately. Although the shape was funny, at least the color was right. I did my best.
For the younger daughter, Ali, there were not many choices left in her size: neon green, navy, black. She was the follower of her sister’s princess fantasy, but she was still young and lacked her own opinions and judgment. So I decided to just get her the green ones, and talk her into wearing them.
This was what I bought:
Marketing copywriting and monologues when shopping for your kids, were parts of the hard work of being a mom.
I was in the joy of getting a good deal and didn’t think it’d be a problem to get my kids to wear them. They were toddlers, after all.
And in a blink came the summer.
A few days ago, we were going out to play on the beach. When we were at the door I suddenly thought about the Crocs: after a few months, it was finally the time to put them to use!
I got out the box. The girls were running to look at their new shoes, screaming like little kittens.
I first opened Elle’s box. She saw the pink, jumped ahead and grabbed them excitedly.
The moment she saw what they actually looked like, she tossed them away like something scary.
I couldn’t say anything yet and Ali opened her box.
Her gaze stayed on the shoes for about three seconds, and she closed the box, stood up, turned around and walked away. She was emotionless.
It’s not going so well. I took a deep breath, put on my excited face.
Elle didn’t care about what I said, she took a pair of old sandals and put them on.
I turned to Ali.
She was waiting for me wearing her favorite silver-bow shoes like nothing had happened a minute ago.
The first encounter, the Crocs failed.
Should I give up?
No, frugal as I am, I would not accept the result of wasting money, for the goal of saving it.
Over the next few days, I took every chance to convince them:
Let’s go for a walk, wear these and you don’t need socks!
They match your dress! Wear them to school!
I will let you splash in the puddle if you wear these.
My effort paid off. Elle finally agreed to give them a try.
We opened our eyes wide, raised our voice, and gave the compliments as if she were not wearing some molded plastic, but the glass slippers of Cinderella.
She soon engaged herself in the fantasy of going to the prince’s ball.
I was relieved. Now just needed to excise my superb acting skill on Ali.
But it didn’t go so well. No matter what I said, she maintained a blank face and didn’t engage at all.
I tried to put the Crocs on her when she was not paying attention. She would kick them off as soon as she noticed and went to get her silver bow shoes.
Her shoe wearing skill and speed had increased rapidly with the presence of the Crocs.
On the other hand, Elle began to like them more and more. Soon they became her favorite shoes, and her getting ready to go out time had drastically decreased.
I was happy to see her realize the awesomeness of the shoes.
I was confident that Ali would eventually come around.
I tried many ways to convince her, but her answer was always “NO”.
Eventually, I told her if she didn’t wear them, I would not take her to her favorite park.
She gave in, and let me put them on her.
She was three years old, after all.
I noticed her body was stiff.
After they were put on, she looked down at her feet, then looked up at me. Tears in her eyes, she let out a big sigh: Ohh, they are sooo ugly.
The three-year-old sounded like thirty with the hopelessness in her tone.
I couldn’t do anything but keep pretending: Why? They aren’t ugly, they are pretty and cute.
She said nothing back. Just walked away.
Looking at her lonely back, I realized: She truly hated the shoes from the bottom of her heart.
Her indifference towards them was a deeper refusal than strong rejection. She was traumatized by them at the first look and developed a natural self-defense mechanism.
But after all that, the shoes needed a chance.
Ali had fun at the park. She ran, climbed, jumped, and the shoes cooperated with her. I even let her step into a puddle, to show her how advanced they were.
I hoped she would start to like them like her sister.
Back from the park, the shoes were immediately thrown into a corner. After that, every time I asked her to wear them, the answers were still “no” with a fast shaking head.
I wanted to win, but I have integrity. I couldn’t force on her something she hated so much. Didn’t those psychiatrists say that would turn your children into sociopaths?
But they cost me $10, and originally $28! I couldn’t let them be wasted like this.
Alright. You think they are ugly, how about a makeover?
Ali liked shiny things. I thought about rhinestones.
I placed an order on Amazon, they arrived the next day.
The time after the kids went to bed was the most precious time in the world. Normally, I used it to catch up with my work, catch up on my shows, catch up on my communication with my husband in bed.
But that night, I lavishly spent an entire hour, picking up the tiny stones with fine pincers, dabbing on strong glue, and placing them neatly on the Crocs.
I thought they looked so good even Kim Kardashian would want to wear them.
I was satisfied with my work. How could a three-year-old resist these?
The next morning, the two girls were amazed by the swan transformed from the ugly duckling.
Ali finally wanted to wear them.
This round, the Crocs won.
Although I spent extra $8 and one night of entertainment, when I looked at the smiling face of my children, I felt proud to be such a good mom.
When I picked up Ali from school, I noticed something wrong with the shoes.
I kneeled down and took a look, found that the rhinestones were falling and missing like a defeated army.
I used the strongest glue!
I did the test, you couldn’t easily knock them off at all!
I almost spit blood!
How long did it take to peel off so many, you just sat there and watched?
I was devastated. I poured my heart and soul into them, and she didn’t cherish them at all.
“The child is father of the man.” How can I rely on her to take care of me when I’m old?
She kicked off the shoes when we got home and went back to her “NO” stage.
Is it because of the missing stones? Do you want mommy to add them back?
She didn’t say yes or no.
After this strike, my interests in the makeover was worn-out anyway.
A few days later…
She was peeling off the left rhinestones.
I suddenly came to an awareness.
All this time, Ali had never accepted the Crocs.
In the very beginning, she had decided to have nothing to do with them.
She had been resisting in a planned way.
She was nimble, gave me enough rope so I felt I seized the initiative.
She was observable, fought back when I was off guard and destroyed my confidence.
I even suspected in the initial rhinestone peeling event, she was either the main culprit or an accessory to the crime.
I completely underrated this three-year-old’s determination and strategy.
Since then, the rhinestone dazzled Crocs have been like some rejected nobilities, sparkled in desperation and sorrow in the corner of the cabinet.
Even I did not bother to look at them.
After the war between Ali and Crocs ended with her win, I still had more than half of the rhinestones I paid $8 for.
It hurt me to see them wasted. But I didn’t expect it would go well on children’s clothing, and my style wasn’t bling either.
I thought about my ice skates. They could use some shine.
After my homework, I found I need more colors and sizes of the rhinestones in order to make the pattern I wanted.
So to Amazon I went again.
This time, it took me four, hours. I started after putting the kids in the bath, and I finished at midnight.
When I eventually raised my head, I felt numbness in my neck and shoulders. But I didn’t care; I was in admiration of my work.
I went to bed tired but happy.
The next morning, I woke up with some unsettling sensation.
I couldn’t move my neck.
The area between my neck and shoulders was tight like a metal board. Any movement hurt like hell.
This was not good. I called my doctor.
She said, this sounds like a muscle strain, you need to see a physical therapist.
So I did.
Like this, the story started with two pairs of Crocs on sale a few months ago, and it finished with the last therapy yesterday.
What I learned was that when you work with your head down, turn your neck once a while or you will be in a lot of trouble.