Every week, when it’s time to think about this community and what Cami-story I’m going to share with you, I try to find uplifting moments, ways my child is living, thriving, in spite of her “hidden disabilities.” God showers His grace on us so prolifically, so constantly, sometimes I feel guilty because we haven’t had “hard” times in a long time. Not as hard as things used to be. I read other families’ stories, and I think it might sound like we–the Virginia Dickerson Family–have it all together. Life is working for us right now. We’re in a good place, so what do I have to say that can possibly help anyone else?
It isn’t like I feel this space is only for sharing our tough spots. Yes, it is for that. But it’s also for sharing all of the times God shows up in tangible ways, the way He makes beautiful things out of ashes and dust. I never want to brag except to brag on Jesus and all the ways He wraps His arms around my messy family, the myriad of ways He shines in us and through us.
And then we buy Cami new boots.
I have to confess: Cami’s taller than I am. Which means her feet are bigger than mine are. She’s been inching up slowly and steadily, but we haven’t bought her shoes since last year. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time we bought her shoes. (And the accusation in my head is shouting, “Bad mom!!”) Shoes haven’t been on my radar much because Cami wears her Crocs all. the. time. They easily slip on and off, and her toes have plenty of room to wiggle. The great thing about Crocs? They don’t have shoelaces. It’s really hard for kids with dyspraxia to learn to tie their shoes. Which is probably why we avoid shoe shopping.
This winter season is colder, and colder sooner, than last winter. Cami’s Crocs aren’t keeping her feet warm. Or dry. So we pulled out the shoes from last year, the shoes she tore up but good by dragging her feet along the sidewalk as she coasted down the hill while sitting on her skateboard over and over last summer. It took us six months or so to convince Cami to wear the non-Croc shoes. Her dad bought her special shoe laces that Cami doesn’t have to tie, so she didn’t mind not wearing her Crocs to skateboard. Lock Laces are great for my girl with dyspraxia.
The laces aren’t the problem this year. “But Mom,” Cami explains, “my feet are colder in these shoes than when I wear my Crocs.”
“But your Crocs aren’t winter shoes, honey. And it’s winter now.”
“I’ll just wear really thick socks.” My mommy-knower knows that the colder days are almost here, and really thick socks won’t be warm enough. On our Thanksgiving Getaway, we plan to take Cami to Luray Caverns. I know the time has come to push the issue.
So we go to Walmart. Normally, Walmart is one of the many public places we avoid. Fluorescent lights, lots of people which means lots of crowd noise mixing with the store music, and lots of different stuff everywhere all combine to create a Cami Shutdown. However, sometimes we all have to do unpleasant things that we don’t want to do, like try on shoes in Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. We find one pair of boots her size that are acceptable, and she’s overwhelmed by my asking her to make choices when her dad walks up and says,
“Well, if we’re going to buy some boots, let’s look at the real boots.”
Whewy. We start all over, and I go into try-to-manage-everyone-and-everything mode. I haven’t been in that icky place in my heart for quite awhile. But here I go, handing Michael pairs of work boots for Cami to try on; waterproof, steel toes, high ankles–he’s right: they are a much better investment than the ones I settled on. But what I know, what’s making me freak out a little (okay, a lot) is that Lock Laces aren’t going to work on these boots.
Cami is going to have to learn to tie her own shoes.
She seems agreeable to that feat. Here in Walmart on our Thanksgiving Getaway, she seems willing to do the work and learn how to tie her shoes. Michael spends the next two days coaching her on making bunny ears with the laces, then making the bunny run around the rabbit hole, then making the bunny run in the rabbit hole and out the other side…. I don’t pay close enough attention to the little story he’s made up, so here we are at home this week and it’s time for Cami to put her boots on so we can go outside, and I don’t know the bunny story.
I send her upstairs to fetch her boots from her room, and she’s gone a long time. That isn’t unusual; sometimes, Cami’s room acts like a black hole that sucks her into distraction from the task at hand and keeps her attention for hours. But this time is different. She comes downstairs carrying her boots and wearing her Crocs. She drops the boots at my feet, flounces down on the couch beside me, and crosses her arms with a harrumph. “I’ll never be able to tie my own shoes,” she mutters.
Oh. “Is that what you’ve been doing up there this whole time?”
“Yes.” Deep breath, a shudder, then, as she throws up her hands, “What other twelve-year-old doesn’t know how to tie their own shoes?”
“Oh, darling,” I say, and I gather her in a hug. Nothing I can do, no words I can say will make it better. That’s a cruddy feeling. “Are you feeling stupid, Cami?”
She nods, and the tears start slipping down her cheek.
“Cami, you are not stupid. You are smart. You are capable. You are enough.” The air feels charged with spiritual battle. It’s one of those moments of clarity when God takes over and we humans simply become His vessel for change here on earth.
I put my hand on Cami’s head and start praying aloud. “Oh, Lord Jesus, I ask you to shut the enemy’s mouth. Lord, make him be quiet. Please clear the lies he’s speaking to my girl. Please speak truth in Cami’s deepest heart. Thank You that You have made her in a wonderful way. Help her see that, Jesus.”
Silence. Then a sniffle.
“In Jesus’ Name,” another sniffle, “Amen.”
We take a few moments to just breathe, then I say, “Okay, girl. Get you some Kleenex and wipe your tears off because you’re going to tie those boots.”
As she closes up again, I pat her knee and say, “Come on. You can do this. We’ll do it together.”
She wails, “But I’ll never be able to remember how to do this!” as I’m calmly and quickly tying the boot closest to me.
The Holy Spirit reminds me: this isn’t the time to be Helicopter Mom (you know: swoop in and rescue). This isn’t the time to do it for her. This is the time to empower her to do it for herself. “Okay, Cami. One boot is done. Now you do the other one. Cinch up the laces and tie a half-bow.”
“Right. You know how to tie a bow. I know you do. So tie just the first half of a bow.”
She ties a half-bow.
“Now, hook the laces around the hooks and make another half-bow.”
“Really?” she says. “But I thought….”
“What?” I’m going for the bottom-heart issue. “What did you think?”
“Ohhh, I’m so confused!” as she throws up her hands and starts to really cry.
I take a deep breath. “Okay. You’ve come this far; you can do this. Tie a half-bow.”
She does. “I can’t seem to ever be able to tie it tight enough.”
I tell her, “I know. I have that problem too sometimes. That’s why I tie my shoes in double knots.”
And she does. She ties them by herself the next day. Then she wears her Crocs the rest of the week because her dad and I forget to remind her to put her boots on.
But we’ll get there.