We bought Chandler a pair of cowboy boots on Saturday. We helped him pick them out amidst serious deliberation. It took over an hour. It could have taken all day — we didn’t care — we were with him and that’s all that mattered.
It is our first visit since sending him to a residential treatment center five states away, and we are savoring every minute of it. Large amounts of fear and apprehension were immediately swallowed up in long hugs and welcomed smiles.
We are in cowboy country, so cowboy boots are appropriate attire. They are required — at least some kind of boot — for horseback riding, which is part of the therapy program here: they learn to ride and care for a horse. This afternoon, I will go riding with him.
He’s been wearing a pair of boots one of the other kids here shared with him, but they are a size too big for him, so we decided, since he was going to be spending a lot of time with horses, this would be an important investment.
I tried on a few pair while he was deliberating, knowing that the shoes I brought were not appropriate for our riding experience today. As I did, I found myself getting excited, thinking how a new pair of cowboy boots would be great to take home from here — a piece of the country that is now becoming a part of Chandler that I could share in. However, I quickly remembered that we were not here to get me boots.
At dinner, a few blocks away from the boot store, the subject of what I would wear for horseback riding came up. I was just about to bring up that I was thinking about maybe getting some boots myself, when Chandler made it very clear what I would be wearing today. I would wear his boots — the ones he’s been wearing — size 12.
“But I’ll be swimming in them,” I said. “They are three sizes too big for me.” My argument didn’t phase him. When Chandler gets himself set on a path, there is no dissuading him. It’s a good quality that can be ill-used when the path is wrong, but when it’s right, it’s something to be trusted, and he will not be moved.
“Okay,” I finally acquiesced, realizing this was not a hill I wanted to die on. “I’ll borrow them while I ride,” I said, thinking it wouldn’t matter sitting in the saddle.
“No,” he said, vehemently opposed to my solution. He had something else in mind, and I needed to get it. “You have to walk in my shoes.” And as soon as he said it, I realized he was talking about much more that borrowing his boots. He was talking about seeing things from his perspective, and he is convinced that these particular boots are going to convey something of himself to me that I could not gain any other way. Size was of no consequence.
Suddenly I was glad to drop the idea of getting my own boots. I would have been walking my own path with my own pair of boots that have nothing to do with Chandler. I would have convinced myself that I was connecting with him in some way, when, in fact, I would have continued on in my isolation, where I have everything I need without becoming vulnerable to anyone or anything. Now I’m going to be swimming in Chandler’s boots, wearing blisters on my feet, and tripping over myself, and whatever else might happen. It won’t matter, because, for once, if only for a while, I’ll be walking in Chandler’s shoes.
I can’t wait. I’m going to wear them all day.