I have a serious thing for shoes — I always have. My parents warned Dilip about my addiction when we started dating. Before I got pregnant I justified my shopping, very logically, by explaining to Dilip that it was OK to spend a lot on shoes, because eventually we’d have kids and one of them was bound to be a daughter and I could pass my collection on to her. (At a certain point he clued into the fact that most people really don’t pass shoes down. By then it was too late.)
I never thought that buying shoes for Syona would turn into a serious source of stress (much less one of the bigger items in our budget). Because Syona’s feet are impacted by her cerebral palsy, she requires Ankle Foot Orthotics (sometimes known as AFOs or braces). They are bulky and require a much longer and wider shoe than she would typically need for her feet. After meeting Syona for the first time, her orthotist (the person who makes things like AFOs) made her a really cute pair — black and white animal print with hot pink straps — that fit her diva-like personality. She also coached us on what to look for in a shoe so we’d find something suitable to fit over the AFO (shoes need to be longer, deeper and wider than normal). Since every shoe company differs significantly in sizing, I would literally spend hours staring at a wall of kids’ shoes to figure out what would work. I’d pick out a really cute pair then realize that they just wouldn’t work with Syona’s AFOs. And asking a sales person? Forget about it. Most of them don’t even know what AFOs are. Each time I would step into a kids’ shoe store my heart would hurt a bit because even something as simple as shoe shopping wasn’t easy.
After lots of searching, I bought three pairs that would work. I thought I was set, but after we video chatted with my cousin and his wife who live in Edmonton (and they showed us the dusting of snow on the ground) I started to think of our not-too-distant future in Toronto. And so I began the search for winter boots that fit over AFOs. (I know we’re predicting temperatures into the 20’s this week in Toronto, but I’m a planner!)
Fortunately, there is a Canadian line called Stonz that makes soft, flexible, waterproof booties that fit easily over AFOs and other shoes. They are a great solution for the upcoming winter months. The best part? The booties are also lightweight enough to wear when it’s raining!
But we had another issue: Syona can’t wear her AFOs all day, but her feet and ankles need more support to stay flat than the average kid, so we needed another solution.
Enter the Piedro boot. These are great shoes that give kids extra stability. They also cost upwards of $150 and are not covered by insurance plans. So, naturally, I turned to social media and Three To Be’s Facebook group. In a matter of days, Simona DiMarchi, the clinical director of CME and physiotherapy in Blue Balloon’s Toronto office contacted me to tell me that she knew a parent who would be happy to pass down the pair of Piedro’s that her daughter had outgrown. We picked them up the following week and, thankfully, they are perfect for Syona. Simona later got me in touch with the mom so I could say thanks, and just like that I made a new friend. Nancy is mom to 2½ year-old Isabella, who has special needs. We recently chatted via email and she said, “Not only did I do something nice for your daughter, I also made a new friend. Who knows, maybe I’ll call you one day and ask for your help with something.”
And I realized, that’s the thing about being a parent — and especially about being a parent of a child with special needs — you are part of a community that genuinely cares about the wellbeing of you and your child. A community that is so willing to share resources, knowledge, and even shoes, just to make life a bit easier. I hope that there comes a point where I can help Nancy with something, or help another parent in the same way that she helped me.
I’m also hoping that maybe shoe shopping doesn’t have to be so stressful from now on.
Has a friend, neighbour, a random mom at the park or someone you only know through social media helped you out with a stressful situation? How do you pay it forward?
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.