My son develops quirks and obsessions easily. Most of the time these obsessions eventually go away, however, it doesn’t take long before another one rears its unusual head. Recently, it’s been an obsession with feet. All of a sudden he LOVES feet. The very idea that someone is taking off their shoes to let him see their feet, enthuses Noah to the point of jumping up and down in pure excitement. He has to look at feet. Big feet. Small feet. Young feet. Old feet. It doesn’t matter.
It’s not just seeing a pair of feet either. Noah has to look at them from all different angles. He’ll come over and move a foot into another position and then stand back and admire the foot from another angle. He’ll get up close again then back away to have another look from another angle. What the heck started this strange quirk, we have NO idea but it’s now become embarrassing. We can’t go anywhere, where open feet are a possibility or if we do, keep a close eye on him because he will run off excitedly to a pair of feet he just noticed. This happens at the pool or most recently, his music therapy class when we all take our shoes off and sit on the carpet. Not everyone wears socks but if they do and he’s interested enough, he’ll try to pull them off!
My husband and I have also thought about the start of school in a few weeks and don’t want Noah going up to his teachers or other classmates and scream, “Feet!” while trying to pull their shoes off. He’s relentless when he wants something bad enough. So, we are hoping if we stop giving in to Noah and deal with the tantrums, he’ll eventually stop and this fetish will go away. It is hard when he can throw a tantrum and scream and cry like the poor kid is being tortured. We currently live in an apartment so it makes it even harder to wean off this habit. The walls are not that thick and our neighbors have made jokes in the past that something must have made Noah really upset because they could hear the nightmare tantrum happening in our apartment.
It is easier to give in and not have to deal with the explosive tantrums that ensue when we don’t let him admire our fabulous feet. Even redirecting his attention doesn’t work half the time because his mind is set on feet and only feet. However, long term, we know that we need to stop this habit if we can before it becomes more of a problem in public and especially at school.
We aren’t sure how to stop this love of feet but we have already stopped giving in to him when he asks every single time. The issue with that is he’s finally speaking and asking for things in short sentences so it’s hard to encourage him to ask for what he wants (and even say, “please”) and then still refuse him but that’s what we’ll have to try. We have started telling him “No” to seeing our feet every time he asks. It certainly doesn’t go over well and it’s hard to hold our stance when he’s crying with tears streaming down his face while saying “please” over and over.
There is no “best way” to handle the tantrums. If there is, we haven’t discovered it. My husband and I learned long ago that when these tantrum start, take a deep breath and know there is little you can do, so try to stay calm and quiet and just let him cry it out. We still can’t really reason with him, especially in those moments. We can’t say, “Noah stop throwing a fit or we will take away your toy guitar.” Nothing like that works. It doesn’t mean we still don’t try to reason with him but at the present time, it doesn’t really work for us. We know he’s going to throw a huge fit. We can’t stop it, so why fight it? He does eventually calm down and move on to something else of interest. From time to time when he refuses to calm down at home, we do give him a “time out” in his room. He still sleeps in a crib, so we can put him in there where he’ll stay until he decides to calm down on his own.
In public, we don’t do much different than let Noah cry his tantrum out. At the pool, it’s only happened once that we decided to leave and go home. My husband and I refused to let him go over and touch this man’s feet who was laying out and Noah went crazy and wouldn’t let it go so 15 minutes later we just decided to leave, as not to keep disturbing others around us and to also stop the stares. It’s not easy when it happens in public and seeing all the stares and glances our way as if they say, “What’s the deal? He’s really THAT upset over not touching a stranger’s feet? Can you not calm him down so we can enjoy our day in peace?” Maybe they don’t think that way but I feel like they do by the way they stare our way. I just want to say to those who stare at us in those moments, “Please be patient with us. We are trying to calm him down and enjoy the rest of our day too. You think I want to cause my child to cry because I won’t let him touch a strangers feet?” Sometimes, when I feel comfortable with someone, I do say something but it’s almost always in joke form. It’s embarrassing, so it’s almost easier for me to explain when I try to attach a joke to it. I’ve told people that “Noah’s Foot Fetish” sounds like a deranged children’s book and while it gets a laugh from other people, it still makes me uncomfortable. Not knowing if they’ll have a sense of humor or get upset and wonder what’s up with my kid. Most people have been OK with it and humor him so-to-speak, however, there have been some who weren’t that amused and hide their feet from him when they know that’s what he wants to stare at. It’s weird. I get that.
We don’t have a set list of things to do when these tantrums rear their ugly head. We kind of go-with-the-flow and try to stay calm in the moment and deal with the tantrums as best we can when they happen in public. We either just let him cry it out or try to redirect his attention to something else like a few of his favorite small toys that I can pull out of his backpack. Of course, depending on the place and situation, we’ll take him out of a place and go back to the car so he can have his tantrum and calm down. We’ve had to do this many times but specifically when we have made trips to the library and when my daughter has theatre rehearsal. My husband and I do our best to not disturb those around us if we can help it.
We are trying to ease our way out of this foot habit. We have noticed he doesn’t ask as often as he used to and we went to the pool yesterday and he never bothered anyone to see their feet. That’s a definite improvement! I also know when this obsession ceases, something else will take its place but I’m hoping it’s something that is easier to deal with and less embarrassing than telling a stranger he likes feet and would they mind if my little five year old stares at them for a bit.
Jenna Maddix |
Follow Noah on Twitter, @noahmaddix
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