Mind your keys and shoes / by Susie Lubell

I've found that every now and then we manage to channel my son's non-clinical obsessiveness into worthwhile habits. For instance, I finally decided that we should take our shoes off at the door before entering the house. With the baby slithering around all the time and the two of them sick for weeks on end, I decided I'd had enough of dirt and bacteria. Plus several month ago, when I made this decision, the carpeting in my kids' room had reached near saturation with urine. It was time for a deep clean.

So I had the carpets professionally washed and from that day told my son that we had to take our shoes off before we went inside. And he obeyed, which was completely unexpected since he's also obsessed with shoes. But not just any shoes. My shoes. Platforms. Peep toes. Strappy. Cowgirl shit-kickers. Knee high zip-ups. Loafers. Maryjanes. Crocs. You name it. So he would come home from school and parade around in shoes for the rest of the evening. And he's surprisingly well-balanced in heels. But I was getting tired of him wearing my shoes all the time. So the new rule not only prevented tracking in dirt from outside, it also meant he could no longer wear my shoes in the house. Brilliant!

So now, shoes off is his thing. The minute we get in the house he shouts SHOES OFF! If I walk into the kitchen to hang up my keys or put down the mail I get a lecture about wearing shoes in the house. Sometimes I can't get my shoes off one-handed and the baby needs to be changed so we go straight to their room and then he lets me have it for wearing shoes on the carpet. And fine, he's right. But does he have to be so obnoxious about it?

And keys too. If I don't hang up my keys on the chicken hook in the kitchen, I get berated in a sort of "what did I just tell you?" sing-songy kind of tone. Probably the same tone I give him fifty times a day. But the truth is, if I forget to put the keys on the chicken then I end up leaving them somewhere and searching for them the next morning while I'm rushing to work. So it's good that he reminds me.

But he has so many rituals these days that I can't keep them straight and if I mess one up it could launch an hour long tantrum. I'll never forget the time I accidentally flushed the toilet for him. He used to go in a little potty on the floor and then I'd dump it and clean the potty and he would pull up his pants, flush the toilet and wash his hands. That was the routine. One time I dumped the poop and then just flushed out of habit. I don't know, you see poop in a toilet and you automatically feel compelled to flush. Well now we know where the term "losing your shit" comes from. He cried for an hour that he wanted his poo poo back.

I know that toddlers need routine and it helps them organize all of the new things they experience on a constant basis, but there are some very murky waters between creating a reasonable framework in which your child feels safe and indulgence in behavior that, should it continue into later life, would most certainly be considered neurotic.

In the long term, who knows. But at least in the short term I no longer have to share my shoes with my three year old. If only I could figure out how to curb his obsession with cell phones.