The Lost Shoe

Touring the beaches of Portugal has been a wonderful experience and driving through pine trees and eucalyptus seems to be just what the doctor ordered. I’ve found that people in Portugal are extremely tolerant of children. Back home I sometimes feel like I need to be too controlling of my kids and how they behave, but here in Portugal, I feel like a little like a helicopter parent.

I find that rather than people looking at my kids and thinking, “Look at that misbehaved child!” I’m getting looks that convey the message, “Be quiet mom! They’re just kids.”

While I’m overhearing a lot of, “I’m going to pull your ears,” “You are now being punished and need to sit on your own,” “Who do you think you’re talking to?” and “Be quiet or you’ll get a spanking,” I find that unlike the magical (or mythical) French child, the Portuguese child has just as many tantrums and just as much energy as my own Canadian children. Not surprising, I know!

I find Portuguese parents to be very attentive to their children’s needs without trying to control them by barking demands at them. I may be guilty of this… back home I would never consider myself a “helicopter parent” but here I felt ridiculous sometimes. Ridiculous for saying things like: “Get up off the floor,” “You’re speaking too loudly” and “Sit still.” Although the parents I’ve seen do not hesitate to discipline their children in public in any way they see fit, the general attitude I’m getting is this, “They’re just kids. Let them be.” I love that.

Of course I’m basing this on just a couple of weeks of observing parents and children in public. I haven’t conducted a formal study, so maybe my ideas on parenting here are just that, but it’s the feeling I get. I feel more tolerance towards children here and I like it.

On one of our day trips, my son, who doesn’t like sand on his feet (which can be really fun on the beach) was sitting in the car with the door open and taking off his shoes to shake the sand off. We buckled him in and off we drove to our next destination. When we arrived we noticed that he only had one shoe on. We searched every crevice of that car, asked him if he threw it out the window and came to the conclusion that he must have left it back at our last stop where he was shaking the sand off.

We were a little annoyed, mostly because he now only had one shoe and Mr. I-Don’t-Like-To-Get-Dirty, was hopping on one foot rather than just enjoying a time when he had reason to be barefoot.

We went in to a beach front shop and started to look for flip flops that we could purchase for The Boy With One Croc. But he doesn’t enjoy flip flops – he doesn’t like anything between his toes. The more he tried different sizes of flip flops on, the more I was getting frustrated at seeing him try on flip flops that were either perfect or actually too big yet he was still saying, “They’re uncomfortable,” in the whiniest voice imaginable. I was getting frustrated with him, because he needed to have a pair of shoes. The shop owner looked at me and said:

“We as adults like to choose what we wear. We know what we like and what feels comfortable. How could we expect any less of children? We need to respect them and really listen to what they have to say. After all they are just younger versions of ourselves. We need to love them and listen to them.”

This really resonated with me and I asked if they had a slipper type of shoe rather than a flip flop. They did. We walked out of there with a happy and comfortable seven year old and I left feeling a little bit like a heel for being frustrated with my son for not being comfortable in flip flops, but felt great about the man’s attitude towards children and how they should be treated.

I’ve always said that our children are little people and should be treated with and spoken to with respect – right from birth. From telling them that you are going to change their diaper before you do it to sharing with them what you have planned for lunch that day.

Sometimes as busy parents we get frustrated and forget this basic fact and I’m happy that this man in a beach front store in São Pedro de Moel, Portugal reminded me of this that day.






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