Recently, when my dad was visiting, I helped him put on his shoes. I like slip ons. Shoe horn goes in, slide foot forward and voila, good to go. Simple. No need for him to bend or balance. I was quite proud of my efforts and the rapidity with which we cooperatively accomplished this task. I hadn't lost my touch. All those years of inserting kindergarten feet into shoes certainly prepared me for this. It was then that my hubby asked "Why's your father wearing my shoes?"
It was that singular question and my stuttering attempt to explain, that brought back a flood of memories.
Every spring, the kindergarten teachers at my school held a student parent information night. While the eager new parents looked on, I would remind them of two things. Firstly, when there are 25 four and five year olds in a group, they can't always locate or identify their own shoes. Please write their name on each shoe. Secondly, shoes should be easy for the child to put on himself/herself; velcro closures, slip ons and elasticized pre-tied laces are best. It got to the point where I even brought and demonstrated samples of suggested types of shoes. It sounded obvious. Then in September when the children arrived at school, there would be only a handful of moms and dads who had considered my requests. The rest had to learn the hard way.
Children's running shoe styles are somewhat limited. Imagine a dozen pairs of girls' shoes sporting Dora the Explorer or Barbie and another dozen pairs of Spiderman or Transformers boys' shoes. Now add to this the fact that many four and five year old children wear size 11 or 12. Double the number of shoes because children had both indoor and outdoor footwear. On days when boots were added to the equation, the chaos that ensued was something akin to a riot at the G20 summit.
Each day, I managed to insert curly toed feet, tie, snap or velcro children into footwear. If they were lucky, they even ended up wearing their own shoes. Not once did I send a boy home in Barbie shoes or put a girl in lace up army boots, quite an accomplishment under the circumstances. That's not to say that there weren't instances of children heading home with two left shoes, while others sported two rights of the same style and colour. This occurred if they managed to dress themselves and leave without my careful inspection and it was not always a good thing, particularly if one of the children in question was absent on the following day. Once in awhile we even lost a boot or shoe. I would search and search while a child sat patiently on the coat room bench wearing one boot. Odd. It usually showed up as if by magic a day or two later.
I wish I had thought of the response that is clear to me now. The obvious answer to hubby after he asked the question "Why's your father wearing my shoes," should have been, "I didn't see your name on them."