Keep your flip-flops on
What’s your minimum footwear standard?
Every parent seems to have a refrain that bores them, and has zero effect on their kids’ behaviour. Mine is “Flip-flops.”
This can be said in a straightforward way, with no intonation.

Or with an imagined question mark.

Or with a reminder exclamation mark.

Or between clenched teeth.

I try for as much variation as the confines of two onomatopoeic syllables will allow.

My standards for children’s footwear are low. Most of the time they go barefoot, except when they have school shoes on. This suits them best, apparently, as shedding footwear is a thing they do as naturally as sometimes bursting into song or deciding to whizz round and round the olive tree in the backyard. Why fight an instinct that strong?

Whenever friends visit from Europe, we all watch in amazement as they do the shoe battle at the front door.
“Put on your shoes.”
“Put them on.”

Once or twice I have been unable to contain myself and broken this little verbal dance of inanity by inserting an ill-placed “Why?” in the middle of their little set-to. This is not good manners. It places the parents in the unwelcome position of having to think over an instruction there is no good reason for since our thresholds here are seldom packed with snow.

So generally I decide to go outside and water the herbs until they’ve settled the shoe issue, which can sometimes take weeks. Sometimes, in fact, I forget I had guests, and trip over the exhausted bodies of a small family collapsed over small footwear on our front stoep.

Saving on small shoes
Not being hung up on my kids’ shoes suits me very well. It means I have to spend very little money on small shoes, and I can save the fights for what I consider to be the big important stuff. Once you get over the fact that babies who have become bi-pedal seldom have pink soles, it becomes very convenient to not have to spend time squashing on shoes or fiddling with sock seams that drive kids dilly with irritation. My children have plaas feet: they are hard and hardy. They are, for the most part, immune to prickly things or warm tar. They are also a strange shade of brown which only lightens in water. But I can live with that.

However, they sometimes need shoes. Sometimes the terrain gets seriously rough. Or blisteringly hot. Or treacherous (think Camps Bay beach on new year’s day: dog poo, broken glass...). And the children are required to – take note – bring their flip-flops. Not put them on. I’m not asking them to unnecessarily do something that goes against their grain. I’m just asking them to BRING their flip-flops, in case they’ll need them. However, even though they hardly ever wear them, they can never find them. Never.

Our children are wonderfully responsible human beings. They seldom lose their school gear, forget books at school, or leave their sports kit at home. They make their own beds, take their dishes to the sink and do lots of things for themselves. But they can’t do flip-flops.

Flip-flops, in our household, are rare and precious things. When an adult happens upon a pair in, say, the tree house, under a bush or behind the toilet, they bring them out and parade through the house holding their trophies aloft with a sense of high achievement. We give one another high fives and place these matching bits of valuable rubber in cupboards with a tenderness other people reserve for the family pet.

We don’t have pets. Just errant flip-flops. I only wish they’d come when we whistle.

Patent, anyone?

Do you think kids should have a dressing standard set for them?

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