Several years ago, Husband and I designated a basket beside the front door as the Shoe Basket. So when kids came home from anywhere and wanted to take off their shoes, (because kids still prefer bare feet when it’s 150 degrees out even though the backyard is full of only brambles since all the grass has fried), they would have a place to put them.
Kids will go barefoot anywhere. Once I had to carry my infant son on one arm and my 6-year-old on the other, because he thought he had some shoes in the car—not where they belong! We have a basket for that!—and it turns out those shoes actually were not in the car where he thought he’d left them, and we were already late for the doctor’s appointment by the time we arrived, which is when he bothered to tell me he had no shoes, so we couldn’t very well turn back around and go home. I suspect he just wanted to go to the doctor’s appointment without shoes.
What he received for his troubles was a long lecture on the importance of making sure his shoes got where they go. That lecture, of course, went in one ear and out the other. He retained all of zero words. That’s an educated guess, by the way, compiled using the number of times his shoes actually made it to the Shoe Basket after that, which was and still is zero.
It’s like feast or famine with our trusty old Shoe Basket. Either we have thirty pairs of shoes waiting for the eight people who live in our house, or we have zero. There are shoes, of course, just no matching pairs. There are fifteen size 3 left shoes. Or seven right foot flip flops that the 5-year-old will have to make work on his left foot, because we’re out of time. Or there are one of every size, and the 6-year-old has to wear his older brother’s left tennis shoe that’s a whole size and a half too large, but at least it matches!
We’re a mess when it comes to shoes.
When we actually have time to search for all those mysteriously missing shoes, we’ll find them scattered all over the house, one of a pair sitting in the downstairs bathroom trash can along with the soggy toilet paper roll one of the 3-year-olds stuck in the toilet and tried to make go down the “hole” with the plunger, and the other hiding under the couch, two hundred feet away. We will find shoes in the refrigerator and on the bottom shelf of the pantry and closed up with the coloring books in the art cabinet.
At first I didn’t understand this. How in the world were shoes getting into these random places? And then I caught the 3-year-old twins playing with their Hot Wheels, stuffing them into shoes and making them fly on a shoe airplane. And while that’s really creative play, I also couldn’t help thinking about how most of the people in my house claim they can’t find socks, because they lose them five hours after I buy them, so they’re typically wearing those laced-up kickers without any socks. So there’s some stank involved. Trust me, you do NOT want to sniff while you’re tying my boys’ shoes.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the kids who treat our Shoe Basket like it’s a suggestion box. It’s also Husband. He will take off his shoes while he’s sitting watching a movie with the boys on the couch, and he will leave them there so I will trip over them when I’m doing Burpees the next morning. He will take them off in our bedroom, right beside where I’ll lie on the floor to do my ab exercises, and the whole time I’m huffing and puffing I’m wondering where in the world that awful smell, something akin to rotten corn chips mixed with a busted sewage line, is coming from and then, when I’m finally finished and my stomach is on fire along with my nose, I’ll crawl to my feet and spot the culprit: His old TOMs that have never seen the luxury of socks between skin and shoe.
After which I’ll gently remind him that we not only have a closet where all our shoes can be stored, but we also have a Shoe Basket where he can put them when he’s finished wearing them. He’ll smile sheepishly and return them where they go, and then the next day I’ll trip over another pair on my way to the bathroom.
To tell the truth, I’ve been occasionally known to leave my running shoes right by the end of my bed, which is definitely not where they go, because I think it makes me more prone to getting up at 5 a.m. and heading out for a run while I have the chance and boys are sleeping. It doesn’t. And I shouldn’t. But I’m so busy putting away everyone else’s shoes I don’t have energy left for my own.
So, I surrender. Sorry, Shoe Basket. You deserve to see action, but I suspect it’s going to be a very long time before you do.
This is an excerpt from The Life-Changing Madness of Tidying Up After Children, the second book in the Crash Test Parents series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.