When the shoe fits, a conscientious dad just has to buy it

SATURDAY'S HERO

September 18, 1993|By ROB KASPER

Some folks take their change-of-season cues from the falling leaves, but for me, summer is over when I change the kind of shoes I wear on Saturday.

The sandals of summer are replaced by serious leather footwear, stuff that covers up and laces up. These shoes offer some protection should I drop a storm window, or squash a pile of leaves, or kick a football.

September is a major shoe month at my house. It is the month that kids have to show up in the classroom shod in approved footwear. Experience has taught me that about 24 hours after you find shoes that fit your kids' feet, the feet start to grow.

This summer, for instance, my kids went through the ritual of trying on our supply of leftover, "perfectly good" shoes, to see if any of the lace-up, leather oxfords could be worn to school. The "almost-new" shoes that the 12- year-old bought last year, with just a few weeks of school left, still fit him -- but just barely. And a pair of hand-me-down oxfords looked as if they could be a likely fit for the 8-year-old. They were a bit big, but all summer long the kid had been growing like a weed. It seemed like a sure bet that the kid would "grow into" these shoes.

One week into the school year, however, the 12-year-old reported that his "perfectly good" shoes were now too tight. And while every other body part of the 8-year-old was almost doubling in size overnight, his feet went into a growth slump. The hand-me-downs remained too big, sliding up and down on his heels. So the old shoes went in the closet, and I went on a shoe-buying expedition with the kids.

September is also high season for special-occasion shoes. Soccer games are now a part of our Saturday morning routine. A soccer player needs soccer shoes, or so I was told. And so the other day I found myself in the "children's cleat" section of an athletic store, picking out a pair of soccer shoes with the 8-year-old. Like any dutiful dad, I checked the fit and construction and tried to get some meaningful response from the kid to the parental query: "How do they feel?"

Eventually the kid and I agreed on one pair. I liked the way they were built, and the kid said he couldn't wait to step on somebody with the cleats. But when we were on the way to the cash register, one of the clerks pointed out that we had bought the wrong kind of shoes. Soccer shoes have round cleats and do not have a cleat in the tip of the toe, said the clerk. What we almost bought were football shoes, with rectangular cleats covering the soles, including the toe. The clerk had saved me from a major parental mistake of the '90s, buying athletically incorrect shoes. I felt grateful, even though the shoes cost me $25.

The soccer shoes were cheaper than the skateboarding shoes I'd bought for the 12-year-old a few nights earlier. Adults might ask why a kid needs special shoes to ride a skateboard. I used to ask. But now, after several such purchases, I just make sure the new shoes fit, and sign the credit-card receipt.

One reason I can't be too critical of the kids' special-occasion shoes is that I have some, too. For instance, I have a pair of roofing shoes and a pair of painting shoes. Both are recycled sneakers.

I do a limited amount of roof work, just enough to coat the soles of my shoes with black gunk. My roof work has taught me that if you want to increase the level of strife in your household, just track a little tar on the living room carpet. If you want to avoid trouble, get a pair of roofing shoes and be sure to take them off before setting one foot inside the back door.

The best painting shoes are ugly. When your shoes are ugly, you don't care if paint drips on them. Since you don't waste time wiping the paint off your shoes, you work faster. That way the painting job gets completed sooner, and you get to kick your ugly shoes off your feet and put a chilled beverage in your hands.

I also have footwear for incredibly special occasions, like mouse-stomping. When the weather gets cold, mice take up residence in warm houses, or at least in mine.

When a mouse gets caught in one of those sticky-foot traps, it is time to take the critter outside. There are some people who contend that after you catch a mouse you should let him go, "to find his place in the wild." I live in the city, where if you release a mouse in your backyard, he will soon find a place behind your kitchen wall. So when I catch a mouse in one of those traps, I put the loaded trap in a trash bag. Then I put on my mouse- stomping boots, and let the footwear do its duty.

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