I
may have been binding Roy’s feet.

Scott likes to buy children’s shoes on the big side. Nothing crazy, but you can count on any one of The Three coming home in a shoe that’s a full size larger than what one of those store employees with the slider thing would sell you. This was a source of concern for me at some point (Won’t they trip and break their noses in those clown shoes?) but I grew out of this. My shopping style is not really what’s called for in buying children’s shoes—well, the boys’ at least. Trying to find a shoe that doesn’t look like it belong to a street artist in training is stressful to me. My husband, on the other hand, recognizes the tactical goal and is in service to that from the time he drives away from the house. I’ve seen him leave the house and come back with a pair of shoes in 20 minutes flat.

The downside to this practice is that Roy’s shoes are big for so long they become like a pair of Everlasting Gobstoppers. I forget that I need to buy a new pair at all.

Now Roy’s been overdue for a new pair of tennis shoes for a couple of weeks. Okay, for a couple of months. The shoe itself has begun to come apart, the toe on the left foot cracking. This is what it takes for shoe shopping to become a priority in our home: structural failure. And it still took another week after spotting the expanding split in the rubber around his toe before I took him into the self-serve shoe store (get your own damn slider-thing!) to measure his foot. He was a five and a half, but I rounded it up to an even 6.

“What size are you wearing now?” I asked, peering into his smelly, too-small shoe from a safe distance.

“I don’t know,” Roy said. “They squeeze my feet.”

A little more repellant research and I learned the shoes he was wearing were a full size-and-a-half smaller

In ordering a second pair of shoes for Roy online (a purchase driven in no small part by guilt), I noticed that the size equivalent for what my nine-year-old wears is also the same as mine. Since learning this, I make him squish his foot next to mine to compare them. I find myself staring at his toes to see if they seem shriveled or if they’re going to begin to extend before my very eyes, freed at last from those ancient high tops.

“Do you think we stunted your feet by not buying you new shoes?” I asked him this morning.

“Maybe,” he said, eyebrows raised, vaguely sensing me to be wriggling on the pointy end of some parental hook and considering how best to press this unexpected advantage.

There are lapses in the care of our children. Suddenly, their pants are too short, nails too long, shoes too small. I like to think these are the details—the small things that no one will remember in another ten 10 years, not symptoms of a less-than-benign neglect of things that really matter to them, even when they are smallish. But I wonder.