Mom’s Voice: Shoes Optional

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bare-foot“I only wear shoes when absolutely necessary.”

Our 12-year-old daughter is having a conversation with her best friend in the kitchen. I only catch this line from the other room, but Sally’s declaration makes me smile.

Everyone needs at least one good tagline in life and “I only wear shoes when absolutely necessary” is a great one for our free-spirited daughter.

It’s more than Sally’s preference to not wear shoes; it’s a metaphor that gives her adventurous spirit and carefree soul a voice.

She questions many of society’s conventions beyond shoes. In school, while I’ve never received a report that Sally has behaved disrespectfully, she’s quick to voice her opinions at home—this teacher lacks passion, that assignment has no real purpose.

Even in the midst of puberty, the most awkward and uncertain of all times, Sally seems to eventually wrangle those hormones and say, “Nice try, but I’m the boss around here.”

Bette Midler once said, “Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes.”

Spending time with Sally, you may laugh, argue, think, or discuss, but you’d never yawn. One of the things I do truly love about Sally is that she does cherish what makes her unique, she’s not afraid to embrace whatever it is that makes her tick and ditch what doesn’t.

Like shoes.

Sally’s going into 7th grade – hopefully light-years away from dating and it’s a good thing too because her profile today would go something like this: “A lovable curly headed rabble-rouser with a messy room who prefers adventure to routine, enjoys candy as much as a great steak dinner, sings aloud every day, and only wears shoes when absolutely necessary.”

Of course being human, Sally has bad days or stressful days. She’s been sad, hurt, and disappointed. She’s been in trouble for sassing me or not doing her chores. It’s all part of life. But even then, she’s funny and expressive, and unabashedly shares her pain.

In our parent teacher conference, when Sally was in fifth grade, her teacher explained that Sally figured out early on, she’s only got one shot at life and is living it accordingly. (Even if her desk was the worst mess she’s ever seen).

But the most poignant thing she told us, or rather warned us about, is that Sally will be in for a shock as she progresses through the system, because not everyone loves a free spirit.

Further, there are some rules in life that are absolutely necessary.

Sally does not tread lightly through life, it’s true. I hope she continues on her barefoot journey, and regardless of where her path leads and what she encounters, leaves lasting footprints and smiles wherever she goes.

Jill Fales is the mother of four and the author of “My Laundry Museum & Other Messy Gifts of Motherhood.” Follow her on Twitter @JillFales.


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  1. I came across this post because I’m frequently searching for barefoot-related things on the internet, but what I love most about this post is Sally’s attitude and her mom’s acceptance. We so need more of this! Critical thinking, self-exploration, determination, and independence in a young person with the support of caring adults. How refreshing. 🙂