I’m still not sure what the most ethical response is to a predicament I faced yesterday. I know that my instant reaction of laughter was not helpful, but it was about all I could come up with.
In our family, when we aren’t out-of-town or ill or lazy, we typically find ourselves at church on Sunday mornings. We all like it there, our kids because there’s bounce houses and foosball, and us because well… there’s a lot of reasons. Our church is pretty large, and definitely more casual than dressy, not a place that implies you need to wear your “Sunday Best.” Not that its a place that encourages its people to act like slobs, either. It’s church done “Eugene style.” And if you’re not from here, it’s hard to explain. Eugene, it seems we have a feel that permeates multiple denominations and congregations. I call it the Eugene style, but mostly I think it’s that we just don’t care. Maybe it’s a northwest thing, but especially here it seems that people don’t put on a lot of effort in looks, or much make-up… or much deodorant either. It’s almost a cultural mindset, as if we need to put out the challenge to see if God (and our fellow believers) will really love us, just as we are. Tie-dye, wool socks, Birkenstocks and all. (Though that’s not how the majority dresses at our church. But I can tell you which church does, should you prefer that!)
Needless to say, knowing our church isn’t so dictating on looks, I let my sons exercise their freedom in clothing for Sunday’s services (though I try to encourage them to wear clothing that isn’t their favorite, ragged, play-clothes). And they usually dress great anyway, so no complaints all around. What I typically don’t feel the need to do is remind them to retain all of their clothing. If I would have done so, maybe we wouldn’t have had the problem we did yesterday.
My 8-year-old son Creed dresses for comfort, and he finds himself comfortable in most situations. Enough that he will toss himself over furniture in other people’s homes (before I remind him of his manners), and will almost always kick off his shoes. And as much as I like to remind him to keep them on, I know that he inherited this desire to be shoe-less from me. (Barefoot = happiness, to us.) When I arrived to pick him up from his Sunday school class, I had to ask him the same question as always, “Where are your shoes? Please go get them.” So, off he ran back through the classroom to find his shoes, as the 30+ kids were all trying to get ready to leave. I decided to follow, as he tends to need coaxing to get ready to go. (They have big bins of Lego stuff in his class, why would he want to leave?!) As he went to pull his shoe on, it wouldn’t go on right.
“UGH!!!! It’s too tight, it’s too tight!!! What happened to my shoe?” Creed asked. So I looked at it, saw it looked like the laces were pulled tighter and asked him if he’d messed with his laces. (After all, this is the same child that walked out of a school assembly, after receiving an award, with his laces tied together so badly he couldn’t undo it. And yes, he did it to himself.) I told him to just put the shoes on, that we’d fix them when we were in the car. So he tried again and became even more frustrated, as was I. Seriously, they’re just shoes, put them on.
Then I noticed something. “Creed, is this were you left your shoes? Are you positive?”, I questioned. As he practically shouted his yes that it was (remember, we are frustrated!), I realized that they weren’t his shoes at all. Same brand, same colors mostly, but his had red on them and these didn’t. Plus, these ones looked decent. Creed’s were worn looking, as he’s had them for about a month and typical shoe life in our house is six weeks, no joke. So I laughed and told him what I was thinking. He wasn’t happy, and didn’t want to wear them. At this point hardly any kids were left in the room but we started spying all the boys feet. His shoes weren’t there. We decided to rush downstairs, Creed in his socks carrying someone else’s shoes, we went and spied more feet. We had to look like a bit of a bizarre family unit at this point, my husband our two sons and I all looking frantically at children’s feet.
The shoes were gone, nowhere to be found. Fortunately, in the few minutes that we were looking, Creed was finally able to see a bit of the humor in it and frustrations were easing up. So I told him, “Well buddy, looks like you’re going to have to wear those. I guess you got new shoes today!” And since it was a rainy day, he sat down and put them on to head out to the car.
Maybe next week when we return to church, he’ll find someone wearing his shoes. I told him maybe he’d make a new friend and have a good laugh about it with them if he did. He doesn’t really care too much about having to wear the ones he has for now, after all they’re the same size and brand, and they look newer. His biggest bother was, he’s hoping that the inadvertent thief who got his well-worn shoes doesn’t get in trouble for wearing out his shoes so quickly. Very quickly. Like, in only two hours at Sunday school quickly.
So, the delimma remains of what I should have done, or should still do. Should I go watch kids feet in his class next week and try to right this mix-up (and not look like a creep)? Should I post a notice for all the parents on the churches facebook page? I’m not sure. But I do know that, before taking him to class, I will remind Creed to keep his shoes on. And I will continue to react in the one way that seems most appropriate- I will laugh.