Step Back and Give Them Freedom



‘Please put your shoes on’ were the words that came out of my mouth, we were about to walk to the beach. My son in his pyjama trousers, bare footed, free spirited.

There are days when I just want him to put his shoes on, it is simple.

But the shoe less days are there to teach me something.

‘Mum, I was born without shoes, shoes were invented after feet were, I don’t want to wear them’


In Spain or Italy, not wearing shoes socially is a thing. In South Africa it is not. Our kids went to school, (when they went to school) shoes less, as did most kids. So my argument around footwear does not stand up.


Walking to a supermarket in Italy with a boy who is shoe less is a feat, (pardon the pun) for a mother. It is almost worth trying it as a social experiment. If looks from other mothers were weapons I would no longer be writing this. You just don’t take your kid out without shoes in Italy.


We walk to the sea, I watch him carefully dodge the dog poo, side step the glass and sharp stones. We walk over to a play park, my ten year old shoe less boy in his pyjamas runs around the park. Mothers dart looks my way, his sisters laugh. They don’t like to wear shoes either. They don’t like feeling trapped.


So the shoe less ones have all learnt this. You cannot get on a bus in Spain without shoes, you cannot walk into a supermarket without shoes but it is beautiful not to have your feet constrained in tight footwear.


It feels nice not to wear shoes, I am learning to master the art of letting go as a parent, I often just want to hold on and do what I know. I am a work in progress. For example ‘Just put your shoes on!’ when I argue it to the ground there is no basis for my reality, we are in a warm country and it is fine to not wear shoes to the beach or the play park.


Barefoot and fancy free, their feet are like an extension of their days. When I want to close their days up and put my rules on them it does not work.


It is testing having free kids, as the world around you is used to boxing them in. As a parent I have had to question all my preconceived ideas about everything, especially about learning.


This is a learning journey for us as parents as much as it is for them but the difference is they just live it and learn and don’t question it. Where as I have, over time have had the tendency to make it more complicated. I made reading more complicated, I made spelling more complicated, I made learning really complicated as I was the one pushing and then as I stepped back it all changed they unfolded into who they were becoming without my preconceptions of how they must be.


Freedom is a wonderful thing and long may it last for them. I will do my best to stand firm, put my insecurities aside, ignore the barbed looks of the shiny shoe wearers and fiercely do my utmost to let them be as free as they can. For this childhood will be gone in a flash. My wish for them is that they can discover who really are and what their passions are without being confined by a society that tells them who they should be. 


So ‘take your shoes off kids and mind the glass on the path, but you saw that before I did.’