Walking on ants
It started with a simple request.
“Sweetie, please put on your shoes and socks. It’s almost time to go.”
I tended to a few other odds and ends before returning to my older son, Li’l D. He was busy painting Transformers in a coloring book. His feet? Totally bare.
“Sweetie. Stop your painting and get on your socks and shoes. Now!” He appeared to be gravitating toward his nearby socks, so I ran to take care of another almost forgotten errand in the kitchen.
His feet were still bare when I returned a minute or two later. “I’m going to have to take away your coloring book,” I warned. The warning spurred him into action. Victory! I knelt to put his baby brother in his car seat.
When I rose, Li’l D was still sockless. He’d turned his socks into puppets.
I appreciated his imagination, but it wouldn’t get me to work on time. “Okay, kiddo. Get outside in your bare feet! You can get those on in the car,” I barked.
Li’l D laced up and raced out the door faster than I could gather my bags. My normally stoic boy spent most the car ride crying over my cruelty. (I encourage this. Stoicism is overrated.)
“This is the worst you have ever hurt my feelings!” he sobbed. I refrained from telling him he should’ve seen my childhood, and instead asked what part hurt.
“You were going to make me walk on ants,” he sniffled.
I was speechless.
I’d expected a very different answer.
“Do you know I used to go everywhere barefoot as a kid?” I asked him after recovering my words. “I must’ve stepped on so many ants! Probably crickets and other stuff, too.”
Usually he would’ve said “yuck” and snickered, but he was still too aggrieved. I asked him to please just put on his socks and shoes with the rest of his clothing in the morning, explaining that will give him so much more nagging-free play time. I then let him be to feel all his feelings.
While not wanting to make light of those feelings, I couldn’t help but smile. My Grampa G hated my love of running about shoeless, and was fond of reminding me nearly daily. I think he’d give Li’l D a few dollars to reward his sensible stance on outdoors shoelessness.
“That’s right, you’ll step on ants!” I can hear him instructing Li’l D. “And maybe even spiders!” The horror!
He’s not here to instruct my son on cultivated living, but heck. I might just give Li’l D a fiver on his behalf.
(I haven’t learned yet, Grampa G, but there might still be hope for my son!)