I brought my kids to the park yesterday. As the temps are getting cooler and it’s a little overcast and drizzly this week, their boundless energy seems more so, and invariably the question arises: “Daddy, can I take my shoes off?” Okay, they’re 2 and 4, and yes, they should be asking “may I,” but no matter how hard you try, such corrective linguistic preferences breeze in and out of tiny ears, especially when all they want is to get toes to ground. I almost always answer “yes.”
As a kid I absolutely hated being barefoot, so clearly my girls get it from their mother. And there’s no city ordinance (I know of) a la ”no shoes, no shirt, no service” restricting how children should play. Honestly, I think they are more even kinetic sans footwear, which for me with my once-upon-a-time tender feet remains baffling.
The conundrum of permitting children to go shoeless in such a setting – yours or those you may be looking after – becomes the wildfire decision of the peer group. This one weigh-in affects the collective feet also playing, and soon the footed floodgates ceremoniously open to comparable parental queries: Might they also kick off their kicks? And, depending on the audience, you either instantly become the hero or the villain, teetering on the worldview of your likewise caregiver crowd. And voila, a 50/50 split most of the time, as unscientifically measured it seems the average New Orleanian parent-type person thankfully possess a laissez faire rearing notion too: let them go sole-less.
But not everyone. First-time parents and the OCDs among us walk the line and wince in your general direction when the yes card is played. And in my experience it often expedites a speedy exit from the grounds, for what other lavish gifts might you next bestow upon the shoeless, playing children that the parenting peers may also deny? Drawing with chalk? Noshing on crackers? The good life in the eyes of the under-5 set has clear and steadfast quotients for success those arriving in comfort, nourishment, and seeming freedom. Let’s also factor in the affirmatively-met query that equals win in the world of the wee. Truly any time anyone at any age asks for anything and they get a “yes,” how much better is that thing? And when you’re a kid, magnify by a zillion. No one likes “no.”
So if you catch me and my brood at a park near you be forewarned: I’m that guy. The guy your kids will point to and press you for similar concessions. I’ll apologize for it only here though. Because, hey, if my kids want to run around on naked heels, so be it. Life is short, and not all decisions require sanitizer or an instruction manual.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.