Shoes-off rule

Does your house have a shoes-off rule? Mine does, and sometimes I have moments of hair-tearing frustration about it. I grew up in a house where shoes-off wasn’t even remotely a thing, and my husband grew up where wearing shoes inside was almost illegal, so when we moved in together it was just easier to start taking my shoes off than to unpack all of his childhood hangups all at once. And over time, I got used to it. When I had babies, I got rabid about it. After all, my precious helpless little infants were playing on the floor, and picking up the tiniest little bits of God-knows-what and promptly putting those bits in their innocent little mouths. So take off your dang shoes.

Listen, I know it can be hard, especially when you’ve done a shop for a range of Ara shoes and boots and just want to show them off at every moment, but I try to stay firm. No shoes in the house.

But there have been times when the “shoes-off” thing has backfired somewhat spectacularly. For example, when one of the kids needs to go to the loo RIGHT NOW but they’re wearing complicated lace-up school shoes and can’t get them untied fast enough. We’ve had a few little accidents because a child was dancing at the front door, shouting, “I NEED the LOO but my SHOES are ON!” And my cries of, “Just run for it!” are unheeded because even though they can’t put their dirty dinner plates anywhere near the kitchen sink, they are apparently incredibly well-trained when it comes to shoes-off. Maybe the lesson here is don’t give complicated lace-up shoes to your young ones…

There have also been times when I’m caught out with my shoes on, doing important things like dashing from the car into the kitchen to retrieve a forgotten water bottle. Even when I think I can be quick and not be seen, one of my kids — or my husband — will inevitably pop out from where I’m least expecting them and point accusingly at my feet. “SHOES OFF IN THE HOUSE!” they’ll say, and I’ll sputter, “But I was just–” No excuses. Shoes off.

It’s awkward, however, when I go to someone else’s home and they don’t have a shoes-off rule. I’ll hover at the doorway, starting to shed my shoes while they say, “Oh, don’t worry, just leave them on.” I would love to, believe me. But I CAN’T. It feels strange to wear shoes in the house now.

This shoes-off thing is spilling into other areas of my life now, too. The other day I had to get an X-ray. The nurse showed me into a little cubicle to get changed into a hospital gown, and there was a basket on the seat for me to put my clothing in. But what about my shoes? Shoes on, or shoes off? The floor was carpeted but the hallway leading to the X-ray room was tiled, so… In the end I popped my shoes into the basket too, and came out of the cubicle in my socks. “Follow me,” said the nurse. “Wait — should I wear my shoes?” I asked, feeling a bit stressed. She looked at me strangely. “Honey, it doesn’t matter,” she replied. “People come in here barefoot all the time. You do what you want.”

Such freedom! I put my shoes on. It felt weird to be wearing almost-pyjamas and shoes. I hopped up onto the X-ray table. “You’ll need to take your shoes off for this part,” the technician told me. Curses! Maybe I should just go barefoot everywhere like a real Kiwi.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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