I sneaked out one night after putting the kids to bed last week to buy them some new shoes for the spring. I was on a mission to begin my pre-Pesach clothing shopping, so that at least they would have things to wear for the holiday. This was supposed to be my tshuva for not getting anything for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, because that happened before school really began, and I was still consumed and exhausted with purchasing school supplies and Yom Tov food. For Pesach, the food issue is a breeze. Just buy matzoh and some cream cheese, and that’s it, so I am free to focus on other more important purchases, like shoes.
I know there are a lot of people who take shoe shopping very seriously. Getting measured, paying full price at Nordstrom, shlepping the entire family to the mall. I should probably be one of those people, being that my father is a podiatrist and foot-care was a big thing in our house, but I don’t think shoes ever were.
My shoe-buying strategy is that I check the sizes of my kids current shoes, add on a half size (or a whole, if I think it was a year of eating a lot of protein and vegetables for that particular child. It’s usually not. In fact, according to that philosophy, one child’s feet probably shrunk this year), then try to remember all of those numbers. Once I even got really serious and printed out a foot-measuring chart from the internet, and had my kids stand on it. It seemed complicated though, the numbers were upside down and changing for the left or right foot, so I mostly prefer my checking-old-shoes method. It obviously works because nobody ever seems to have a limp.
Then I sneak out. It could be at night or while they are in school, but I go to as many stores as I can run into during my one-hour window of time before the mall closes for the night or before it is carpool time, and buy tons of pairs of shoes that they sell at fancy stores but are really half-off because they are now at Century 21 or Daffy’s (a’h). I bring them home, line them up along the hallway floor, and create my own shoe store.
The kids wake up in the morning and it is like Christmas, not that we have ever celebrated, but I’m sure this must be what it feels like, except we have shoes instead of toys.
You see, I have done it the traditional way; I’ve brought all the kids to a store and let them peruse the selection, endlessly. It is a challenge, one that usually ends in a non-negotiable argument as to why high heels are not practical for an 8-year-old, or why light-up loafers won’t work for Shabbat. And everyone becomes cranky, including me. Their taste in shoes greatly differs from what I deem reasonable, and so with my new method, I am at least able to pre-screen, avoid in-store conflicts, and sit down in the comfort of my own home with a cup of tea while they “shop” and try on. Internet shopping also works well for this.
Sometimes, nothing fits, but usually they end up with at least one good pair. Then, I take the shoes from the reject pile and leave them in a bag by the front door, next to a bag of “things to be toiveled,” and hope that they will one day get returned to the stores before the receipts expire.
This does require a second trip to the mall, an annoyance for most, myself included, and I often find myself wishing that each pair would fit and I wouldn’t have to make the returns, but the extra trip is a worthwhile investment. You won’t have the headache of shopping with the kids, and you get to conveniently browse the aisles and buy more things while you work your way to Customer Service for a return. And then you can start the process all over. It can be shoe-Christmas once every 30-days.
Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer living with her husband and four children in Teaneck. She is working on her first book. More of her essays can be read at www.writersblackout.wordpress.com.
By Sarah Abenaim