It’s back-to-school season and time to buy all the stuff needed. One of the most challenging aspects of buying the new stuff is the gym shoes. For boys. Boys must have only the most correct shoes and definitely nothing that approaches being nerdy or dorky.

With three pre-pubescent boys our shoe shopping goes like this: They complain all the way to the discount store. Mark and Dan are in the store before I can turn off the van. Jason, unhappy we aren’t at the mall, lags behind to make sure I hear his deathbed sigh.

“So, what kind of shoes do you want, Jason?” I ask brightly.

“Dunno.”

I give him brief, unappreciated hug as I say, “I’m going to help your brothers. Remember you only have twenty minutes.”

The brothers are easy to find because the riot has started. ‘Did not’s’ and ‘did too’s’ echo off the walls. All the customers stare when I hurdle over shoe boxes to get to them.

“Mark picked the ones I want and I saw them first!” Dan yells, as Mark holds them up out of his reach.

“Your feet are larger. You are on the wrong row. Look, here are the same ones in a different color.”

“He can’t copy me Mom.” Mark insists.

“He won’t be copying you if they are a different color.” I’m such an optimist.

“The-other-colors-are-dorky.” Dan says, implying he is being infinitely patient with me.

If only we had stock in one of those dorky companies. Mark does a little victory dance. I steer him to the check out area to insure his safety. After Dan shoots down three more pair that grace the feet of mega-star athletes, I give up and look for Jason.

He is at the back of the store, actually trying on a pair of shoes. This is great – he found something he likes. As I come up behind him, he is lacing up a pair of huge factory worker boots with steel toes. His grin of triumph fades as I give him my ‘look’ that says ‘over his dead body’. With an elaborate groan, he starts taking them off.

“I’m going up to the check out counter. You have five minutes left.”

Mark is nowhere near the check out counter. My ensuing panic dies down as he and Dan come up with shoes Dan has deemed un-dorky and Mark is satisfied that he isn’t being copied.

“Look Mom, Mark helped me find these awesome shoes.” Dan says.

This is part helpfulness and part guilt for taking the only really ‘cool’ shoes in the store. Using my best reverse psychology, I look at the shoes a bit skeptically and ask, “Are you sure you want those?”

They both exclaim, “Oh yeah, these are rad, great, cool,” etc.

Jason approaches with a pair of plain black high tops. I’ve always thought he looks so handsome with a resigned expression on his face.

Going home, I congratulate the boys on a successful trip. (No one is in tears, not even me.) Everyone is in a good mood that I hope will last until we get home.

“Mom! Mark won’t give my new shoes back!” Dan shouts.

Mark retorts, “I’m only looking at ‘em. Who’d want these dorky, nerdy shoes anyway?”

As I turn in our driveway, Jason says, “Don’t forget, Mom. Tomorrow we shop for clothes.”

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