I found myself looking at this pair of shoes left in front of the sink in our bathroom last week, and I had an awful moment of enlightenment — one of those moments when a dad is forced to realize his kids are growing up.
Those shoes fit snugly on the feet of my 12-year-old son. As I stood there looking at them, I could almost see him standing there looking into the mirror. I could almost see him doing any number of the routine mundane tasks he does standing in that spot, that spot now marked by his very empty shoes.
Before I knew it I was imagining him doing other tasks in front of that mirror. Like shaving, struggling with acne or, God forbid, primping for a date. How did I jump so quickly from these shoes to imagining activities of a boy whose feet no longer fit in them? Greater still, how is this little boy I brought home from the hospital just the other day even fitting into these shoes that are lying here?
How did I get here? How do I have a son who is 12-years-old? Have I taught him everything he needs to know to be 12? Have I helped him prepare for the teenage years that lie ahead? Does he have the skills and talents I wish I had possessed at his age?
Is he ready for this world? Am I doing enough to make sure he can thrive? Have I recycled enough? Am I considering my carbon footprint?
What about this city, this state, this country? Have I voted for the right things? Have I helped to elect the right people? Have I helped make this world a place in which he can succeed?
Have I taught him to be good to others? Have I taught him to make friends? Have I taught him to help those who need help? Have taught him to do good even though no one is looking?
Will he be here one day looking at his own child’s shoes? Will he stand here like me, asking these same crazy questions? Will he have the same worries I do? Will he feel this inadequate?
Just breathe for a moment. You are doing just fine. He was brushing his teeth, preparing for bed. He kissed you and your wife, and then in his bed, he read. He loves to learn. He is full of wonder.
Breathe deep and relax. Don’t give into the panic.
One day at a time; live each day to the fullest!
Remember to laugh; remember to smile.
Tell him you love him, then show him you do.
The feet that fit these shoes have amazing things to do. They have places to go where he will learn and discover new things. They have places to go where he will meet new friends. They have places to go where he will overcome struggles. They have places to go so they can come back and see you.
Oh, these shoes took me on a journey that morning, one much farther than I realized they could. As I found my way back and I opened my eyes, there were these two empty shoes sitting on the floor in front of the sink in our bathroom. I picked them up and put them in his room where he had long since been, asleep. I leaned over and kissed him, and thought I can’t wait to see where the feet that fit those shoes go.
A version of this first appeared on our Chicago Dads Group website.