One day when I was driving my two daughters home from their Catholic school, they brought a problem to my attention. They were being teased about their shoes. Apparently everybody else in their classes was wearing Nikes and Adidas. Why did they have to wear shoes from Kmart and Walmart? Couldn’t they have those nicer, name brand shoes their classmates had?
My heart sank. How well I knew that in a school where uniforms are required the only status symbol a student can wear is something beyond the uniform. In an effort to quell such snobbery, in my old Catholic school we had been required to wear Oxford shoes so our footwear would be identical.
Yet even that had not been enough because girls could wear bows and ponytail holders in their hair. I remembered being teased for having just a rubber band for my ponytail instead of the incredibly popular bauble holders. Oh, how I desired to have those pretty bauble holders! Each had two colored plastic balls so you could choose what color you wanted that day.
Desperate to fit in with my classmates, I asked my mother to buy some. Well, she was not going to spend good money on a triviality like that! The rubber band that came with the newspaper was good enough for me. In fact, the rubber band that came with the newspaper was so good enough for me that it, along with a few strands of hair, was daily yanked out of my ponytail to be used again.
I offered to buy the bauble holders myself, only to be told that if I was going to waste my allowance on something so extravagant, perhaps my parents should rethink giving me an allowance.
I never did get those bauble holders. So I had made sure my own girls had plenty of ribbons, scrunches, and bows for their hair. Yet now I was being told their shoes weren’t good enough, shoes which, after paying tuition for two kids, my husband and I just plain could not afford.
Of course as I had matured I had realized bauble holders weren’t very important. My parents had given me much more: a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat. They never had a problem acquiring those although, because they had grown up during the Depression, their own parents had. My kids griped about not having prestigious shoes. One of my aunts told me she didn’t have a pair of shoes until she was seventeen. The first time my father ate in a restaurant was when he was returning from the Navy after World War II. One of my grandmothers was so concerned about making what little food was available stretch as far as possible that she used to scrape the inside of egg shells to get out every tiny bit.
And most of all, of course, my folks had given me their Catholic faith, and that included Jesus in the Eucharist.
Bauble holders do indeed pale in comparison.
My husband and I had made the decision that it was better to give our children a stay-at- home mom than a lot of material items. So we didn’t have the better house, the better cars, and we certainly didn’t have the better shoes for our kids.
But how, while I was in the middle of driving them home, could I make my kids understand that?
“Well,” I began, “if you really want those shoes, I suppose I could go out and get a job.”
I could tell from them bobbing up and down in the back seat that they thought this was a terrific idea!
“But,” I added, “that means you will have to go to daycare after school.”
The bobbing ceased. In unison, they cried “NO!!!!!”
I never heard another word about their shoes.
I hope someday they realize we gave them so much more than Nikes and Adidas. I especially hope they believe that passing on our Catholic faith was more than good enough for them.