I played volleyball in college and one of the rules my coach enforced was the directive to always wear shoes. Her reasoning was sound. If her players stepped on something, or were stepped on, they’d be out of commission; no more volleyball playing (at least for awhile).
The rule stayed with me. When I coached I told all my players the same thing. They thought I was crazy for asking them to put flip flops on just to run to the training room, but I kept after them.
Somewhere along the way, though, I let go of this wise advice. When we bought our house, the previous owner told us his reasoning behind the concrete driveways in front and back and the brick patio; he had wanted to be able to walk barefoot from his mailbox at the sidewalk, through his yard, all the way to the back alley without worrying about stepping on a cactus. We’ve had run-ins with cactus in our time here. I can understand the desire. And I guess I kind of took it to heart because I would almost always go outside without shoes on. I learned the cement is pretty hot in the Arizona sun, but still I stuck to my bare feet, my coach’s wisdom seemingly forgotten…
…until the day Liam stepped in the fire ants.
And I was reminded of this rule the hard way. Luckily we were outside together watering plants, so the hose was in my hand. He started to cry, standing there barefoot in the driveway. I looked at him and saw the lines of angry red ants running up his legs, and thankfully had the wherewithal to spray the hose, dousing him with water and drowning the ants, though not before they had bitten him. As I picked him up and carried him in the house I saw several red bites swelling up on his ankles and feet. Poor kid. If only I had stuck by the rule. It wasn’t even 7 AM yet and I was already calling poison control.
I learned my lesson. From then on, it’s been shoes on before going outside. For all of us. Liam is so good now, he’ll catch Jim and me if we don’t have our flip flops on. And he is great about signalling to us that he wants to go outside. He goes and grabs his sandals and brings them over to one of us to have us help him get them on. He’s getting his feet dressed and then he’s ready to go. He’s not even one and a half, and he understands the importance of shoes.