Racing down the field at dusk, all we could make out was a faint outline of his body, his freshly cut hair bobbing up and down softly, and the bright red and blue police lights of his Skechers illuminating his path.
“How embarrassing!” My husband moaned.
“What do you mean?” I inquired, wondering if I’d missed our youngest son, Eli, fumble a pass or lose one of his football flags to an aggressive opponent.
“His sneakers,” my husband lamented, “They light up.”
“I know,” I smiled. “Aren’t they cute? He thinks they make him go faster.”
“It’s humiliating,” he retorted. “We have got to get him new shoes.”
“But he loves those shoes,” I insisted. “Besides, they’re brand new. We had to search for days to find a pair of these in his size. Plus they were not cheap.”
“Do you know why they were so hard to locate?” he challenged.
“No,” I confessed.
“Because big kids do not wear sneakers that light up like police cars!” he reproached, “Only babies wear those.”
“Don’t you think you’re being a little over-sensitive?” I asked. Then, surveying the field, I added, “It doesn’t look like anyone else has even noticed.”
“Not yet,” he snipped. “But it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the laughing stock of the team. Then the kids will exclude him from everything. No one will ever pass him the ball. It’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”
“O.K.,” I said, rather astonished by his catastrophic prophecy. “But I think you’re maybe over-reacting. Does this per chance bring up something painful from your own past?”
“Please don’t psychoanalyze me,” he said defensively. “I just know how cruel kids can be.”
Sensing that I’d hit a nerve, I decided to back off and run a different play. I suggested asking our son directly if he felt funny about wearing his light-up sneakers. My husband agreed, albeit reluctantly, and after a Gatorade and some Cheez-Its, we broached the delicate subject. Eli confessed that no one else on his team, or in his grade at school for that matter, sported the light-up sneakers. He even accepted the fact that they might be designed for a younger demographic. He surprised both of us with an easy willingness to switch to another brand.
We both secretly congratulated each other on how mature and rational our youngest child had suddenly become. There were no tears, no theatrics, not even a hint of upset. We were proud. Our baby was becoming a thoughtful young man.
“However,” Eli guilefully insisted, “My new shoes will have to be Geox. Because Jacob has those and he says they have super-hero powers and can make you jump higher than Wolverine and run faster than Flash!”
We both smiled at each other. O.K., so maybe he’s not all that mature just yet. But at least he’ll have a new pair of sneakers. And who knows, maybe they’ll improve his game after all.