Barefoot in North Philly

At some point Friday afternoon, Chloe was running around barefoot in North Philly.

No less than thirty strangers, mostly Temple students or college employees or rainbow-brite clad BassNectar concert attendees alerted me to this development.

Because obviously, I did not notice that my three-year-old was running around shoeless. Obviously, the size 8 Dora the Explorer sneakers in my hands were a fashion accessory (because clearly we were all headed to rock out to BassNectar or whatever you do that is BassNectar-ish).

Now, I know people want to be helpful, like when they point out one of my children has their shoes on the wrong feet (yes, they often do. because I am trying to teach them to take care of themselves and often, they get it mixed up) I know people might think that I somehow did not notice my child undressing in the mall a couple weeks ago--and sprinting bare-butted through Build-A-Bear--because maybe I am visually impaired.  I know we all know it takes a village to raise a child and everyone wants to be in my village, because I am just that darn special.

But, really? Enough with Captain Obvious. Yes, I actually permitted Chloe to run barefoot through the city streets risking a cut foot or a shard of crack-pipe wedged in her foot. I absolutely allowed it. I enabled this homeless, bag-lady behavior because the alternative was screaming and writhing and hitting. I just wanted to get to the parking garage and strap the shoeless little monster (darling) into her car seat.

And I know what all those villagers are thinking: You, Mrs. Adkins, cannot control your own children.

And you know what, you are right. I have no control. And neither do you--your children are also running wild in one way or another.

Our children have minds of their own and no matter how hard we attempt to force them to do exactly what we want, they will never ever do it, unless it is their idea. We might fool ourselves into thinking that we've got the little loves under control with threats and bribes, but really, they are going to do what they want at the end of the day.

Naughty-spot be damned, shards of crack pipes, rocks, sticks and drafty little behinds at the mall: our children don't belong to us.  All we can do is provide wisdom, expectations, lessons in common sense and of course, consequences for poor behavior or inappropriate choices. All we can do is give our children all the tools they need to someday be healthy adults. We can pray for them and with them. We can naughty-spot them until the carpeting on the stairs is worn bare. We can ground them and take away their car keys a million times.

But, they will still run barefoot in North Philly.


  1. To the outside my child certainly appear like spoiled rotten brats who...get too many toys (just because they asked)...don't have to eat dinner at the table (if I'm too tired to fight it)...get to watch shows (so I can have some peace and quiet) AND my dear friend....if it avoided a crazy screaming fit after a long day (or not) then yes, my children would also be Barefoot in North Philly!!! Oh and I HATE when people point out what my child is doing as if I don't know...I KNOW....TRUST ME, I KNOW!!!! you should tell them "Oh and they sleep in my bed" that one always gets me PLENTY of villagers advice!

  2. Oh, the looks I have seen! I sympathize with your Build-a-Bear story--my son was carried to me bottomless at the park one day!

    Sometimes I just have to hold my tongue with people. Everyone wants to tell you how to parent, but no one wants to help you do it.

  3. I'm still amazed by comments people say to parents. I often wonder if they are either not parents and just don't get kids, or if they have just forgotten how crazy kids can be in their own unique ways. I find myself reminding others that my four year old's behavior is typical and appropriate for a four year old. Sometimes that gets the commenters to be quiet!

  4. LOVE THIS! My West Philly kids hatched a plan to run away from home and "catch burglars" about a month go. They took their bikes and slipped out while my mom thought they were playing downstairs. Some police officers were hanging out and noticed that they were alone so they questioned it a little, but what totally did them in was the BARE FEET. They didn't take their shoes and the police collared them. They got a huge talking to about not having their shoes one (which is something we actually allow). But the police were just following in a long tradition of commentators on how my kids are dressed or undressed. Drives me crazy.

  5. Lets just let kids be kids even if it means learning the hard way! This kind of action is great with my kids 6 and 9 as long as there lives are not in great danger. Lets celebrate our kids decisions good or bad! Yay Kids!

  6. My kids frequently run shoeless through urban areas and other such scandalous behavior. Sometimes we just need to say, "crack pipes be damned".

    <3 Miss you.

  7. I relate; Agree completely and Thank you for sharing!

    If people would just stop and put themselves in other people's shoes (or no shoes) before judging - I think we'd all be a little more tolerant and patient.

    We need to be able to laugh at life - dirty looks / unsolicated comments do not help.

    Cheers to walking barefoot in North Philly! Great Post!


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