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As a single mom, I was on a budget. When my son was teased for his shoes, I found a way to get the name-brand pair he wanted.

Ashley Archambault   

As a single mom, I was on a budget. When my son was teased for his shoes, I found a way to get the name-brand pair he wanted.
  • When I was a single mom, money was tight, and I deliberated over every expense.
  • My son never had a problem with the shoes I bought him until he went to kindergarten.

As a single mom, I deliberated over every expense — including shoes. Most parents would agree that keeping them in shoes that fit well is a near-constant expense when their children are growing. Whenever my son needed a new pair, I typically bought him Cat and Jack shoes at Target and was thankful the brand offered prices within my budget.

My son had never complained about the shoes I bought for him until he started Kindergarten when he started asking me specifically for Nikes. At first, I didn't take his requests seriously. I tried to avoid telling him we couldn't afford something as often as possible, as I never wanted him to feel less-than.

Instead, I told him there was nothing wrong with the shoes he had. I asked him, "I thought you liked your shoes?" My son would just say that he did, but all the other kids had Nikes. We talked it out. I told him I was sure not all of them had Nikes and that he shouldn't care what the other kids had as long as he liked his shoes.

As a teacher, I noticed students getting made fun of for their shoes

I started teaching junior high the same year my son started kindergarten. With my son's request for Nikes on my mind, I began to notice that my students would always show off their new shoes and comment on their classmates' footwear. They said very little about each other's clothing. The focus was always on their shoes, and the students who had less expensive or dirty shoes got made fun of.

As a new teacher, I was stunned by their behavior and would tell them to stop poking fun at one another, asking rhetorically, "Who cares how much your shoes cost?" I thought, my son won't be like this; he won't care what they think of his shoes. But the seed had been planted, and I worried that he might.

My son finally told me his classmates were teasing him

As the school year went on, my son's requests for name-brand shoes escalated, and I finally told him that I just couldn't afford them right now. While running late for school one morning and helping him get ready, he broke down into what I recognized as an anxiety attack. Crying hysterically, he finally confided in me that he was being made fun of for his shoes, and I saw that the teasing was causing him real distress.

I felt I should have known what was behind his requests, and I promised him we would go out and get him the Nikes that night after school. He clung to me in relief, and I decided then that even though I didn't agree with his need for the shoes, I would make sure I found a way to afford them.

I found a way to buy him the shoes he wanted

When I had a moment at work that day, I called my aunt, who had an older son, and explained the situation. She told me she took her son to Kohl's for his shoes because they always had a sale going on, and even emailed me some coupons I could use.

That night, I got my son a pair of Nikes for $40, only $15 more than I would have spent on the Cat and Jack knockoffs. Not only did I find a way to afford the shoes my son wanted, but I also saw that buying them for him was more than worth it. It was my first experience seeing how happy my son could become from getting something he had longed for.

I talked to him about how to handle teasing in the future

Even though I was glad to be able to get him the shoes, I also wanted to discuss the reasons behind his desire for them. At bedtime that night, I told him that what mattered most was how he felt about himself and what he liked, and that the more confidence he grew, the less it would matter what anyone else thought.

To this day, I make sure he always has a pair of shoes that he feels confident in, but I also make sure to remind him that he should be focused on figuring out what he likes and what he wants. We are all constantly working on that, children and adults alike, so I ensure I'm always taking my own inventory and modeling that for him. I hope all of those talks and his memories of me will endure so that he'll grow up to value what he loves more than anyone else thinks of it.

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