Baby Shoes by Jo Howard

‘For Sale: baby shoes, never worn’
Ernest Hemingway

Well of course they were never worn. Nature did not intend those fat wedges of flesh that babies laughingly call feet (or would if they could talk) to be encased in shoe leather! Nature did not intend it and nor did babies. What does a baby do when you squash its chubby little feet into a pair of shoes? It pulls them off and chucks them in the road. And rightly so.

If you don’t believe me, look at the roads around your hometown. I bet if you look carefully you will spot them: Baby shoes, never worn … for longer than about five seconds, anyway! You’ll see them abandoned on pavements and highways, in supermarkets and parks. Pretty soon you’ll realise that a baby rebellion is underway.

It’s not that babies hate shoes, it’s more that they love feet

‘Shoes, who needs them!’ shouts baby, (except it sounds more like ‘Urrrrgh wurrrr!’) and it throws them overboard with a flourish.

It’s not that babies hate shoes, it’s more that they love feet. Babies love their feet so much that they want to touch them, kiss them and slobber all over them for as many hours per day as possible. How can they do that with all that nasty leather and plastic in the way?

‘Mummy, Daddy, you are taking up far too much of my precious foot-slobbering time with this “shoes for outings” nonsense!’ says baby, showing admirable assertiveness. (Except it sounds more like, ‘Agagagagaga booo!’)

Think about it: When you’re born you are just an unformed mind in an uncoordinated body. First, you discover your hands. Hands are cool; they have fingers on them that are these crazy curly things. You hold them up to the light and you can make shapes. It’s really fun and keeps you occupied for hours – as long as you haven’t got wind. (It’s hard to enjoy your fingers if your tummy is hurting.) But I digress.

A bit further down the line, you find your feet. I don’t mean in the figurative sense of starting to become confident at something. I mean in the literal sense of realising you have these super cool things on the end of your legs that are really great for chewing and slobbering on.

Sometimes your parents try to cover them up with socks or onesies or, as we’ve already learned, shoes. Such items needn’t be a barrier to any self-respecting baby. Just fling them off! Seriously, babies, if you have a single pair of socks that’s still a pair, then you’re not doing your job properly. As for onesies, also known as babygrows, we all know they’re fastened with poppers which are easily pulled apart. There is always a way for the determined infant to find its feet.

Unworn baby shoes, tragic? Nay, Mr Hemingway; they are evidence of the resistance of healthful infants to the tyranny of footwear.

Jo Howard is a poet, singer, storyteller, scriptwriter and host of Manchester spoken word night, Verbose, along with Zena Barrie. She is a producer at video company Viva la Zoom, which she runs with her husband. Her work is inspired by experiences growing up in Lancashire and living in Manchester. Twitter: @joannuski@VerboseMCR