Will work for cleats

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boy's foot on soccer ball

“Mom, I need new cleats.” I think I have heard some variation of this sentence for 15 years now.

Every summer, every season, without fail, BoyWonder would hold up a tattered pair of Adidas Copa soccer cleats held together with habit, hope and a fair amount of black electrical tape.

He is and was a fierce player. His shoes were always high mileage, and even genuine leather eventually gives out over the strain. Every year we would trek to the sporting goods store and purchase the exact same shoe over and over again.

The feet

Due to the finicky nature of genetics, BoyWonder inherited not only his paw-paw’s sly smile, brown curls and wit — but his completely impossible feet.

Seriously. This is the baby who stymied even Stride Rite. They couldn’t find a baby shoe to fit this kid. Ever. It took years of fumbling, stumbling, blisters, and trial and error, but finally, blessedly, we found the perfect shoe. It cost $150 USD and was the best money ever spent, all things considered.

Still, as referenced above, even the best give up the ghost after a bit.
So every summer, around June like clockwork, Boywonder would say “Mom I need new cleats” and we would buy them. That’s how the system worked. So when the call came a few weeks back it didn’t surprise me.

Last hurrah

As a recent graduate, his high school athletic days are behind him, but he did have one last hurrah. A tournament. Three days of “no guts, no glory.” I could absolutely understand why he needed new cleats.

Last season’s pair were sad even by our incredibly low standards. They were taped over tape. I think one of the cleats may have broken off? He plays hard. I don’t even want to know where that missing piece was. I hope not in someone’s leg.

Unexpected answer

So it took all I had as a parent and longtime buyer of clothing and all-around supporter of this person to say “then you better go buy some then.”

Silence.

“So, um, Mom, you want to buy them FOR me?”

Me: “No. No, I don’t.”

Here’s the rub. It’s three days of play. If you really, really, really can’t cobble them together for three more days, and you really, really, really need to buy a new pair — I think at 19 and out of high school — that’s on you.

He started a new job — a good job — two days after graduation. He continues to work his previous job when needed as well. He has two jobs, an admirable work ethic, and, frankly, on any given day is out-earning me these days. (Writer life: good for working in pjs, bad for getting rich).

So what I’m saying here is, this kid has the means to buy his own “luxury” items. Cleats, for a 19-year-old who chose NOT to play in college, are a luxury to me.

Fortunately for him, this mama is a sentimentalist (hoarder). He dug through a closet and cobbled together one good pair of cleats out of two older pair.

Using resources

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Make him buy his own cleats, he gets resourceful. Everything old is new again indeed. Cost: Free.

Lesson learned that sometimes spending your own money makes you far more resourceful than asking for a handout: priceless.

Saying no

Of course, as a mommy, it hurt me to tell him no.

He’s a good boy. We can afford it. I could have cherished the afternoon shopping with him, grabbing some lunch, having him give me a grateful hug and a well-earned “Thanks, Mom! You’re the best!”

So why didn’t I? I guess I want him to know there is a price to pay for play time in adulthood.

Just as he learned in kindergarten years ago, there are “Fun Do’s” and “Must Do’s.” Soccer cleats are a “Fun Do.”

As we move on, we cast off our past. Out of high school, he no longer lives in a time when one can effortlessly ask for $150 shoes to wear for three days because mom and dad have your back — or your feet.

Effort and hours

He knows now that to earn $150 (net not gross because FICA doesn’t care about the condition of your cleats) he has to work X number of hours. Most importantly, he knows that things are not paid for in money — but in effort and hours.

I think that is a valuable lesson to learn and money well spent, or in this case, not.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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