Mahalo For Removing Your Shoes

My four year old has been asking me questions incessantly since he began stringing words together.

Only now they are usually about much heavier things.

Who is my wife going to be? When am I going to die? Are there playgrounds in heaven? How did I come out of your tummy? Why does Grandaddy know everything? How did the dinosaurs leave? If the earth is spinning, how am I standing still? How do baby giraffes nurse? How when we talk does sound come out? And these are all the questions that I can remember him asking  from today between 2:45pm and about 5:30.

I’ve been trying to keep my answers short and sweet, so as not to overwhelm him with ideas too complex for his 4 year old brain to comprehend. I add thin layers if he keeps pressing.

So this morning when he asked me “why do we take our shoes off when we go inside our house, but other people don’t take theirs off when they go inside their houses?” instead of giving him all of the reasons we do, I responded with, I guess because we’re part-Hawaiian.

To which he quickly replied, “but I’m not part-Hawaiian, I’m part New York!”

Yes, yes you are. Even more reason to leave your shoes at the door.

The truth is, we never wore shoes in our house growing up because my Hawaiian-Chinese mother never wore shoes in her house growing up. So it is simply a habit I’ve done all my life. Now, in retrospect, I am so thankful it is one that has stuck for many reasons.

I didn’t want to go into excruciating detail with my son about everything that he could possibly track inside our home if he wore his shoes inside, but I will do it here.

Reasons We  Don’t Wear Our Shoes In the House (other than being part-Hawaiian, part-new York, part- New Mexican, part-Tennesseean, part-Texan)

  • An EPA study showed that people (and  pets) who walk on pesticide-treated lawns can pick up the toxins for  up to a week after application. The amount of pesticides that are tracked in exceed pesticide residue from conventional (non-organic) produce. This is crazy! You could go out of your way to strictly buy organically grown fruits and veggies, then unwittingly traipse through your neighbor’s yard and into your house and your good intentions go out the window.

pesticides in grass

  • Lead is also tracked into homes on shoes. Even though lead has been removed from paint and gasoline, lead in soil and dust in the environment has been, and will continue to be, a source of lead poisoning. One study showed that 98% of lead dust found in homes is tracked in from outside. Young children absorb up to 50% of lead that is taken into their body, and even low levels of lead in the blood may harm them.
  • Allergens such as pollen and pet dander ride in on soles of shoes, then wreak havoc on allergic souls.

All this, and I haven’t even gotten into the two things most people would think about- dirt and germs. Walk down the street any day and at any given moment you can play a gross-out game of iSpy on the sidewalk: I spy with my little eye something disgusting that I don’t want inside my home!  Spit, dog poop, old food, gum, cigarette butts, ew.

An added thought- if we haven’t worn our outside shoes inside, and haven’t tracked dangerous pollutants into our home, I am not as likely to want to use a harsh, toxic, chemical product to clean the floors.

Children are more likely to be affected by these hazards because their bodies are still growing and they spend so much time playing and crawling on the floor. Plus they put ALL things in their mouths- many of which they have found on the floor.

Our children depend on us to make their homes safe.

This is in no way meant as a judgement on those who don’t remove their shoes, as I know how hard it is trying to juggle the kids and all the “stuff,” and getting in and out the door can be challenging. Adding one more item on the to-do list hardly seems to make sense. This is more of a reminder to me why we do it. Even though it’s another thing that is a huge effort with few tangible results, I believe it’s worth it.


3 thoughts on “Mahalo For Removing Your Shoes”

  1. AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love Mom

  2. You make a great case here. I’d heard about toxins including lead that we drag in…but I’ve never seen the full breakdown on it. Supremely helpful post!

    (Also love the list of questions — I too struggle with answering this kind of stuff — even talking about the dinosaurs going extinct has such scary implications and I usually only realize that after I’ve given too long an explanation.)

  3. I agree with Rachel. You make a great case. Since living in Asia for a number of years, I have always taken my shoes off immediately I come in but I’ve always made it optional for others. I really like the feeling of getting out of my shoes and going around the house in socks and for that alone I will continue the habit. Love your son’s response to your explanation! Smart kid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *