Wednesday, February 17, 2010

They Can't Walk a Mile in Your Shoes

“You wouldn’t want to walk a mile in her shoes.” You’ve heard that expression, right? Well, last night it occurred to me that while I know that saying is not to be taken literally, you really can’t walk in someone else’s shoes.

On Tuesday nights, Justice practices basketball from 5-6:30. That is too early for us to eat dinner before he goes, so often we all go with him. My husband watches practice and talks to the other dads, Jewel and Jot play with the siblings of other players, and I walk the halls with a couple friends. Most weeks we only see Janitor Bill, but last night a varsity boys’ basketball game in the high school gym brought many others to the school. As we walked our circuit, four different people yelled out to us, “Walk a few laps for me!” We joked and told them that sure, we’d add their burden to ours and do a few laps for them, too. So off we went; among the darkened hallways of the elementary school, past the board meeting in session, through the high school gym teeming with people and enthusiasm, and around the wrestling team preparing for regionals. While we walked, those that had asked to “walk some for me” chatted with friends, read a book, sold tickets to the game, or just relaxed after a day at work.

At the end of the hour and a half, Christy and I had logged over three and a half miles. Our leg muscles were tight and warmed up. Our hearts had gotten a workout. We felt good about what we had accomplished. But the others? They probably also felt good about how they had spent their time, but they didn’t receive any of the benefits of our exercise bout. They really couldn’t walk a mile (or three) in our shoes.

That reminds me of the race we all run called LIFE. As much as might want to, I can’t run (or walk) that race for my kids, just like our friends couldn’t reap the benefits of our hallway hike. I’ve learned time after time that I have to let my kids walk their own journey.

The journey to adulthood has two different tracks and our kids must walk them both if they are to be responsible, mature adults. The first track is the cross-country race of doing hard things. Our kids are going to experience difficult circumstances and relationships that they must forge through on their own. We can offer advice, give encouragement, and support them in prayer, but if they are going to reap the benefits, they must fight their own way to the finish line. Some lessons in this category include working through relation problems with friends, coaches, and teachers; learning to stand up for what they believe in; taking responsibility for their things, spaces, and activities.

The other track is the steeplechase of bad situations of their own making. Our kids are going to get themselves into trouble or uncomfortable situations and they must learn to leap the hurdles and jump the water hazards by themselves. Again, we can lead, guide and direct them, but we can’t bail them out—not if we want them to be lessons learned. Some of these lessons include letting them pay the price when they are careless or forgetful; allowing natural consequences to come to pass; or allowing discipline to run its course.

Our natural instinct is to come to our kids’ rescue, and there will be times when my intervention is needed and warranted. But if I want my kids to be the kind of adults I say I want them to be, I can’t run the race for them—but I can be there at the finish line with a Gatorade and a hug.


  1. First I was going to say what a natural writer you are, then I decided to add that I know what hard work it is. You definitely have a gift my friend

  2. I honestly have to say I was doing a search about walking and your name/the name in your link caught my eye "Studebaker"
    That was the first car I ever purchased way back in 1964 for 75.00
    A 1949 Studebaker commander and then latter a champion
    I still have the commander today
    I read your story and enjoyed it very much