I was schmoozing with Simcha, a young mother, yesterday. We met up in the hot tub at the J, where women gather to gripe and commiserate affectionately, unwinding after a workout and a long day. She mentioned her adventurous trip to the shoe store with her young brood in tow, and expected to receive a sympathetic nod.

“Oh, thank you for reminding me!” I gushed. “I’ve been meaning to write about the particular mommying challenge of shoes.”

“Glad I could help,” she mumbled, a bit surprised at my reaction.

Shoes. A disaster for a (not that organized or wealthy) mom.

There’s got to be a more efficient system than shoesOkay, maybe “disaster” is a bit extreme of a word; we’re not begging on the street in Calcutta, or digging out from a hurricane in Haiti, thank G‑d.

Let’s just say, a challenge.

I have few serious complaints to the Master of the Universe, few recalls I’d like to recommend. By and large, the world is a marvelous place.

But there’s got to be a more efficient system than shoes. Why can’t people be endowed with hooves or tough leathery soles that grow along with them?

Kids’ feet grow. Quickly.

Kids’ shoes wear out. Quickly.

Kids have to be at the store to try on shoes; you can’t grab them (the shoes) off a rack.

Shoes come off feet in many places, unlike clothes which more or less stay on the body most of the day, and are taken off and stashed in mostly predictable places, like under beds, closet floors, piled in the bathroom with the wet towels, and so forth.

A matching pair must be found in the morning before proceeding to school or camp. Not one, but two. Unless you can convince your kid to hop all day. These leather or canvas items are much more size-specific than other garments. Perhaps you could substitute big sister’s shirt or little brother’s shorts, but shoes aren’t usually interchangeable. You gotta find a pair for that wiggly kid who always seems to have just one.

How many promising starts of fresh days have spiraled into tears and frustrations, with a kid who can’t find their shoe, as everyone else is sliding out the front door and waiting impatiently?

And in our house, systems to line them up by the front door or find them the night before tend to erode. Whether slip-on crocs, or footwear fastened with velcro, ties or buckles, they tend to scatter all over the house. You can follow the day’s history by where the crumbled, odoriferous socks and kicked-off shoes end up: around and under the couch, under the computer desk, in the yard, and so on.

But buying them is really the pits.

March into Payless with your kids. As much as you’ve warned them to behave, they are excited and in high gear, pulling boxes down, trying on their fantasy heels, boots, sparklies, cool dude shoes.

We try to pick up after ourselves, but with apologies to the Boy Scout credo to leave a place cleaner than you found it, it seems there are always a few plastic shape-holders or wads of tissue paper that don’t quite return to their neatly lined-up boxes, so symmetrical, poised and inviting.

“Mom, does it fit? Feel it!”

“No, no, feel mine!”

“I don’t know.”

I press down on the toe with a fake expression of calm maternal authority, but I can’t crawl inside that shoe.

“It’s hard to tell where your toe really ends and where it rubs you. Hmmm, seems good.”

“Walk around, let me watch you.”

I press down on the toe with a fake expression of calm maternal authorityBut you can’t trust Shoshi, the fashionista. You see that glazed expression as soon as she catches glimpse of a really cute slip-on. She instantly forgets her somewhat flat feet and long walk up the hill to the synagogue. Any attempt at rational dialogue is useless.

“Yeah, oh, yeah, it feels great! It’s really got enough support, really! Really!” she assures me.

You sigh and point to the nerdy, sturdy ones. (Funny that they actually rhyme—nerdy and sturdy. Every girl knows these are interchangeable synonyms.)

“Do you want me to get ones I hate? You know I’ll never wear them!!!” she moans.

And I know she won’t. My mom got us expensive, sensible, well-made shoes at Hacks. I could wax poetic and nostalgic about how we hated them. They had cookies inside (some kind of arch reinforcement) and extra support. Starting in third grade, I’d take them off at recess and throw them repeatedly against the brick wall to try to wear them out. Maybe Mom would finally let me get shiny white go-go boots like the other girls had.

Like mother, like daughter.

“Are you sure? Are you sure? Do they really feel okay?” I ask one last time with resignation, at least trying to discharge my responsible adult duty.

And then once the new purchase is home, and the excitement wears off, usually only after they’ve been worn in the yard and therefore have become unreturnable . . . the inevitable happens. Shoshi comes in with a sheepish look, shoes in hand. “Um, it pinches my foot, it’s too stiff,” or some variation.

And the volume. Thank G‑d, a healthy family, coupled with lots of milk for strong bones, means lots of growing feet. We are pretty strict about keeping it simple. A pair of sneakers and a pair of shoes for Shabbat and parties, that’s it. Except for snow boots. And a few this and that. But even, still. Sometimes I feel like a frequent flyer as I once again march down those shoe aisles.

I guess the answer is to buy stock in Payless or Stride Rite. Or take up the beloved Jewish craft, spoken about it shtetl lore, of cobbling.

Now that I’ve released my angst, and shared the trauma of countless hours pressing down on toes and humbly praying for help in choosing shoes that fit and last and that can be found tomorrow morning while the carpool is waiting in the driveway and beeping the horn, I can let my mind wander and wonder. There must be a lesson in all this.

Shoes are made for people on the move. As the song goes, “These shoes are made for walkin’ . . .”

In Kabbalistic lingo, angels are called omdim—standers. They may be very lofty and holy spiritual emanations, but they stay at the same predictable level.

While we human folk are called mehalchim—walkers. We move, we grow, we change and progress (. . . and run and climb and skip, and all those good things that wear out shoes).

Shoes are so much more than a costly nuisanceIf angels had mommies, they would not have to buy their baby angels new shoes, but these angel-mommies would not have the pleasure of watching their little ones take steps, stumble, rise again—growing and developing with life’s challenges.

And so, I realized, shoes are so much more than a costly nuisance. They represent nothing less than the quintessential essence of what it is to be human!

“Forward march! Keep on truckin’!” I joyfully sang this morning as Chani showed me a broken strap on her shoe. (Well, not quite, but at least I didn’t groan as much.)

I kissed my daughter and thanked G‑d for her active, healthy, busy, shoe-destroying life.