What you need to know:
- They are trained from Day One to remove their shoes at the class entrance, walk into the classroom in open shoes then sit on the carpet with socks
- The routine is drummed into their minds so much that it becomes ingrained in their system
- He quickly expressed his utter disappointment at those grown-ups who had such wanton disrespect for basic hygiene
The bigger chunk of us went to public schools that had, among other harsh things, bad floors.
But you cannot blame them, they were institutions left behind by colonialists that had over time been run down by mismanagement and the elements of weather.
The result was floors that boasted potholes so large they easily swallowed our then small feet.
Most students did not have the luxury of shoes, as the story goes in my coming of age memoir; The Boy with Shoes, forcing the young anatomies to get accustomed to surviving frostbite ingested by the bare feet planted on freezing floors.
Most of us have since pulled ourselves out of that lifestyle and are able to not only put shoes on our children’s feet but also take them to schools with good floors (not to discredit the annoying fact that this country still has schools without such basic amenities).
Some, like my son’s, have gone a notch higher to lay a carpet and throw cushions on top, so the young leaders of tomorrow earn their formal education while huddled together in a circle.
To maintain hygiene of that little nest, they are trained from Day One to remove their shoes at the class entrance, walk into the classroom in open shoes then sit on the carpet with socks.
The routine is drummed into their minds so much that it becomes ingrained in their system, same way we grew up believing the universal name for every petroleum jelly was Vaseline.
Needless to say, that has helped me because he does exactly that when he gets home, so I never have to worry about a messed up sitting room carpet.
But then it has opened my eyes to a parenting duty I did not take seriously, until I tagged him along to a cocktail at a hotel in town with a wall to wall carpet.
As is the norm, guests are not expected to leave their shoes at the entrance then scramble for them again after the event, so everyone just walks in as they are.
We get to the door and my son sees this fine looking maroon carpet pinned on the floor, its Turkish decorations accentuated by coloured lights peeping out of magnificent chandeliers.
Right there and then, something ticks his mind and he does what he has been trained and retrained to do; REMOVE SHOES. But it does not end there, he starts calling out for me to be disciplined and follow suit, even kneels down to help undo my laces.
I stood there wondering whether to be embarrassed or proud of him, but agreed to his idea and we all left our shoes in a corner next to the door.
As it turned out, his heart was still not at peace because there were about 100 other guests sauntering around the room, on the carpet, in shoes!
The law-abiding citizen he is, he walked to each and every individual asking them why they could not see anything wrong with stepping on the carpet with shoes that have come from outdoors with dirt.
Some understood where he was coming from, smiled and obeyed, while the ‘mad men in the market’ ignored his concerns and stood their ground.
So picture a room with middle class men and women in their expensive suits and dresses being ordered by a five-year-old to walk in their socks.
When we got back to the car after the event, he quickly expressed his utter disappointment at those grown-ups who had such wanton disrespect for basic hygiene.
It is at this point that I sat him down and explained that such places have cleaning departments who are tasked with maintaining the carpet, so it is acceptable to walk in with shoes because soon as the event ends the room is cleaned for the next lot.
Even though this explanation had come late, I would soon learn that it still fell short of other examples away from hotels, because a month later he almost removed shoes while boarding an aircraft.
I will admit that as a parent, I became so lost in that sort of perfection from school that I forgot I too needed to plug into the system by explaining that some of those routines taught at school are not one-fits-all solutions.
I should have also gone ahead to prepare him psychologically whenever we left the house that where we were going had a carpet that did not necessarily warrant removal of shoes so that he aligns his mind to the expected change, rather than do it while already there.
And that is probably one of the biggest follies of modern parents; that we’ve gotten absorbed in this fast world and lumped all our trust in teachers we hardly create time to build on what is taught at school for the sake of the outside world.
We may soon end up with book smart adults who are street foolish.