Last month, there was a discussion on an ALSC listserv I follow about a preschooler who comes into the library wearing squeaky shoes--there are apparently shoes that are squeaky on purpose, they squeak with each step. A youth services librarian was looking for support, since she was getting some pressure to ask the parent to stop letting the kid wear squeaky shoes to the library.
One person felt that only people who are expressly trying to annoy others would ever dress their child in shoes like this. It was really great to read everyone else's responses. Some laughed at the very thought of a library being quiet enough that squeaky shoes would be bothersome. But my favorites were the ones that really asked us to think with empathy. Many had experience with their own children to relate, or friends. Others agreed that they hated the sound of the shoes, but would never dream of taking a caregiver to task over something like this.
The reasons? Well, maybe the child only has one pair of shoes. Maybe the child is wearing the shoes on the advice of a physical therapist or pediatrician, to encourage heel-to-toe walking. Maybe the child fights getting dressed and into shoes every day (I know kids who HATE the way shoes feel on their feet, even if they fit), and this makes that daily battle easier. Maybe the child is quick at disappearing, and the parent uses the shoes to keep track of where they are.
It was lovely to hear people, either from their own experience, or from their imaginations, trying to think of this situation with empathy. It is a good exercise--to really think about what might be making people behave the way they are behaving, even if it seems inexplicable at first glance. And good to practice with something as low-stakes as squeaky shoes!