As the 2019 NFL season comes to a close, I imagine that people across America are still licking their wounds from heated discussions regarding Nike’s decision to build an ad campaign around Colin Kaepernick.
In my head, I see fathers and sons bitterly divided over whether the controversial quarterback’s decision to protest injustice is worthy of finacial reward off the field, or similarly, financial deprivation on the field.
I too, had a fight with my son about Nikes, and appropriate methods of sacrifice… but it had absolutely nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick.
A few months ago, my kindergarten son and I had a fight. It wasn’t our first fight of the week. It wasn’t even our last fight of the day. These fights happen because one of us is absurdly bullheaded and strong-willed. I say it’s him, and nothing you’ll ever say or do can convince me otherwise.
So in that case, maybe it is me.
Back to the story- That day, As I readied to leave the house for the typical school drop-off routine, I learned that my son believed very strongly that his school was having a pajama themed-spirit day. I had no evidence to back his theory up. No email from his teacher. No note home. Nothing on the school website.
His mother was out of town on business, so I made the executive decision that, even if pajama day was really happening, he would not be participating.
I wasn’t going to chance having my kid be the only one at school wearing pajamas.
He didn’t like my decision, and made it very clear that he was willing to risk the embarrassment of a full day in a long-sleeved Paw Patrol flannels, regardless of whether or not it was actually pajama day. What he was absolutely not going to do, was miss his first ever school spirit day.
I packed an extra set of clothing in his backpack, in the event that the burden of a typical 105-degree day in the Arizona desert changed his mind, and away we went.
Something is Missing
When we arrived at his school, I noticed something was missing- his shoes.
In my frustration with his stubbornness, had I forgotten to put on shoes? No. I distinctly remember him making the task of strapping up his electric-blue Nikes as pointlessly arduous as five-year-olds love to make any and every run-of-the-mill task.
So if I put shoes on him, and now, we’re here at his school without his shoes, where in the hell could they be?
“I threw them out the window.”
His tiny voice took a moment to break through my exasperated parental haze.
You… did what?
“I threw my shoes out the window of the car.”
I was stumped. Of all the nonsense my little friend has pulled… why this? He’s difficult, but not impractical- stubborn in his actions, but far from obtuse.
I pursed my lips, but it took several moments for the breathy “wwwwwhy?” to fall out.
“Because you don’t wear shoes to bed.”
He wasn’t wrong. I mean, he was definitely wrong… but his assertion, if situationally abducted from our current reality, was correct. Wearing shoes to bed is not something one should do (I’d also like to contend that hurling footwear from a moving minivan is equally unacceptable).
We hopped back into the car and went searching for his Nikes. The irony was not lost on me that, at a time in our culture when the very same footwear company has prompted widespread protest (as well as praise) for their choice to name an ex-NFL quarterback, who has become more known for acts of evoking social consciousness and provoking debate than he is for his athletic exploits, my son chose to toss his sneakers out a moving car window in your his own fit of protest.
My son’s act of defiant nonsense almost perfectly personified the spirit of Nike’s new ad campaign.
“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Conviction makes the world go ’round
My son believes things very strongly. To him, your beliefs aren’t even beliefs, they’re simply knowledge. He didn’t just believe that it was pajama day, he knew. He didn’t believe that shoes aren’t part of a traditional pajama ensemble, he knew. That’s called conviction, and convicted people are what make the world go ’round.
Convicted people can also flip the world upside down, and that may or may not be a good thing. I suppose it depends on if the world being right-side up involves the “right side” being up.
I know my son is young, but the conviction he feels when making his decisions is already my most formidable opponent as a parent. He’s already willing to sacrifice the peace of our home to take the proverbial knee on any number of issues… issues that may feel trivial to me as his father, but issues that encompass his entire miniature kindergarten world.
Issues like turkey sandwiches being an acceptable breakfast food. Or whether standing directly in front of the television is the best way to consume content. Or pajama day.
Someday, his causes will be larger than food and dress. Someday his cause will be one that, when his stand is made, will make greater waves than making us late for school or planting the seeds for a blog idea in his father’s head.
When that time comes, as heroic as Nike’s “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” campaign might sound, some things might be worth hanging on to, even if they conflict with his beliefs.
This isn’t meant to be a comparison to Colin Kaepernick, or any of the connotations that come along with his mission to draw attention to racial injustice at the hands of authority figures. This is about my son throwing his shoes out the window.
Having those shoes on conflicted with his belief that he didn’t need them, so he tossed them away.
Someday the thing he doesn’t need in the moment might not be shoes. It might be might be something more consequential- like relationships. I need my son to know he can’t just throw out the people in his life in the times that he feels their presence conflicts with his current causes or needs.
Belief can certainly invite a need for certain sacrifices, but it doesn’t demand them. It’s my job to help him to never forget that he needs people, especially people that he doesn’t think he needs, to remind him that convictions are only worthwhile if shared with a community of people that can help see those convictions through.