Written by Larry Gallagher (@Writing_Rambler)
I’ve often said to people, “Having kids is like winning the reverse lottery: You lose roughly a thousand dollars a week for life.”
I’ve never once expressed these words and meant them as a derogatory statement towards my children, I just tend to be realistic about the situation. Kids are expensive. Sneakers (at least the ones you want when you’re a sneakerhead) are also expensive. Often the lifestyles of dad and sneakerhead don't mesh. But somehow, I still find ways to make it work.
As a father of four with ages ranging from one month to 15 years old, I definitely have my hands full trying to make sure they all have a roof over their head and food on the table. Making sure they have a Jumpman logo or a Nike Swoosh on their kicks is something I have fun getting for them once in a while, but there is no way I would ever make it a priority.
As a sneakerhead and someone who has been blessed enough to write about sneakers as part of my work life, it can become daunting at times to keep up with the ever growing sneaker news while trying to maintain my job as a father.
The truth of the matter is that as much love as I have for sneakers and sneaker culture, none of it means a thing when compared to my children. As a parent, you just can’t have it both ways. There comes a point in every father’s life where you have to consciously decide whether your life is going to be about you or about your kids.
As a member of the larger sneaker culture, it kills me to see other parents putting sneakers above their kids. I’ve seen fathers camped out on lines for days to get a pair of sneakers. That’s just not an option in my eyes. Nothing is worth that time you can spend with your kids.
Camping out for shoes should be something high school and college kids are doing. Spending several days doing any hobby that is actively removing you from your children’s life is setting a dangerous example of what fatherhood is for them.
In my eyes, one of the biggest parts of being a dad is recognizing and understanding that your life is no longer your own. To some, that may sound depressing but it’s the reality of caring about your kids. If you want to see your kids succeed in ways that you never could, you need to be willing to sacrifice in whatever way is needed. Most sacrifice comes in the form of time and money, both of which are pretty high on the list of what it takes to be a sneakerhead.
I don’t think that as you get older you have to stop having a passion for sneakers. I just think we all need to be more responsible with the way we go about it.
My kids aren’t blind, they see stacks of sneaker boxes in my house. And while they know sneakers are part of my job, I also have to justify owning so much as I try to teach them to appreciate life and not focus on material things as much. It can definitely get tricky at times. Having love for and being invested in a culture that often is all about bragging and showing off what you have can conflict with the example I try to set.
One of the things I do to combat that conflict is try to keep my kids involved and be honest with them while making them at least appreciate the cost behind collecting sneakers. While I’ve made it a habit of welcoming my newborn children to the family by buying them a nice pair of Air Jordan crib shoes, I’ve tried to balance that by doing things like making my oldest daughter use her own money to buy her favorite pair of sneakers last year (The Jordan "Playoff" XIs. It helped her learn the lesson of saving up for something she really wanted and understand just how much she was actually spending.
Sold in the name of a much more noble cause: supporting my family.
I try to teach my kids that sneakers, much like anyone’s hobby, can be fun, but at no time are more important than the things that really matter in life. Family, friends, and responsibilities all come before a piece of molded leather and rubber that we throw on our feet.
I also don’t want to pretend I am high and mighty and don’t get caught up in the fun of sneaker culture myself. You can often catch me on Instagram, posting pics of what I’m wearing on my feet or bragging about getting through on a particularly tough release (I’m still giddy that I was able to get through on NDC when the Tiffany Dunk Highs dropped a few months back). It’s a big part of what sneaker culture is. We love to brag and show off what type of heat we have in our collection. It’s the whole reason sneakerheads exist. In a way, it’s as American as collecting baseball cards used to be.
The reality of the situation is that my children grow up seeing me have a ton of sneakers at any given time. But I want them to know at the end of the day, they are just shoes. At the height of my collecting days in the early 2000s, I had about 150 pairs, all classic Air Jordans and Nikes.
They’re long gone now. Sold in the name of a much more noble cause: supporting my family. Nowadays, I usually keep a rotation of 30 sneakers or so (currently at 50ish but I’m trying to unload a few to get it back to manageable levels), but there is never a moment I wouldn’t be willing to get rid of them all if I needed to.
You want to go out and buy a full-size run of the newest Jordan release for you and your kids? I think that’s awesome. Just make sure you aren’t wasting the light and heat bill money to do it with.
The bottom line in all of this is that there’s no secret formula to it, you just need to be there for your kids. Over time, I’ve learned that 90 percent of parenting is just showing up. And I don’t think anyone will ever figure out what the other 10 percent is. Spend time with your kids, talk to them, and learn what they are into. Maybe you’ll get to share your love of sneakers with them, and maybe they will never once care about “Dad’s hobby." I know for a fact there isn’t a rare sneaker in the world that could wow my son more than a pair of light-up Spider-Man shoes from Payless. That’s just how it goes. Don’t fight it, just enjoy every one of those moments while they last. I guarantee there will never be a point where you regret the time you gave them, and that’s just something sneakers could never replace.