We braved the shoe shop this weekend, along with half the population of school age children in our area. I know, I know, I should do it earlier - but I'm convinced their feet grow a size in the summer hols while they're slopping around in Crocs.
We emerged one son triumphant with shoes featuring a heel full of toys, next son bravely purse-lipped because the shop has run out of anything in his size (not entirely surprising given term starts the following week), one truculent daughter and one mad-eyed, muttering mother.
Yes, it's that dreaded time again, guaranteed to turn even the most zen-like of mothers into green tailed monsters - the ordeal of shoe buying in time for the autumn term. Just as you're limping to the finishing line of another summer holiday, comes the dawning realisation that you're going to have to prise your children and their newly elongated feet out of their Crocs and into proper leather shoes for the first time in six weeks.
'My children turn feral the moment they step inside a shoe shop,' says Shona, mum of four. 'They hide under the chairs, slide up and down the foot measuring stool and seem incapable of sitting still. We had five sales assistants serving us this time they were so keen to get us out of the shop.'
Five shoe fitters. I wish! We had to queue for half an hour in sweltering heat with a ticket system I only realised existed when number 467 was called and the woman behind me elbowed me aside shrieking, 'Yes, us, us!'
It could have been worse. On our one and only shoe buying spree to a well known department store I was informed queuing time was an hour and a half, issued with a pager and had to roam the store with three children hell bent on pestering for toys, clothes, a cream tea, something, anything. To complete a horror afternoon, there were no shoes that a) fitted b) weren't exorbitantly expensive and c) weren't purple patent crocodile print.
When my daughter was four I cracked and agreed on black patent leather kickers with bubble gum pink contrast piping and lights that flashed when she stomped. (So much for the sensible shoe shop.) She was euphoric and I informed my appalled husband that I'd decided shoe surrender was worth it for peaceful mother-daughter relations. The next day and every day for the following four months I'd have happily swapped a clear-the-shop tantrum for seeing her shod in Mary Janes.
It's official; I've now turned into my mother - but only now do I realise quite how much she must have loathed the search for sensible shoes, just as much as a moping younger me did.
It's not just the style squabbles and queuing that make shoe buying such a dreaded chore. There's the crippling cost - £40 - £60 for one pair of leather shoes, which - although they're now in adult sizes - are guaranteed to need replacing in months. We cough up because we'd rather that than cripple our children, so we spend ages persuading them to unfurl their toes on the measuring machine, prodding at rock hard shoes trying to guess how much growing space is left and studying our children going all Quasimodo because they're still hoping they can persuade you their feet only fit in purple patent knee-highs or day-glo striped trainers.
So imagine my fury when I did this whole scene recently only to discover that all three children (wearing trainers at the time) had been fitted for shoes that were a size smaller than their existing school shoes.
And, according to one friend, shoe shops may not be men's natural territory.
'My husband took our five-year-old shoe shopping. Huge mistake!' says Sue bitterly. 'He only asked the price when they were on Tom - £70. He then claims he couldn't get them off Tom's feet without a scene so he came back with these horrendous and expensive bovver boots. The icing on the cake was a letter from the school saying they weren't acceptable for school so I had to shell out another £40.'
Does this sound familiar?
Do you suffer from shoe wars or have you cracked it?