I saw indicators early in my little girl’s life. During her second winter, the first one where she could walk through the snow, she had to stop frequently to dust the tiniest of snowflakes off her boots. Her vision of the universe was not one in which feet got messy. It was a very, very long winter.
As soon as she could express her desires more clearly, she showed us that her feet were the best indicator of her mood. Wet socks meant only that the world had ended. The smallest droplet of water somewhere on her sock meant it was done, dead to her, absolutely useless and perfectly horrifying, and life must immediately stop until both socks were off. Any interference or reasoning would be met with somewhere between a pout and a full-scale flip-out.
But it wasn’t just wet socks that ruined her life. Socks could be declared defunct for many reasons. Too fuzzy. Too squeezy. Too pokey on the toes. Too loose on the toes. Too many threads. Too sock-like. Honestly, I can’t even keep up with all the rules that make a sock wearable, but I’m inclined to believe that socks are mostly just awful.
Unfortunately, I tend to agree with her. I have never liked socks especially well. At this very moment, in the depths of a Minnesota winter, I’m sitting barefoot. I prefer cold toes to restricted toes. For that matter, I once spent a year living in the desert entirely sockless. I dedicated myself to sock-free living so intensely that even when I accidentally crossed the street barefoot and the red-hot black top literally scorched the soles of my feet I still saw socks as the worse option. Socks serve the utilitarian purpose of keeping you from getting blisters, but otherwise, they’re mostly just tiny straitjackets for your feet.
I confessed this to my husband the other day. He stared me in the eye and said, “So it’s your fault. She gets it from you.” I insisted then, as I do to this day, that I have been very careful not to pass my quirk on to her verbally. I would rather she wears socks, honestly. Alas, it seems she came by her sock phobia very naturally. I think I passed a sock-hating gene on to my kid. It is the only thing she inherited from me. Well, okay, and blue eyes. Okay, and the natural disposition towards sarcasm.
So the kid hates socks, you’re thinking. Whatever. That’s not an actual problem. Oh, dear mama, that is where you are wrong.
If it were merely that she didn’t want to wear socks, that would be one thing. Instead, she still wears them and then continues to obsessively, compulsively, annoyingly, consistently take them off. She takes her socks off everywhere, and that means we have socks everywhere. We have socks on the couch, socks on the dinner table, socks on the kitchen counter, socks in the entryway, socks on the stairway, socks in the bathroom, socks in my bedroom, socks at my desk, and yes, even socks in my purse. We have socks everywhere. It is as if socks have infested my life. If you’ve seen the classic Hitchcock movie “The Birds”, it’s like that in my house, except with socks. For me, who generally would rather avoid socks, being confronted with socks at every turn is some kind of weird and cruel joke.
But then, this is what having kids is all about. Through our children, we confront our own phobias and weaknesses. All the things we thought we could never do we end up doing. Can’t handle emesis? Congratulations, your kid is a puker. Can’t survive with disrupted sleep? You’re welcome, you have a fickle sleeper. Can’t even with sports? Way to go, you have a soccer-loving champion whose practice schedule consumes your weekends. It figures that my own kid would see my general annoyance with socks and raise me a full-blown sock-hating compulsion.
And okay, socks taking up residence in every niche of my house aside, this remains a little thing. Lots and lots of little things piled everywhere, but still. It’s not even the little things. In fact, it’s almost never the little things. Having children challenges us. Our kids are destined to make us re-think all the things that we thought we couldn’t do. Sometimes that breaks us down. Sometimes it simply reveals the strength we always had and will pass on to these tiny, terrible, terrific mirrors of ourselves.
I must face my sock aversion face-to-face. For now, behavior modification does the trick. Whenever she rips her socks off I remind her: socks go only on feet, in her drawer, in the hamper, or in the laundry room. If socks get removed simply for being wet they must be the same socks she puts on again when it’s time to leave. She’s even managed to occasionally take a deep breath and affirm that her socks may not feel right, but she can keep wearing them for now. If she can learn to manage her sock issues, so can I.
For that matter, she can help me face my own baggage and quirks. It’s not her job, and I’ll never make her do it, but just by being her, just by reflecting my own behavior back at me, she helps me learn what I like about myself and what I’d rather not pass on. Sometimes it’s just in her blood. But sometimes, together, we can work on it. It’s her and me against the world, barefoot and proud. It’s not a bad way to live.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cajole a small person into please, please, putting her socks on for pity’s sake so we’re not late for school again, please. Please.