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Shoes and Socks

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“They’re bumpy!”

“They’re twisty!”

“They itch!”

“They bother me!”

Some of the worst battles I have experienced with my daughter, Danielle, now almost ten are related to socks and shoes.

Seamless socks, tights, all-cotton, some cotton/some rayon, ankle socks, knee socks, socks with beads, and finally no socks. I distract, I coerce, I bribe, I yell, I wait until we have arrived at our destination and still I don’t ever seem to win the battle of the socks and shoes. I comb every reputable parenting guide and (and some not so reputable!) for advice on what to do with ‘high-spirited’ children with sock and shoe issues. I talk to my friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, pediatrician and they all have differing ideas on how to prevail in the toddlers’ will to control the land of shod.

I attribute (blame) her sensitivity to all things feet on her father. My mother-in-law tells me stories of my husband, Tom, as a child continuously banging the toes of his shoes on the ground in order to get the fit just right. She tells me she bought Tom the same pair of shoes in subsequently larger sizes six years in a row because she could no longer bear the tortuous ordeal of finding and discarding shoes that were not ‘just right’.

I find myself in the same situation now with Danielle and I can thank God for the internet and eCommerce because I found the ‘right’ pair of sneakers that I can continue to order in the next bigger size as she outgrows or out-stinks her existing ones. Three clicks and I get these delivered to my doorstep with free shipping and returns. This usually buys me another six months of shoe sanity.

I have learned my lesson about taking Danielle shoe shopping. Either we end up with a pair of shoes that she ‘has to have’ that she wears home from the store and never again or we have a melt down because we have been to five stores and can’t find anything that works. I am happy that Danielle has two younger sisters that can someday, I hope, wear the results of some of these earlier shoe miscursions. We have a long list of shoe stores we can no longer visit due to painful experiences on my part and that of the patient store clerks.

My husband thinks I have been way too indulgent in the saga of the shoe. I recently sent him to the department store with Danielle to return a pair that I bought for her on my lunch-hour one day that was too large. We have subsequently added another shoe department to our list of ‘do not visit’ retail establishments.

I share this story because I think it is important to be able to talk about both the peaks and valleys when it comes to rearing our precious children. If I hadn’t come across a story similar to mine when I first encountered the sock and shoe sensitivity issue, I would probably still be in therapy, trying to determine what I was doing wrong as a parent rather than embracing all of my child’s attributes and learning to work with them, rather than against them. It is these stories that mothers and fathers chose to share that are most encouraging to those of us that are in the trenches engaging in what we think are hopeless battles against our tiny tyrants. It’s not that misery loves company (well, maybe it is a little); rather it is that we are given a sense that we are NOT alone in this crazy adventure we call parenting. And while our child is not like any other child in the world, they do share some of the same quirky characteristics of others that drive a parent to madness or drink. This gives us hope—that if these other people can prevail, then perhaps so can we.

We have reached a sort of détente in the ongoing shoe war after these many years (our problems started when she was three). Danielle wears the sneakers that I buy for her from my online sources to school (she rides her bike to school every day) WITH NO SOCKS and then she wears her (my) Reef flip flops the rest of the day and on weekends. Will she outgrow her hypersensitivity to socks and shoes, as her father did? I hope so, because she has recently outgrown the child sizes and has moved into ladies shoe sizes and this introduces a whole new world of problems with choice and prices. Also, I worry that someday (not too soon, though) she will start to acknowledge and care that her feet smell like those of a burly, sweaty, tattooed sailor who has been as sea for three months without a change of socks.

I recently met with a friend for lunch on an unusually cold, wet, and blustery day. She remarked about the damp chill of the air and I responded in kind with some usual small chat in agreement about why we live in South Texas—for the mild seasons and early springs. She glanced at my feet—in light, slip-on shoes, without socks. She noted that I might be more comfortable if I were wearing socks with my shoes and I responded with a disdainful guffaw ‘Oh, I NEVER wear socks. I hate wearing socks’. Hmmm. Maybe Danielle has a bit of me in her after all!


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