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Monday, January 14, 2008

The Curse of Socks

On the first day of term, on the first day of school I was destined for an afterlife in heaven. This was directly due to my snowy white, knee length socks. Each was secured in place with a thick elastic garter above the calf that cut off all blood circulation. The cuff was neatly turned now with perfect symmetry. It is a well know fact that one’s personal appearance in the neat, tidy and clean department, has a direct correlation with the condition of your soul, or so I was led to believe.

The second week at school showed that I was winging my way to a completely different destination. This was due to my inability to keep my immaculate socks free from grass stains and dirt. Their general grubbiness could not be eradicated by my inadequate hand laundering skills in cold water with the aid of a bar of yellow soap. The flames of everlasting hell and damnation licked at the toes of my grey cotton foot coverings. I prayed for salvation, with the sincerity of a Tibetan monk, for the chance to languish in Limbo instead.

As luck would have it, I grew up and left school, never again to be troubled by socks, free from the burden of associated guilt, or at least for a few decades.

A few decades later I was presented with a sock dilemma in an entirely new magnitude.

One of the great benefits of being an adult, is that you can force smaller people to do your bidding. A baby or toddler can tug at their socks but their fine motor skills aren’t quite up to the job of removal. As their skills or possibly determination, grows, they may well manage to rid themselves of their hateful socks, but as the parent, I can gather them up and ram them back on again. No matter if they scream in protest, because I, the adult, know what is best for them, because that’s what being a parent is all about.

Much, much later, and after a couple of diagnoses here and there, I learn a few remarkable new facts, things like tactile defensiveness, sensory integration and learning life skills, whatever those might be. Now I have an even greater problem. No only do I have to stop myself from efficiently dressing my children, but I also have to teach them how to do it for themselves. How do you go about teaching someone to do something that they don’t want to do, that they have no interest in achieving?

The obvious answer is to hire an expert to do the teaching, but for many a family that option is not possible, either due to unavailability, or worse still, inadequate financial resources. On the whole, experts are kindly people, full of all manner of ludicrous suggestions to get you started on the right track, but other than that, you’re on your own.

It is tempting to sink to the lowest common denominator, just like my children. Who needs socks anyway? Can’t we just skip the whole sock thing? Is it really that important in the great scheme of things? There is of course the issue of shoes too, and no-one will ever wear shoes until their little tootsies are first protected by a layer of socks. Do we really need shoes? Can’t we just step over the shoe issue, we’re in California afterall, the centre of casual attire. At the current stage of development, no-one wants to leave the house in any case. You only need shoes if you are outside surely? There again, I should be tackling the ‘outside’ issue too. Why are there so many competing issues? Why can’t we address them one at a time? Why is everything overlapping and interlocking? My explanations sound more and more like excuses, as the simplest of excursions becomes impossible:-
“I’ll meet you in the coffee shop at ten?”
“Can’t go to the coffee shop as the smell makes him barf.”
“Excuse me?”
“In any case I can’t take them anywhere if they don’t have shoes and socks on.”
“I’ll never be able to get them all dressed by 9:30 and I’ll never be able to get them in the car as that’s a transition they hate.”
“I’ll never be able to find the coffee shop as my brain will be fried by the volume of screaming.”

I makes no sense without direction experience, or some variation on a theme. It sounds feeble, inadequate and pathetic even to my own ears, but the explanations take too long and are of no interest. Suddenly I am disqualified from the status of ‘friend.’ Instead I become a neurotic, obsessed with children. The only logical conclusion is that I suffer from a serious, delusional personality disorder, or maybe Munchausen by proxy. If you also find yourself friendless overnight, take comfort in the knowledge that the time you spend with those under your care, ensures that they will blossom and bloom, which brings with it, an entirely new insight into the human condition.

It is important to remember that these are not the selfless acts of a martyred mother but an investment in your own future. Next life skill to learn? How to push ancient mother in her bath chair, preferably avoid the cliff path.

I think I may posit with a certain degree of accuracy that 'socks on' would probably mean that the rest of the clothing might prove superfluous.

Now would that really be an improvement?

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