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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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The Sock Wars

by Sierra on April 23, 2009 · 10 comments

in parenting

I am, by nature, a late person. My husband is worse. So it’s perhaps not surprising that our kids also have a hard time getting themselves organized and out the door when we need to be somewhere.

With Rio, this tends to express itself as anxiety about clothing. In Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Kurcinka Sheedy talks about kid’s sensitivity to clothing textures as a sign of a spirited temperament. Rio fits the “spirited child” profile so well the book could be about her. Rio is particularly sensitive about her socks.

All this is backstory to the scene at our house a few weeks ago when we were running late for church and Rio was refusing to put her socks on. She’d tried just about every kid tactic there is: moving from room to room as the rest of the family got ready; putting socks on and then having a screaming tantrum because they were not the Right Socks; refusing; whining; pleading.

Finally, she was sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, sobbing her little eyes out. “I CAAAAAAN’T! MAMA, I CAN’T! I JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE MY SOCKS ARE!!!!!!!!”

Around her on the floor were at least half a dozen pairs of her socks, all neatly folded, all her size. She was crying in a sea of socks.

I went a little crazy. I picked them up and started throwing them at her, shouting some incoherent babble about how much I wanted her to get dressed and stop making me late for everything I ever try to do ever in my life so help me god, etc…

This was not one of my shining moments as a mother. I must have had some good ones in the past though, because Rio stopped crying, looked at me, and said, “Mama, you are not allowed to throw things at me. That’s not what you do.”

I’d like to say that I immediately apologized to her, and she to me, and we happily left for church. In fact, I left the room and my husband finished dressing her and we made it to church 45 minutes late for an hour long service. Rio’s “consequence” (a parenting tactic I almost never stoop to) was to miss her fun Sunday School class and ride out the boring adult sermon with us. All in all, the morning was a disaster.

After a good lunch and a bike ride, Rio and I talked about our tantrum. She volunteered an apology for not getting dressed when I’d asked her to, and promised never to do it again (a promise she broke the next day, and nearly daily since, but we’re working on it). I apologized for getting angry, and especially for throwing socks.

And here’s the Important Thing: I told her I admired the way she was able to tell me I was crossing a boundary even when I was angry and scaring her. That I really like how she knows what’s right and stands up for herself.

I’m confident that won’t make her more obedient. I probably bought myself another round of the Sock Wars with that little speech. It’s also probably technically Bad Parenting; there are a ton of authorities out there that advocate not involving kids in one’s parenting dilemmas. In general, I’m a fan of that myself. I don’t want to make my problems her problems, or ask her to validate my parenting.

But in this case my desire to do the right thing as a person trumped my desire to do the right thing as a parent. I was proud of her, and I told her so.

What do you do when you make a mistake as a parent?

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  • Sarah

    My mom spent a lot of time searching for socks with no seams for my sister, who absolutely could not stand them. We have recently learned that this is A Thing (TM) among ADD (which might sometimes be a medical term for “spirited”) children — who knew? (Ok, probably everyone and I’m slow on the uptake, but still. I was surprised!)

    [Reply]

  • Sarah

    My mom spent a lot of time searching for socks with no seams for my sister, who absolutely could not stand them. We have recently learned that this is A Thing (TM) among ADD (which might sometimes be a medical term for “spirited”) children — who knew? (Ok, probably everyone and I’m slow on the uptake, but still. I was surprised!)

    [Reply]

  • phoenix

    Actually, I think that’s awesome parenting. You recognized an important life skill for her while also modeling doing the right thing post tantrum be sincerely apologizing. This does not, I think, constitute involving her in your parenting or inviting her to correct you, but does encourage her to hold her own boundaries – something she needs.

    [Reply]

  • phoenix

    Actually, I think that’s awesome parenting. You recognized an important life skill for her while also modeling doing the right thing post tantrum be sincerely apologizing. This does not, I think, constitute involving her in your parenting or inviting her to correct you, but does encourage her to hold her own boundaries – something she needs.

    [Reply]

  • naiad

    The times when I’ve totally lost it and really screamed at my kids, I’ve apologized later.

    The most spirited of my three kids – he definitely isn’t ADD, just spirited – couldn’t stand the seams in socks when he was little. Drove me crazy, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very sympathetic, but I’ve since learned that it’s relatively common. Fortunately he outgrew it after a few years.

    I love reading your blog :)

    [Reply]

  • naiad

    The times when I’ve totally lost it and really screamed at my kids, I’ve apologized later.

    The most spirited of my three kids – he definitely isn’t ADD, just spirited – couldn’t stand the seams in socks when he was little. Drove me crazy, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very sympathetic, but I’ve since learned that it’s relatively common. Fortunately he outgrew it after a few years.

    I love reading your blog :)

    [Reply]

  • Dan Bodah

    I also apologize when I cross the line like that. There are definitely those not-so-proud parenting moments when I just get so fed up with the freaking out and sobbing for no apparent reason that I can discern. But, really, I know there’s always a reason, and it’s always got *some* validity for Si. I should have the patience to meet him where he is and work through it. But I also think there’s a valid need for him to learn that that is not always going to happen, that sometimes we Need to Be Somewhere and Will Not Indulge Him. But when, in my impatience, I say something nasty or act out at him, I apologize and try to own up. I also try to explain, without excusing it, why I acted that way and ask how it made him feel so we can talk it over. I agree with Phoenix that it’s *good* parenting to do this — he can see that even his parents make mistakes or lose control of their emotions and act out, and hopefully he learns a little about what that means and that it’s not OK and how to make amends for it.

    [Reply]

  • Dan Bodah

    I also apologize when I cross the line like that. There are definitely those not-so-proud parenting moments when I just get so fed up with the freaking out and sobbing for no apparent reason that I can discern. But, really, I know there’s always a reason, and it’s always got *some* validity for Si. I should have the patience to meet him where he is and work through it. But I also think there’s a valid need for him to learn that that is not always going to happen, that sometimes we Need to Be Somewhere and Will Not Indulge Him. But when, in my impatience, I say something nasty or act out at him, I apologize and try to own up. I also try to explain, without excusing it, why I acted that way and ask how it made him feel so we can talk it over. I agree with Phoenix that it’s *good* parenting to do this — he can see that even his parents make mistakes or lose control of their emotions and act out, and hopefully he learns a little about what that means and that it’s not OK and how to make amends for it.

    [Reply]

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