“Please for the twelfth time, put your socks on!! It’s time for preschool!” I yell.
“But mommy, they don’t feel good,” my four-year-old says.
“Then pick another pair,” I shout, rummaging through her sock drawer. Here or here.” And I pull out a handful of socks.
“But mommy, they don’t feel good,” she repeats, angrier. “I don’t want to wear socks.”
“But your feet will be cold,” I shoot back.
“But my feet never get cold,” she screams.
For several weeks this painful exchange took place every morning. “Just let her go without socks,” my husband had said, “she’ll get cold and put them on.”
But to no avail, each morning she left for school wearing her Toms. Without socks.
I was out of patience and time—and exasperated. I could feel the tension between us building. The arguing, the shortness in my voice, the before school meltdowns, the crying and yelling.
What at first seemed so ridiculous was now turning into a mountain between us.
It had become a battle of wills, and I was losing every day. Inch by inch the barrier was deepening. The mountain between us was growing. I had to cross over before it became too steep. Before we couldn’t see each other anymore. I was losing the fight and losing the relationship with my daughter.
Help, I cried out to God.
Let it go, whispered in my ear.
But what about cold feet? What about winter? I argued back.
Let it go, whispered in my ear.
But what will her teacher say? What about obeying her mother? What about the judgy little old church ladies who’ll see her without socks?
Let it go, the voice said, louder this time.
And then there it was. My mind was so foggy and focused on my daughter’s actions, I had failed to see my own. But the fog lifted, and it was clear to me then. Why did I need her to wear socks, exactly? To keep her feet warm, right? Yes. But her feet are never cold, right? Yes. So what was the problem?
It was me. There it was staring back at me: pride. It is an ugly trait and one no one is ever happy to see rearing its big head out in the open. It wasn’t ever really about the socks, I realized; it was about me all along. I wanted compliance, obedience. I wanted to be right. I wanted to win. I was the one concerned about the little old church ladies judging my parenting for not dressing my child warmly enough. But my daughter, she didn’t care about any of that.
So right then and there, I conceded. I let it go. I was the one being ridiculous. No item was worth the relationship with my child.
“Oh, sweet one,” I said to my daughter, “please forgive me. I’m sorry we continued to have this same argument over and over. You are what matters most to me, not a silly pair of socks. Can we please start over?”
Her arms squeezed tightly around my neck. “Yes, Mommy. I forgive you. Can we read a story now?”
“Only if we snuggle too,” I said. We giggled and I felt all the tension disappear. The love from a child-so unconditional, so easy, so full of grace.
It has been several months, and my daughter has made it through almost an entire winter without ever wearing a pair of socks. I can honestly say it no longer bothers me, nor do the snide little old lady comments.
I choose to climb over that mountain for a fresh start instead of watching it grow taller. I choose the relationship over my pride. I choose my daughter over the socks.
Besides, warm feet are overrated anyway.