A Lesson from a Pile of Mismatched Socks


I tried to squish a few more single socks into the bin I designated for mismatched socks. As they fluffed back up and fell over the side, I decided I’d better do something about it. I laid every sock out along the top of the washing machine and dryer and looked for any matches among them. Since this is something I’ve tried nearly every week of my parenting life, I only found a couple of pairs. For the first time ever, though, I counted them. There were over fifty mismatched socks. 

Who has fifty single socks, I asked myself. Fifty!?

I called for the kids and told them that they had to go through their sock drawers and look for single socks, but not only that, they had to look through the socks that were paired up and make sure they were actually pairs. 

They returned with a small pile of socks, and I brought them down by the washing machine to look for matches. Although I found a few matches, I actually found more additional single socks.

I tried harder. I told the kids that we were going to play a game. If anyone found any additional single socks in anyone’s drawer, even a sibling’s, there would be a piece of chocolate in it as a reward. 

“But, I already found five,” a child exclaimed. 

“Yes,” I replied, “but the game part starts now. Ready, GO!”

The game yielded three additional socks (only one for which I found a match) and two screaming kids arguing over whether or not one could enter the other’s room to look in her drawer.

After all of that, I had 49 single socks. I determined a few were probably too small for any of my kids, anyway, and threw them away.

I still had forty-five single socks.

I found this incredibly frustrating. I stood in the basement and I began to let myself believe that it signified a sort of failure as a mother. I mean, it’s a basic part of parenting to have socks for your kids’ feet. And how hard is it to have your kids keep those socks where they belong? Sure, the average person has some missing socks, but this is ridiculous.

I picked up a couple of socks, justifying that they were kind of old, and threw them in the garbage. 

Maybe I should develop a new system.

I picked up a few white socks that were more of a grey now and threw them in the garbage. 

Maybe I could have the kids… I don’t know. I guess I could do a better job of…

No! I told myself. I swiped my hand down a row of socks, grabbing a big fistful. And, with a breath of relief, I shoved all those socks into the garbage. With a smile on my face, I continued down the other two rows, grabbing socks and shoving them in the garbage.

But, those socks cost money! I heard my mother’s voice exclaim in my head.

Yes, I replied, but not nearly as much money as the therapy I will need if I have to continue to deal with these mismatched socks!

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Kristal spent years thinking that teaching a room full of 30 kids in the inner city was tough but rewarding. Then she became responsible for just four kids, and discovered brand new definitions for tough and rewarding. That’s what led her to become a parent educator, to help other parents build strong relationships with the children in their lives and to help more kids have a chance to grow into successful adults. (You can get in touch with her through her website Parenting with Kristal Melbye by clicking the link above.) Having a family is Kristal’s dream come true. She’s grateful every day for her kids and the time she get to spend with them. But, she’s also grateful for a chance to have a little escape, a chance to reflect, an opportunity to share. And that's why she writes.



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