It seems easy enough. To get dressed. Put on underwear, then pants, a shirt, some socks. Put the clothes on and we can go outside. Put them on and we can find something new. We can get a chocolate muffin, we can find a new park, we can hike a trail covered in acorns, we can hold hands and laugh at inside jokes.
Just pull on the pants. And pull the shirt over your head. It seems easy enough. Except when there is a tag in your t-shirt that itches. It itches in a way that offends your very being. You’ve worn this t-shirt 157 times and called it your favorite but today that tag bent just so and it’s killing your soul. But we want to go out. And feel some sun on our faces. So I’ll cut out that tag. Is that better? ‘Mostly’ is your answer but you’re still crying, rubbing the invisible injury caused by the aggressive tag.
Get dressed and we’re ready. I don’t care what you wear. I don’t care if it matches or if it’s silly or if there are holes in all your knees. I want to take you places, I want to show you things. So pick anything. Always a skirt. Often the same one. It’s easy enough. Except when your sock feels weird. You say there’s something poking your toe, positively STABBING your second toe in an excruciating way. So I turn the sock inside out and rub it and inspect it and I don’t see anything but I know that won’t please you. I pretend I saw the stabby object and removed it. But when you put the sock back on it’s still not right. Less stabby, sure, but still wrong. All wrong. So you cry, genuinely exasperated.
I truly want to help, but I also want to scream. Because there is nothing wrong with your fucking sock. And I’m tired. And parenting is hard. And in my heart, I know that this has very little to do with your sock. You don’t understand projection yet, but that’s what you’re doing now.
The sock is a metaphor. For whatever is bothering you. For what you are afraid of. For things that confuse you. For loneliness you might feel. And this makes you angry. And frustrated. I can see this. But to you that tag or this sock is all that is wrong with the world and all that is keeping you from being happy. You scream and cry about the sock but the sock has nothing to do with this. And that’s what breaks my heart.
Part of me wants to try to explain this to you. But I don’t because not only will you not understand, I don’t want you to understand. I want you to live a little longer in a world where finding a better sock could solve all your problems. I don’t want you to know that the older you get, the more things you see, the more you feel, the more likely it is that you will never feel comfortable in a sock again. An entire lifetime of ill-fitting socks and heartbreak and frustration and pain and itchy tags. I don’t tell you any of that today.
Instead, I just dig around for another sock and mutter ‘goddamit’ under my breath but not as under my breath as I should have.
After what seems like hours of hostage negotiation but was probably 15 minutes of tag-cutting and sock-fitting between sobs, we are finally outside. Sockless and in an inside-out t-shirt, everything as it should be.