If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
— Diane Loomans, “If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again”
Recently I was in Salt Lake City, shoe shopping with my daughter, Suzette. We literally spent two hours in the downtown Nordstrom’s store. The patient sales associate had brought out at least a dozen boxes of shoes, if not more. Suzette tried on one pair after another while I had the fun of playing with her 7- month old- baby Adelaide.
Suzette was in a struggle over which shoes she wanted. It reminded me of a time when she was 4- years-old and having a major issue with socks. She absolutely hated her socks because they had a seam at the toe that she said, “bodder’s me.”
In the summer she just didn’t wear socks, but then school would roll around and again, we would be caught in the sock battle. Very carefully she would try to pull them on her little feet until they felt right. Soon she would be fussing, wanting help. Very carefully Brian or I would pull them on, trying to line the seam up at the toes just right. It always ended the same way. The socks would feel uncomfortable and she would get a few more pairs and we would try again.
It just didn’t work though, in her mind the seams just didn’t line up right, which sent her into tears and frustration despairing over her dilemma. Our patience was growing thin. “All socks have seams Suzette,” I would say, “You just have to wear them and get used to it.”
Logic is lost on toddlers. Finally I came up with the idea to take Suzette on a sock date. I told her is she would try to hang in there with those miserable seams, on Saturday I would take her shopping for new socks.
She did. She had been heard and had some hope offered to her.
On Saturday we went to the store. I showed her all the socks, told her she could pick the ones she wanted and we would try them on right in the store. She was intrigued by the possibilities – rows of socks in all kinds of colors and patterns that she could pick from herself. “Ooooh,” she said perusing bows and ruffles and lace. “Ooh la la!”
Her little sounds continued as she deliberated over her choice. “Neeeeat! Neatoooo!” Finally she chose and we sat on the floor and tried them on her little feet. “Oh, this is so soft,” she said, “You should feel it mommy.”
After trying on a few pairs she proclaimed, “These socks don’t bodder me, Mommy.” Honestly, I could see no difference in the feel or the seam placement of the socks she had chosen versus her socks at home. At this point, it didn’t matter. We bought a bunch.
On the way home in the car, just the two of us wrapping up the sock date, Suzette was singing. “So,” I asked, “did you have a good time?”
Her response was immediate. “I sure did, my sweet little Mommy, I love you so much, I love you as sweet as I can!”
I was laughing quietly to myself, but my eyes were watering. Oh how I had lost sight of her perspective in a world that gets so busy that sock seams are insignificant.
“I realized this wasn’t a battle about socks. This was about being heard and validated. This was about saying, “Your concerns are important.”
Here was a little child growing up in a large family. Maybe it was about socks, maybe it wasn’t. Who knows. Maybe it was about finding a way to be singled out and loved individually.
Nor the same sock!
Suzette’s struggle with her socks taught me the importance of taking seriously my children’s concerns. I realized in the tender moment in the car on the way home that giving her needs individual attention was a very important way to help her feel loved.
On Mother’s Day this last Sunday I received a lovely letter from my, now 29-year-old, Suzette, who now has the perspective of a mother. She told me that over the past seven months that she has been mothering Adelaide, she has just begun to understand all that is required to be parent. It has given her deeper appreciation for the sacrifices required.
Sometimes the emotional reactions our little ones have to their ‘problems’ in life can seem insignificant. I learned from Suzette, that in a 4-year-old world, it matters a lot how your sock seams line up. It matter’s even more that you are heard and taken seriously.