I have two children. They’re…well, they’re many things but the point of my post today is my son. He’s nine and has a name with letters in it and the word means something in Greek or Italian or Latin I’m not sure which but boy did we pick the right one for him. Other suitable name choices would have been “JustGiveMeFiveMinutesPLEASE,” “OhferChrist’sSake” or “IAmBeggingYouAtThisPointToGoToBed!” Anything in that family. He is a conventionally beautiful child. This is meant to trick you. He will have you with his pretty hair and his pretty eyes and his full lips and he will hug you with his lean, dry arms and he will squeeze every goddamn ounce of your energy and then he will make you thank him for the honour.
Today he needed socks. He needs socks every day because for some reason he puts holes into every piece of clothing his body touches. New winter coat? BAM! Sleeves ripped in a week. Fresh shirt? KAZAM! Caught it on a chain-link fence. Clean socks, right from the dryer? PRESTO! His feet shoot laser beam points of concentrated light, firing holes into the deep pocket of the formerly snuggly toe compartment.
Why can’t he find socks today? All the laundry is done. Every single piece of his clothing not currently on his back is washed, pressed (haha; just kidding you; I “press” nothing but my luck) and are tidily folded squares in his drawers and look like the small colourful flags on the front page of an atlas. His sock drawer right this very minute contains no less than 12 pairs of sweet-smelling boy socks. They are tiny and dwarfed next to even my lady socks. But all of these socks in his drawer are new, because as I said, he goes through socks like Charlie Sheen does girlfriends on a weekend bender.
“I don’t have any socks,” he reports methodically. I know this tone.
“You have many socks. They are all in your drawer.”
“But these are all new. I can’t wear these.”
“Then wear the ones you already have on,” I reply, pointing to his already swathed foot.
There’s a hole in the toe (OF COURSE THERE IS) but Jeni? Jeni no give a shit anymore. I keep his hair tidy, his teeth clean, his belly full of food, I provide social experiences and homework help and pleasurable outings and gifts and extra-curricular opportunities and a soft place to fall and a bosom to cry into and a lap on which to cuddle and hands to hold and I am tired. Hole-y socks no longer register on my parenting-rage meter. They don’t even move the needle past “Meh.” I. Simply. Do. Not. Give. A. Shit. If you ever see my ragged-footed son and think “What of his parents?” know this: I am a good mother but I have my limits.
But uh, oh. So does he, and these horrible, too-new socks are it.
“I can’t wear these ones because my toe pokes out too far. You threw away all the perfect holed socks and the rest in here are brand new!” So, too holey socks aren’t any good, nor are good new socks. He explains all of this in a voice normally reserved for those in the drunk tank or the alarmingly obtuse (Of which I am currently neither.) He says that “new” socks feel weird because they are too new and don’t sit right. The heel isn’t broken in and the toes are too tight and the cuff is stringy and there’s a weird thing in the bottom and…
I listen. I understand and I am sympathetic. I’m sensitive about some things and we all have our quirks, but after having one child who would wear, do, eat, say, or participate in anything I merely gestured at, it is with great surprise that I find myself – at 40 years 10 months and 20 days old – standing over a washing machine in an attempt to “break in” a load of tiny striped sweat socks for a pint-sized oligarch.