Bumps in Whose Socks?
When my daughter Mary was five, she went to kindergarten. It was a big day for us all. Jenny, her sister in second grade, gave her tips about school.
“Kindergarten is really great, Mary, you’ll love it.”
Mary looked at Jenny. Should she trust her? Had her sister always told her the truth? Not always.
I bought Mary a new dress, socks and shoes, and a cute little jacket. She loved dresses so I could see she was excited — about the dress, anyway. But Mary had had a recurring problem since she was three. She had bumps in her socks.
Today, there’s enough advice on what’s called sensory over-responsiveness, an anxiety condition in children, to bury a parent, but there was nothing when Mary was five. Many children had trouble with bumps in their socks, but parents understood little about them.
At first Jenny and I told Mary to get over the bumps. Not a good idea. Tears and stomping of feet. We would take the shoes off, smooth the socks, put the shoes back on — several times. We finally had to escort Mary out the door, whining and protesting. Apparently, once at school, she was either too shy or too occupied with survival to complain. I don’t recall hearing from the teachers about it. But each morning we went through the same thing. Again, not much help was available. Truth is, when you are going through these things, you don’t even know what to name it.
Mary’s father had left before she was born, and I was dealing with raising two children alone. We had little money, and I was an emotional wreck. Jenny and Mary were too young to understand their father leaving so we were in a situation, which I am sure, did not help our mental states.
The school psychologist, Mrs. Brown, called me in for a meeting about Mary.
“Ms. Curren, your daughter feels highly responsible for you.” I was embarrassed to hear that but, at the same time didn’t even know what that meant.
She called Mary into her office and I asked Mary, “Honey, do you feel responsible for me?”
“Oh yes, Mommy.” she said. I blanched. Mrs. Brown then sent Mary back to class so we could talk.
“Feeling responsibility for a parent can create anxiety in a child as young as Mary,” the counselor said.
“What should I do then?” I asked.
“You might share less of your pain with the kids.”
Uh-oh, I thought, I do that, don’t I?
“Find another adult to share your anxieties with. Talk to your children and give them assurance you will take care of them and not leave them.”
She went on. “It’s tough to be an abandoned parent and try to be adult when you just feel like pulling the covers over your head. I lived it myself so I know.”
I recall thinking at the time that I was not at all sure I could take care of me, let alone my children. The divorce had ripped my confidence from me. But I did my best from then on. I began to share my anxieties with a trustworthy counselor and sometimes with the bathroom mirror. And Mary began to get better.
“Mommy, I don’t think we can catch those bumps,” Mary said finally. “I think they have little demons in them.”
“Well,” I said, “We will keep after them anyway. Maybe we can call ghost busters.”
“Yeah!” she said.
Only as I did some research for this story did I discover that many children have bumps in their socks. And their parents have just as much difficulty solving the problem as we did. Luckily, there are many more alternatives for parents and children today — such as therapy and socks with no bumps. Back when Mary was five, parents just got up in the morning and dealt with it. Luckily, as Mary did, many children grew out of the preoccupation with clothing issues.
Last year, I visited Mary and her husband in New York City where they live and work. I noticed on their feet were soft and smooth socks, a kind of madly current athletic sock. They seemed to be blessedly bump-free. As I watched them glide about the house in these socks, I asked, “Hey, where can I find some of those? I’m having a heck of time lately with bumps in my socks.”
— Kaye Curren
Published June 18, 2016
A retired event planner, Kaye Curren has returned to writing after 30 years of raising two husbands, two children, two teenage stepchildren, three horses, umpteen dogs and cats, and several non-speaking parakeets. She used to write computer manuals but now writes humor essays and memoir. Find her musings at her website and blog at www.writethatthang.com.