99 Problems

Published on November 5th, 2019 | by Francesca Dalleo


A Ritual in Socks

My son’s socks need to be line dried. As I open the hamper to throw in a dirty pair, I have to remember to zip them into the mesh lingerie bag first, signaling they should not go into the dryer after they come out of the washer.

It wasn’t always this way. Before the preschool years I could still easily find socks with grippers, those rubber dots providing traction, on the bottom. As my son entered Pre-K it became harder, with only a few brands offering them in the larger sizes.

We tried socks without grippers a couple of times. As a toddler he loved the red pair with big eyes and a yellow nose, a gift from a friend. But when we put on the Elmo ones, even with reminders to be extra careful, he immediately ended up sprawled on the ground in tears. For a kid who broke his leg by stepping on a pillow at two years old, who spent weeks in a walking boot on three separate occasions last year, we can’t risk increasing what may seem like minor spills. He has an orthopedic condition, which means he falls and injures more easily. So we passed the Elmo pair along to friends with a younger child, who wore them with ease.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

We have accepted gripper socks as a part of life like how we accepted using the stroller to get from the parking lot into Target, the physical therapy appointments, the twice-yearly routine x-rays.

Now my son is getting ready to head to Kindergarten. Cramming his 5-year-old feet into socks meant for a three-year-old is no longer working—his ankles look fat sausages spilling out of tight fabric casing.

Last year we received a new set of five pairs in the right size from another well-meaning friend, colorfully striped but with bottoms as smooth as porcelain. For a long time, I kept them in the basement, never expecting we would get to use them.

Then recently, googling around, I noticed something that I never had before—a tutorial on using puff paint to create a grip pattern on any pair of socks.

That next day I walked up to the variety store and chose white puff paint. I squeezed tiny mounds onto the sole of the first striped pair. Emboldened after the first few, I printed his name on ones with thick blue and purple bands, his initials on another. His favorite pair are those that I drew the letter ‘I’ followed by a heart, then spelled out “YOU” on its match.

“Did you make them for me?” he asked.

I did.

One afternoon, my son and another boy sat on the floor and played with a castle and knight figures while his mom and I watched from the couch. She noticed my son’s initials on a navy and lime green pair.

“Wait, did you make those?” she asked. “So cute!”

I explained how I’d found a way to make socks in his size safe for him. I mentioned that the only hitch was that since adding puff paint they have to be line dried.

 “I could never remember to do that,” she scoffed. “All that extra work you’re making for yourself.”

As if this was something just for fun, a hobby. A choice. You would if you had to, I thought to myself, as I had before in similar conversations. You would if you had to.

Parenting a child with health challenges is lonely. I am continually surprised at how others don’t get it. They can’t.

What is a choice is how we react.

If I could bear his pain for him I would. I will carry him until my own body breaks.

I pull wet clothes out of the washer, digging around for the mesh bag. After stuffing the rest of the load in the dryer, I unzip the bag. I tenderly place each small tube of fabric on the rods of the drying rack. Instead of feeling mounting resentment for this addition to my to-do list, each step, each repetition, brings a deeper sense of peace.

I can’t keep my son from falling, from getting hurt. But I can squeeze paint onto socks and hang them up to dry.

feature photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

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About the Author

Francesca Dalleo has a decade of experience writing and editing for nonprofits. She holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology from Georgetown University. Located outside of Philadelphia, she and her family enjoy wandering around their neighborhood as well as getting to know a new one.

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