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Roxane Salonen, Published May 12 2009

Parenting Perspectives: In the grand scheme of things, what’s a pair of mismatched socks?

‘Hey Mom,” my 6-year-old said to me the other day, just after I’d handed him some socks to wear. “Know what’s weird? These socks you just gave me? They’re both exactly the same!”

Ahem. And what might this reveal about the sock situation in the Salonen household?

Let’s just say I’ve set a pretty low bar these days in determining what constitutes cause for unrest. When discerning whether something such as mismatched socks should result in a reordering of our world, I ask myself, “Will failing to address this affect my salvation?” If yes, I correct the “error” in question. If no, life usually goes on.

Like some families, we have a temporary, single-sock-holding bucket, where post-dryer socks are placed until being reunited with their “sole-mates.” I do my best to stay on top of sock-matching duties. But for some reason, the poor sock basket has seen less of me than usual this past year.

Awhile back, I tried to encourage my girls to take this on as one of their chores. It seemed a reasonable enough expectation. But their common idea of a sock match was more than comical. As long as they were the same shade, socks would find themselves getting hitched. During that time, it wasn’t uncommon for more than a few white or black socks sized for a 3-year-old to be paired with white or black socks sized for an 11-year-old.

Often, the mishap wouldn’t be discovered until a particularly harried moment, like when the sock-wearer was in a particular rush; late to some function where they were to be the honored guest, for example. Only then would they realize the socks they’d rolled on weren’t even close to being the same size.

Out of necessity, I reclaimed that chore, though doing so has meant surrendering to what is. So this year, my kids have gone to school and everywhere else, more often than not, wearing socks that have no relation whatsoever to one another. And guess what? They’ve all survived – so far, anyway.

I will admit, though, there are times it bothers me to realize my kids have, once again, headed off somewhere with ill-paired socks. In the end, this is probably more a weakness of mine relating to what others might think of us than anything else. And in those moments, I need to remind myself that if mismatched socks could prompt a marred relationship, I’d have to question the merits of that relationship.

Whenever this kind of thinking tempts me, all I need to do is ask: Have my kids been fed? Check. Clothed? Check. Other basic needs met? Check. All right, then onward we go.

Besides, spring is here, and summer’s (hopefully) on its way. Warm, dry weather will be a time of great rejoicing around these parts. We’ll happily tuck away the sock basket, twirl our toes, and join the symmetrical world.

Well, until fall, anyway.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and husband Troy are parents to five children. She also has a blog, www.areavoices.com/peacegarden