[“These Shoes are Too Loose and Too Tight”]

My son has worn socks to school for 2 days so far this week. Can I get a whoop whoop?! This might seem like a pretty average occurrence, but those who know him well enough will recognise that it is actually a major milestone probably only over-shadowed by his first wobbly steps and first cryptic words. OK, I’m being dramatic, but bear with me.

Ryder abhors socks with all that is within his little body and soul. He also hates new shoes. And if it is ever suggested to him that he needs to wear both socks AND new shoes together, oh dear God, have mercy on us all. Had anybody told me I would spend this much of my adult life battling it out with a mini-me over insignificant stuff such as what is appropriate to put on your feet, I might have laughed in their face and told them not to be absurd. And yet, this is now my life.

I’m not quite sure where it all started, but somewhere in the last year and a bit he has grown an intense dislike for the little slip-on shoes that were such a staple when he was younger, and for socks in general. Shoelaces also bug him out immensely, and I have watched him tearfully and repeatedly reposition his laces so that they don’t touch his ankles (eventually I learnt how to stick them into the rest of the lace at just the angle he prefers – because he has a preferred way of doing this, too – and then eventually we just stuck to velcro straps).  Asking him to put on any of the above results in the same traumatic scene each time: Tantrums and tears. Gentle talking from mummy. Stern talking from mummy. Reluctant attempts to put on the offensive items. Mummy and daddy trying to strike the delicate balance between oohing and aahing over him as if he has just won an Olympic medal when he finally gets them on, vs barely acknowledging his new achievement and pretending we didn’t notice. Ten minutes of him repositioning the socks and shoes with tears in between that they’re ‘wowwying me’. And repeated instances of him kicking them off in anger and then putting them back on, kicking them off, …and so it goes on until we are all late for whatever we were supposed to be doing, and it’s all the fault of blinking socks and shoes.

Recently we were in the Drakensberg for a winter weekend away with family. It was freezing. Everybody was kitted out in their warmest gear. Ryder was thankfully in his wellies – one of three pairs of shoes that he seems to have no issues with (the others are a pair of Woolies takkies/trainers – that he has since gone off! – and then Havaiana flip flops, or swip-swops, as he calls them). Apart from the challenge of my son’s shoes constantly smelling like moldy cheese no matter how we try to prevent this, a bigger issue was that by the second day of our holiday he was incapacitated by blisters. Those wellies had been rubbing against his sock-less skin right through all the active fun and adventure we’d been enjoying the day before.


I braced myself because I knew what was about to go down. I offered to put some antiseptic ointment and a plaster (band-aid) over the blisters so they wouldn’t keep hurting… he did his usual tear-filled objections to that. (Plasters ‘wowwy’ him too.) I steeled myself. “Ryder, then you need to put on socks, so the wellies don’t keep hurting you.”


And off he went running in the other direction in tears.

Long story short… that incident quickly, so quickly, spiralled into a ridiculous stand-off between the threenager, my husband and I, with earth-shattering screams disturbing the tranquil Drakensberg silence. We begged, we pleaded, we reasoned, we got down to his level, he resisted, we raised our voices, we got angry, (husband snapped, smacked for the 3rd time in our son’s life, I died inside but knew I had to be strong), son cried, I cried, we eventually pinned him down and got the socks on while he kicked and wailed and tried to get them off. It was not our finest parenting display. The end result was a boy and his parents who were emotionally exhausted and not feeling great about themselves, but hey, at least he was in socks and shoes. Later that night he put on the flip flops, in that cold and rainy weather. My husband and I cut our losses and realised we could stand there fighting until we went insane, or we could accept the defeat and get on with enjoying the rest of the weekend with our extended family. We chose the latter, and ignored the glances from strangers at our little son walking around in beach footwear in the thick of winter.

Buying shoes or new clothes for Ryder has become a mild form of torture for us. He has always hated tags on clothing, so I’ve gotten into the routine of having to snip these off. The problem is he will not so much as try on an item if it has a retail tag and a clothing label on it. These wowwy him too, and always have. I cry inwardly when I think of the number of items I have bought with his full consent, cut off tags, had him put them on and then had him decide he doesn’t want to wear them – ever.

A pair of wellies and a pair of flip flops cannot get you through life so we attempted shoe shopping this weekend. He decided on a pair of trainers, similar to his last ones, but a size bigger. We were all happy. We agreed he would wear socks with them. He seemed compliant but I had my doubts. Monday morning came for school. The same scene panned out. Socks on…. “The wibbon is wowwying me.” (That’s what he calls the seam… and don’t you dare suggest seamless socks because they make no difference.) Shoes on… Panic stirred in his eyes. 20 minutes of the usual deliberation and reasoning and begging, with on and off, on and off… in the end he declared the new shoes are “too loose and too tight”, leaving me utterly perplexed. He decided he did not want them but he would wear the wellies with his new socks. Small victory. I’ll take it, thanks.

I have visions of my son taking off his stinky shoes at pre-school and losing friends in the process. Should I send a note to the teacher explaining our plight?

And a word of advice… if you’re a fraction of the fretful mother that I am, you should probably not Google “my child hates shoelaces, socks, new clothes and shoes.” You will spend the night wondering how you’re going to explain to your husband that you’ve diagnosed your child with Sensory Processing Disorder. Or OCD. Or maybe a combination of both.

He has so many quirks, this kid. Too many to post in this story. I hope and trust that he will outgrow some of them, because quite honestly they drain me and take up so much time.

But I still love this little sockless, wellie-and-swip-swop-wearing wonder so so much.



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