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December 2, 2010

I? Have issues.

I know you’re shocked, but really. I do.

I like things just so. A place for everything and everything in its place. Clean, picked up, put away. I am a fan of harmony, of feng shui, of balance.

I might also be a little bit Type-A… just a little.

Due to this particular personality trait, I ALWAYS mate socks… and throw away the ones with holes… and leave a neatly stacked pile on the dryer of the hopefuls (hope the mate will be in the next load, that is) until the pile becomes so large that I just have to arm wrestle myself into throwing them all away, reassuring myself on the trip to the trashcan that I will just buy a new package of clean, fresh, white, perfectly mated socks, with Hanes, or Adidas, or a green M on the bottom to make future mating that much easier.

And? I love (luuuu-huuuu-uuuuuvvvvveeee!!!) the satisfied feeling I get at the end of folding a load of laundry when all of the socks match all of the other socks and there are no loose ends to wrap up later.

The hopeful pile is a constant source of frustration for me. Is that oxymoronic or what?

Perhaps that’s because I know that we won’t find the mates and those sad and lonely singles will just live on top of my dryer until the arm wrestling occurs. Or maybe it’s because I secretly know (especially when the hopefuls belong to my children) that all of the laundry sorting lessons I have taught over the years have really been unheeded… that at the bottom of everyone’s hampers, those mates are struggling for air and missing their other halves.

Then again maybe it stems from something else entirely…

The Egg Donor (ED) is not so much Type-A, or really very organized, or… uh… motivated in that department. For years, the kids have been arriving home from their stays with her in worn, torn, ill-fitting, stained, filthy, or otherwise destroyed clothing–AND in unmatched socks. Once upon a time, when they all arrived in their aforementioned garments, we provided those monkeys with clean, age- and size-appropriate, hole-free clothing to wear back for their next visit. In my mind, that was perfectly reasonable, and I honestly felt a little like she was sending them in those abominable clothes on purpose, hoping that we would subsidize the astronomical child support payment we were making with new clothes. I slept well at night and only gritted my teeth a little, knowing that the monkeys were well-dressed, despite the fact that not one penny of that child support was used for what it was intended.

Then, ED told the judge that we were STEALING from her.

Stealing… you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Stealing worn, torn, ill-fitting, stained, filthy, or otherwise destroyed clothing?!? What on earth would be the purpose? But we had to react to the accusation and we did. As is the case with lots of policies in our household, things changed. The new deal (not terribly new, actually… it’s been in place for about nine years now) was that they take off the clothing they wore from her house–regardless of how worn, torn, ill-fitting, stained, filthy, or otherwise destroyed it may be, put that clothing in a bag, and put on clothing from our home–that clean, age- and size-appropriate, hole-free clothing I mentioned. Then the night before they are scheduled to head back, they wash the bagged clothing, and wear it to school the following day.

What they wear home, they wear back… every time. That way there can be absolutely no accusations of any kind.

However, this policy has never applied to socks and underwear. Since it has taken nine years to be able to keep track of those clothes in a consistent way, I haven’t demanded. It feels a little overboard on my part to require the kiddos (already averse to the bag it, wash it, wear it back policy) to also put their socks and underwear into that bag, although that is the desire of my heart.

This means, at any given time, that the sock pile on top of my dryer can’t just be explained away by the bottom-of-the-hamper theory, or even by the dryer-ate-my-other-sock theory. I actually know that most of those socks are bound for the trash.

It used to make me a crazy person. Brown, blue, green-M, no green-M, Hanes, womens, mens, too big, too small, holes, no holes, pink polka-dots, green polka-dots, toe socks… all of them mixed together, staring at me sadly… after EACH. AND. EVERY. LOAD. I would watch the pile grow, each time the kiddos came back from their visits, and I would moan and groan (sometimes inwardly, sometimes in my out loud voice).

“Don’t you EVER match your socks?” I would ask them, consternation filling the air. “Not EVER?”

They would smile and shake their heads. Too lazy at Mom’s to do it, they would say.

“We NEVER match socks. We just pull whatever we can find out of the basket.”

Instead of taking comfort in the knowledge that the socks were at least clean, it irritated me to no end. I would march off to the nearest Wal-Mart, with what I felt was great regularity, to buy more socks that matched, and then I would snatch up the hopeful pile, take it to the trash can, and ceremoniously dump the whole lot of unmated socks… usually at a time when they were all present. You know, to make sure they understood my displeasure. Maybe, I would think, they would pass along that displeasure to the Queen of Unmated Socks. Maybe they would change over the deal. Maybe SHE would. Someday, if I complained enough…

I never stopped to think about why those socks drove me so crazy. Such a little thing, really. Whether they had Ms on the bottom or not, holes or not, whether they wore one toe sock and one ankle sock, the battles that were worth being fought had been fought. And we had WON them. The kids had access to regular health and dental care–not just access, but the actual care they needed. Shaggy hadn’t been hospitalized in years. We were no longer paying ridiculous dollars in child support to someone who would rather buy handbags and shoes for herself than meet their needs. In fact, it was she paying My Hubby. And I knew where that money was going. Decent clothing, healthy meals, private school tuition, therapy, medical and dental… good stuff.

But the socks…

I think it felt like it was just one more way that her crazy, disorganized, filthy household spilled into mine. And I wanted every. single. trace of her NOT to step foot into my feng shui, perfectly matched, everything-in-its-place existence. And maybe there were leftovers from the long-ago accusations. Certainly if she was going to accuse us of stealing from her she could provide them with something decent. I never realized that I was in control of how much of her came through the door at MY place.

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that it was all of these little things that were building into something enormous in me. It was the socks; the unmated, sad and lonely socks that were eating me alive. It was a good realization to have, quite honestly. One I needed very desperately. It was good to see that those socks represented my lack of control over her household, over HER, and let. it. go! What a sigh of relief I breathed.

I still march to the trashcan (because I am purposeful that way, but not in anger anymore) with that pile of unmated socks. It does still give me a twinge to throw them away. Maybe there’s some Scotch in me, who knows. But now I look forward to the $3.98 I’ll spend on a new package of socks — white, clean, slightly bleach-scented, hole-free, perfectly paired.

I absolutely love the thought of an entire drawer full of those kinds of socks. And I love the feeling that in dumping that pile in the trash, I’m also dumping her junk in the trash–not just literally her junk, those yucky, unmatched socks; but her JUNK. The junk that has come over the threshold of my home one time too many. I feel lighter somehow when the top of my dryer is clean.

And? I know that the kids are wearing back clean, hole-free, perfectly paired socks–NOT something that would be worth complaining about to a judge, for sure.

Turnabout is fair play, I guess.

It makes me giggle, just a little, to wonder if my feng shui, perfectly matched, everything-in-its-place existence is creeping across the threshold at her place.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2010 11:46 am

    What a great way to look at it! To change your thought process.

    When my grandson’s mom sends him to dad, he is rarely, if ever, wearing socks (or shoes) even in 40 degree weather. His clothes don’t fit or match. Every time I dress him to go home, I take pride in putting a brand new pair of socks on his feet with his shoes. And I look forward to the day that my son gets primary custody.

  2. Zara permalink
    December 2, 2010 12:54 pm

    Steph, it’s taken me over three years to get to the place you are with socks. But I am there! I throw out the unmatchables at the end of each month, and I go buy two packages of white socks at Target. It’s ten bucks, screw it. I can spend ten bucks by simply breathing in the air of the deliciously scented Banana Republic at the mall. It was a hard thing to let go of, because to me it simply means that she doesn’t care, and thus, doesn’t care about them and their appearance. But that is the reality, and I cannot have her reality in my home. It stops at the door now, otherwise my clean, organized, clutter-free house, with minimal drama, echos the chaos of her life.

    I do not let her inability to monitor their clothing and provide appropriate things to wear mess with me any longer. It helps that she only has 10 overnights a month, and only two school overnights a month. Plus, mine are finally getting to the age where too tight pants aren’t okay with them, wearing a training bra is not optional, and they are starting to realize the horrific state of “Mom clothes”. They never wear clothes I have bought for them to her house (learned my lesson when I found brand new pants I bought at the resale store with her name on them), and I always make them wear her clothes back to her. They don’t like it. That’s too bad. It’s not hurting them, and I can always state with absolute authority, that they are clean when they go to her. She can’t say the same, and she really can’t say that I don’t affect her life completely.

    P.S. Do you vacuum out your kitchen drawers so the crumbs don’t drive you batty?

    • December 2, 2010 3:34 pm

      Amy – thank you for the kind words. It feels good to reach the point where I can change my thinking and not be stuck in the same rut.

      Zara – I knew you would understand! And yes, of course I vacuum the crumbs out of the drawers! It drives my people crazy! 🙂

  3. December 2, 2010 7:04 pm

    I think this is the best post you have ever written. Or at least among the best. Writing-wise, that is. The content is great too, but the style, voice and all that other six-traits crap is fabulous. I’m totally jealous 😛

    • December 2, 2010 7:15 pm

      Awww.. thanks! From you, Jules, that is HIGH praise indeed. I could say it’s because I didn’t include any ridiculous, grammatically challenged e-mail from the Queen of Poor Grammar, but I think I’ll just take the nice glow of your kind words. 🙂

  4. December 6, 2010 5:26 pm

    I absolutely love this! You are me! The socks drive me crraaaaaazzzzzyyyyyy!!!!! Whether they are from her house or mine they drive me nuts! I have the same everything in its place household and I know that her place has to be dirty/filthy. She just accused us of keeping the good clothes yesterday and sending the child back in too small, with holes jeans. Ridiculous. Whatever. But, yes, I do wonder the same as you….is our everything in its place ideals spilling into her place? I am certain it is! I know that my stepkids use my terminology a lot and it makes me proud to influence them 🙂 So, I am certain that they must do things that I do that drive her nuts! Yay for me! Loved this post….

  5. December 11, 2010 7:26 pm

    I saw one of my sons wearing mismatched socks to school one day, about a year ago. And I learned (according to him) that wearing mismatched socks is allegedly one of the “in” things to do.

    HALLALUJAH!!!! Off the hook for matching socks! Since that day, I make one big fat pile of socks, drop them on his bed, and he can put them away and mismatch them anyway he wants!

    If that’s the worst “style” issue I’m presented with in their short lives as minors, I will count it as a supreme blessing.

    Thankfully, S1 got beyond the carving of initials in his hair (mom’s permissions, not mine)… so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  6. ANB permalink
    January 1, 2011 12:58 pm

    I have the same policy here with Monkey’s clothes and have not been as strict with socks and undies. Though, that is slowly changing due to ridiculousness of the things he is being sent in. I also share your love of clean, matched socks. I love the feel of brand new cotton socks on my feet 🙂 Hopefully I can reach where you are at soon…

  7. Jennifer Foxx permalink
    November 8, 2012 10:03 am

    I have a strange question, do you remember the brand of socks that has the green M on the bottom?? My son loves those socks and I cannot find them and I cannot remember the brand!

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