Babies Wear Socks
One purpose of starting this blog was to not only share my views and experiences of motherhood; its to give other mothers (and friends) the opportunity to share their real-life motherhood voice. So, without further ado...my friend and new mom - Jade
Hello Audra’s-blog-readers! I am Jade, and I know Audra from high school (so, real life, before blogs, more MySpace). I don’t really have a special place on the internet, I just like to write things, and Audra was kind enough to let me write this and post it. We had little lady babies within the same year, so it has been fun to connect on parenting strategy from a class of ‘05 perspective. I hope you enjoy this piece on accidentally raising my child without socks.
Babies Wear Socks
Prior to having my daughter six months ago, I didn’t know anything about parenting.
I didn’t know anything about parenting except knowing how many parents raised me (a pretty bang up job, if I do say so myself) and knowing how we did things in my two years working at a pediatric genetics clinic. Except, at the clinic, we were dealing with very sick kids with very special needs, and so I learned things like how to design a bathroom with wheelchair access or how to determine if a newborn had an underlying genetic disease by the smell of his urine. Not like: how to wash blow-outs out of teeny pants or how long you can store breastmilk in the fridge before it expires (5 days).
I worked alongside a geneticist who once said that being a good parent, in her book, was pretty simple. It came down to three things: parents must keep their child clean, well-nourished, and dressed in weather-appropriate clothing. I did not have a kid at the time, or even a potential father to my future kid, but I tucked that three-pronged parenting approach in the back of my lab coat pocket.
Flash forward four years. Armed with that knowledge - bathe the kid, feed the kid, dress the kid - I figured I might be all right. I figured wrong. Apparently, I failed miserably on item number three.
The first offense happened at church - that sacred place where you think kindness would and should reign supreme. I had the baby snuggled on my lap; she was sporting a onesie; she was pink and warm and happy. A woman behind me casted whispers over the pew: “She’s cold.”
I kept my eyes forward.
“She’s cold, she needs socks. Why doesn’t your baby have socks?”
I touched my baby’s feet: warm. This woman was absurd.
“She’s cold, get her socks. You need to leave and get her socks.”
This went on. I swung around and shot her a look of eternal fire, temperature police be damned! But oh, pernicious woman, the sock whisperer did not cease, and it did not take long for me to reach sock-shame boiling point. I slugged my husband on the arm and high-tailed it out of there before I could get roped into any insincere peace-be-with-yous and with-your-spirits.
The second offense happened at Target - that other sacred place where women should be free to be their momsy-womanly selves, stocking up on yoga pants and Threshold collection items. I was trolling the baby aisle with my baby (thus, a true card-carrying member of the baby club). My daughter was strapped against my chest in her carrier. A young couple approached me, eyes wide, smiles big. They also had a daughter with them, nestled into a stroller.
“Excuse me,” they inquired, “your carrier looks quite nifty. What is the brand?”
Ah, compadres, I thought, people who just want to chat baby with me because I must look like I know what I’m doing, how fantastic. I was excited to pretend like I knew something about baby carriers. But then, “Oh, your baby’s feet,” said the woman, “she’s not wearing socks. Why isn’t your baby wearing socks?”
For crying out loud.
I don’t know, why aren’t you wearing socks? Why am I not wearing socks? Maybe we’re a sockless household and it goes against our cultural garment beliefs. Maybe I can’t afford socks because I spent all my money on the Threshold collection. Maybe it’s 80-degrees outside because we live in Florida, and I was rushing to get out of the house, and it’s an honest, small miracle that I even remembered my own shirt.
I didn’t say this. I just answered her question about my baby carrier and shuffled away pathetically toward the sock section, sulky about my inability to keep my child’s extremities toasty in public.
The third offense happened at daycare - that other, other sacred place where you literally pay people to ensure your child lives another day. I love my daycare providers because they keep it real. They speak Spanish and call me Mami. When I pick my daugher up, they usually say, “Mami, she needs more diapers,” or “Mami, she had three big blow-outs today.” Then, one day, it got serious: “Mami, you need to remember her socks. And also her pants. She needs to wear pants.”
Oh geez, I was going backwards. No socks. Now no pants. Next thing you know, I’ll be slinging my kid buck naked through the arctic tundra.
This post is obviously not so much about socks as it is about the things people say to moms - those well intentioned things that feel like a slap in the face with a wet diaper. Those little jabs. Those tiny gut punches that say, “Hey, I see you, and you’re doing it wrong.”
I want to circle back to the genetics clinic for a minute. We saw some egregious things. We saw rape cases and child neglect. We saw malnourishment and withholding of life-saving medications. We had to call the Department of Children and Families. See something, say something.
I am not neglecting my child (except for when I spend too long in the bathroom scrolling through Instagram). But because, relatively speaking, I am not neglecting my child, I ask that we relax a little bit with the happy baby going sockless in 80-degree weather with 100-percent humidity. This is not a see something, say something. This is a see something, pause for internal reflection, consider saying nothing.
But, yes. Yes, babies (adults, all of us really) should be wearing weather-appropriate clothing. And I promise to try harder, to aim really high when it comes to dressing my child for success in all climates. But you all have to promise to cut it out with the unsolicited sock-shaming.
Special Thank you to Kelly S for editing the initial draft of this post!