Before I had kids, I never would have thought socks could be a source of daily frustration in my household. But while there are definitely bigger issues in life, as the mom of three boys, this one plagues me.
You see my kids, like a lot of kids, like to take their socks off—sometimes one, sometimes two—and leave them in random places.
Let me give you an example. Kid steps in a spill. One sock gets wet, gets yanked off and left wherever kid happens to be. I notice kid with one sock on and one sock off.
Me: “Where is your other sock?”
Kid: “I dunno.”
Me: “Why did you take it off?”
Kid: “It got wet.”
Me: “Why didn’t you take both socks off and put them in the hamper together?”
Kid (incredulous): “Uh, only ONE sock got wet, and the hamper is SO far away.”
Wet socks aren’t the only source of the sock problem. There’s also the old hole-in-a-sock issue. Apparently, holey socks must be immediately discarded…wherever.
When the weather is nice, an absolute favourite sock-drop spot seems to be outside on our deck or at the base of our swing set. God forbid anyone should put shoes on (or take their socks off) before they go outside to play. That would be utterly ridiculous. At any given point throughout the spring or summer, I can most certainly go outside and find crusty, dirty socks around our deck and yard, left to rot.
In colder or wetter weather, the rain or snow can leave socks wet (understandable), and that’s when they’ll inevitably get peeled off at the front door and left right there on the floor (NOT understandable!!).
This behavior had been going on for some time and I mostly kept my mom-cool, but things escalated when I discovered my boys had begun hiding socks so as to not get into trouble—on the bottom shelf of the coffee table, underneath a throw pillow, wherever. This was my breaking point. (Hey, rock bottom looks different for all of us, OK?)
So in an evil stroke of genius, I came up with an idea. I gathered the boys together and made my announcement.
Me: “I’ve had it up to my eyeballs dealing with discarded socks. If I find any lying around again, they will be placed in your lunch bag as a replacement for one of your favourite snacks.”
Eldest son (wide-eyed, mouth agape): “You wouldn’t do that.”
Me: “Watch me.”
I couldn’t wait to follow through on my threat—and it only took a day or so before I got my chance, as my middle son left his socks in the family room. When preparing lunches the next morning, I added a bag of fruit snacks (basically candy—don’t judge me) to my eldest’s lunch. Middle kid happened to come and scope the lunches out. It was perfect timing, as he now knew that fruit snacks were on the menu. What he didn’t now was that the fruit snacks would not, in fact, make an appearance in his lunch. Instead, I balled up his discarded socks and inserted them in his lunch bag, right where a treat would normally go.
After school, Middle slunk into the house, clearly upset and slighted. Perhaps mildly embarrassed too. Eldest thought it hilarious—but it only took a few days before he met the same fate.
My tough-love hack totally worked. There have been no more discarded, dirty socks lying around my house or yard. But really, this was about more than just socks. It was about teaching our kids responsibility and respect. They are old enough to contribute to our household running smoothly and, while my husband and I certainly do a lot for them, we are not their servants. They have weekly chores and picking up after themselves is a no-brainer. We are also big believers in following through on threats, otherwise we lose credibility. And this threat, although unconventional, is one that we could actually follow through on.
Plus, it makes for a good story.
This article was originally published online in September 2018.