Socks, Backpacks and Life in a Locker Room

Many years ago in my life before children, I was, like many of my childless friends, a smug on-looker. I recall many times thinking that I would never allow MY child to do that, to wear that, to say that, to {add any ignorant, snobbish thing you can think of here}. My child would be impeccably polite and perfectly groomed. My child would answer me, with “Yes pretty Mommy,” at all times when following to a T each and every one of my directions. My child would excel at every little thing to which they tried their perfect hands. I was confident that I would be a contender for Mother of the Year (MOTY) each and every year of parenthood.

I wasn’t really that bad – but bad enough to meet with some monumental surprises at what being a Mom was really about. On the day that I became a mother, July 22, 1986, I knew not what was in store for me. Nor did I know the complications that would ensue on June 2, 1988 or July 26, 1990! I was the mother of three sons. I remained assured that I would lead these young men to perfection!


There were so many things that I couldn’t have anticipated. I had no idea the things that I would be called to manage:

  • Socks. The challenge with socks began in infancy with those adorable little knit socks would be rubbed and pushed by those chubby miniature feet until they could no longer hang onto the teensy little toes they were meant to cover. How delightful! When the little socks fell off, all the more chance to nibble on toes and play “This Little Piggy.” I’m not sure what it is about boys and socks that make them such mortal enemies, but through the stages of tube socks through to adult sized ankle socks – they seemed to fall off of feet continually. Socks laying on the floor were like droppings that I could follow to find any one of three boys. At one time, I washed, matched and folded all of the socks color coded for each boy. With time, fewer and fewer pairs could be made as the magic sock ghosts would spirit one of a pair away to some unknown dimension. Eventually, I gave up. I continued to wash and dry the socks – then dumped them unceremoniously into a plastic bin from which each boy could pull two – any two – to pull on before running out the door to school. Did they match? The odds were poor, and I don’t really know because I chose not to look. I once tested to see how long a single, dirty sock would lie on the mat in the garage outside the door. After 12 days of stepping over it, I caved and picked it up. I stopped planning what I would wear to the MOTY banquet.
  • Backpacks. Somehow, my children were unable to come in the door from the garage, make a sharp right turn and set their school backpacks on the little wooden bench with a heart carved into the back. That was what was supposed to happen. What actually happened was that backpacks would be shed like old skin – anywhere: on the driveway, in the bathroom, at the door either inside or outside – it didn’t matter. One day when I came home from work and the boys were sneaking in some television, I tripped over two backpacks dropped at the door. I was miraculously able to calculate better than a rough estimate of the number of times that I had told them to put their backpacks on the bench! Ian was midway through the fourth grade, which meant four full years at 180 days each (724) and about half of another year of 90 days, which totaled EIGHT HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN TIMES THAT I HAD SAID TO PUT THE DAG-GONE BACKPACKS ON THE BENCH! I announced my mathematical wizardry loudly and forcefully and added my belief that reasonably intelligent children with that amount of repeated practice should be able to get that ONE SIMPLE THING DONE!! I was certain that I fell out of the MOTY running completely that day.
  • Sports Equipment. I just didn’t know how much space, schmozel (a word learned from my mother) and stink could result from basketballs, bicycles, baseballs, gloves, sticks, goals, jerseys, hats, helmets, pads and pucks. They were everywhere. I lived my life in what seemed to be an athletic locker room. Some of the stuff would be abandoned on the driveway, forcing me to stop short of the garage, leave the car, pick my way over the shambles of equipment and backpacks, into the house to holler for someone, ANYONE to move the hockey goal out of my BLESSED way! And would someone please pull that hockey puck out of the garage door where it was firmly stuck. Someone had clearly perfected their slap-shot. Not even a MOTY nomination that year.


It hadn’t occurred to me the things that would come slipping out of my mouth. Before I was able to stop myself, I heard my voice saying things like:

  • “Clearly Johnny’s mother doesn’t love Johnny as much as I love you,” in response to a request for permission to do something inappropriate or dangerous. Not only did I give up on MOTY, I had to deposit some money in the therapy account for that child.
  • “What do you say?” This was a prompt that I simply couldn’t stop myself from providing. I wanted my children to employ etiquette. My boys knew that the response that would work when requesting something from me was, “Please Pretty Mommy.” I was racking up MOTY points!
  • “Don’t worry about breaking the {insert toy, book, appliance, or car here}. It’s nothing that a couple hundred dollars won’t fix.” Yes. I did.
  • “Let Mommy help you pack.” Said to an eight year old threatening to run away, to which I added, “Please be sure to send me an address when you find a new family. I will miss you so and I want to be able to come to visit. If your new family will allow me, of course.” Now that one was clever and it worked. I may have been in the MOTY running that time.

I didn’t know that I would send a child on deployment overseas. I didn’t know that I would help a young man recover from a broken heart. I didn’t know that I would cheer so loudly at a long fought for college graduation.

I was shocked by the incongruence of feeling furious and monumental relief simultaneously having found a little one that I thought was lost. I was amazed at the new glow the holidays could only hold when delighted boys saw that Santa Claus had visited. I could never have guessed the level of consistent anxiety during deployment, and the constant reassurance and support from the stateside children.


I had no idea the depth of love that I could feel until I became a mother. I won the prize after all. I have three wonderful men that I proudly call my sons.