“I’m not wearing socks today,” my daughter said one morning, only three minutes before we needed to leave for school.

“Oh yes you are,” I replied.

“No, I’m not,” she said, “and nothing you can say will change my mind.”

At our house, mornings start with a pair of white cotton anklets and end with a bedroom that looks like the scene of a sock factory explosion.

“I hate my socks,” Angie said. “They are ruining my life.”

I know the feeling.

They are too scratchy, too tickly, too loose or too tight. Some mornings, her socks are all of those things at once, which I swear makes sense only to a 5-year-old girl.

(For the purposes of full disclosure, I must tell you that my stubborn child also hates her pants, her shoes and every pair of her underpants. We have no trouble with shirts, as long as they aren’t pink or sparkly or have long sleeves. For Angie, hell on earth would be a turtleneck with hearts and flowers.)

I have tried everything to solve our sock psychosis. I have stretched out her stockings to make them loose. I washed them in hot water to make them tight and fabric softener to make them comfortable. I bought every type of foot dressing on the market, from tube socks and tights to knee-highs and anklets. I spent 11 bucks on those seamless jobbies from the expensive shoe store and then tried to bribe her with SweeTarts to wear them.

Nothing has worked.

When philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said “What does not kill me makes me stronger,” I’m certain he was talking about kindergarteners and their socks.

“I am not wearing them and you can’t make me,” Angie said. She grabbed her sweatshirt and her backpack and headed for the front door.

As my mother used to say, drastic times call for drastic measures.

“If you don’t want to wear socks today, that’s fine,” I said. “You can go to school barefoot.”

I stuffed her anklets and sneakers into my purse, grabbed my keys and followed her to the door. It was a big gamble, for sure, but sometimes you to have to call a person’s bluff — especially if that person only comes up to your belly button.

I’m sure some of the neighbors in our apartment complex wondered why Angie was walking through the courtyard with her little piggies exposed. If any of them were mothers to little girls, then they knew precisely what was going on.

I understand some of my daughter’s pickiness about clothing. When I was little, I refused to wear pants that were too wide at the ankles. It drove my mother insane.

But I also think that Angie is trying to seize control at home. She thinks that if she makes enough noise about something she wants, then she will eventually get her way.

My daughter is willing to push things as far as I will let her go. And as a single parent who struggles to maintain the stamina to enforce every rule, I have fallen into her trap far too many times.

But now I’m digging in my heels. If Angie won’t wear pants, then I won’t agree to be her imaginary dragon when she gets home from school. If she can’t manage to get into her shoes, then she can’t go to the playground or to her best friend’s birthday party.

And if she won’t wear socks, then she walks to kindergarten barefoot.

It’s the only hand I have left to play.

Besides, I have noticed that when we are going someplace fun, like that pizza joint with the video games or the place where she gets to pet baby sharks, she is dressed in record time.

On the morning I called Angie’s bluff, she changed her mind before we even made it to the sidewalk.

“Mom, can I have my shoes and socks now?” she asked.

“Sure honey,” I said, trying not to smile. It was my best poker face ever.

A few days later, she refused her socks again. But that time, we hardly made it down the front steps.

I think Nietzsche would call that progress.

Wendy Fontaine’s “Party of Two” column appears every other week. Her e-mail address is: [email protected] or follow Party of Two on Facebook.


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