Parenting has many unanswered questions, but I think the one I ask the most, and for which experts are unable to formulate a satisfactory answer is: WHY THE HELL CAN’T YOU KEEP YOUR SOCKS ON YOUR FEET?             

My four tween children seem incapable of keeping their socks on their feet. I find socks everywhere—under the coffee table, on the coffee table, on the stair landing, in between couch cushions. In short, almost anywhere except the three places I would expect to find them: in their drawers, in the laundry hamper, or on their feet. I think I spend more time yelling about socks than all my other parenting activities combined. OK, maybe socks are second to cheese stick wrappers, but they may edge ahead depending on the day.

I know I’m not alone. Over the holidays I was talking with my cousin, whose two boys are right around the same age as mine (13 and 11), and the subject of socks came up. She was equally mystified as to why her children won’t actually wear their socks. Like mine, they put them on first thing in the morning, then spend the day removing them, and hunting for them to put them back on if they’re going out somewhere. My friend Cassandra has a 6th grade son and faces the same challenge. I offer this quote from her, which could have come from my own lips:“…[he has] abandoned every left sock he owns in a different room of the house…” Also, this is not a gender-based issue. My daughter is just as inclined to leave her socks scattered from Hell to breakfast as her brothers.

Half the time they’re complaining that they’re cold. In addition to pointing out to them that long sleeve shirts and long pants are warmer than t-shirts and shorts, I also add that putting socks on their feet would help keep the body heat in. Instead of following their mother’s astute advice, advice based on 40+ years of successfully not freezing to death in residential structures, they go drag the blankets off their beds to wrap themselves in. Then they get the why-are-your-socks-all-over-the-floor lecture, plus a lecture about why the blankets from their beds don’t belong in the living room. It’s good times, I tell you.

The exception to this rule is if they’ve decided to go out and walk around in the yard, in which case you would assume their socks were surgically attached to their feet, so reluctant are they to remove them. Also that they are a critical part of their respiratory system, and can’t be stifled by shoes or boots. I spend all winter ranting about the socks inside the house, and all summer demanding that people either take their socks off, or put shoes on.

My mother nagged me about my socks in the house, but from the other perspective. She wanted me to either take them off and go barefoot, or put on slippers. She swore that walking around in my socks in the house would lead to holes. I have no idea if she was right, or if this was just the hosiery version of, “If you keep doing that, your face will freeze that way.” I don’t think my socks were any more or less holey than my kids’ (although, let’s face it, it’s been 35 years since that time in my life, so odds are I’ve blocked out anything that doesn’t match up to my version of the facts).

The sock battle is a losing battle. It’s been several years now and I’ve yet to come up with a creative way to get them to either wear their socks, or put them in an appropriate place if they choose not to. The situation will resolve itself when they all move out, I guess. In the meantime, if you’re a fellow inmate in the Sock Asylum, I offer this advice—if you have multiple children, buy them each a different style of sock. That way when you happen on a pair of socks under the dining room table, you’ll know exactly to whom they belong, negating asking the question (while trying to suppress an apoplectic fit), “WHO left their SOCKS under the dining room table?!” Because as we all know, the answer to that is, “I dunno. Not me.” And studies show that “I dunno. Not me,” is the second leading cause of alcohol consumption in parents. The leading cause being children, of course.