Updated: Apr 7, 2019
We’ve had a breakthrough. Over a year and a half after giving up wearing school shoes and about 2 years since a sock graced her feet, my daughter has just completed a week of wearing both, on the correct feet.
There are some serious sensory issues behind this refusal and solid reasons for them. Any socks that managed to actually get onto her feet would be clawed off in a panic as if they had been dipped in acid. It was a daily battle which put her in a rotten mood for school as she simply could not regulate her reaction. It was a battle that could not be won, so I backed off. For a while she wore her school shoes without socks but eventually plimsoles were the only shoes we could get her to wear to school at all and ALWAYS on the wrong feet to make them extra-tight and uncomfortable. Oh, and only one type. I had forgotten where I had bought her specific pair from so we dragged through an entire summer with one pair, to the discomfort of all those in close proximity.
On rare occasions she’d surprise us. A total change in routine like a home-clothes day at school could mean she’d suddenly put on a pair of tights, gusset no higher than the knees and invariably on a boiling hot day. More recently she had decided to put on school tights on a weekend trip out. Unable to handle the feeling of layers no skirt was worn, just a coat and trainers on the wrong feet. Sometimes I surprise myself by the number of people I can avoid eye-contact with in one day… After this there seemed to be a slight possibility of movement but as Monday rolled around it became clear that the whole tights thing wasn’t going to happen again, especially as the school would have an expectation of some sort of skirt…
A couple of weeks ago I put a pair of soft dark grey school socks in my bag and we tied a trip to a bowling alley in with a trip to a shoe shop. It had to be school socks – there is no point in chancing it with any other socks as they may become the only ones worn and that won’t work for school. It took weeks of casual mentions to make sure that she remembered that you had to wear socks to try on shoes. It had to be viewed as fun, an opportunity to see how much she had grown by having her feet measured etc. This was nothing we hadn’t done before but somehow, the stars aligned and it all worked.
The man with the measure was free and could cope with wriggling toes. He read my lips as I silently mouthed ‘VERY NERVOUS’ and he flashed her a lovely smile and softened his tone. Her feet hadn’t grown in over a year so the old shoes would still fit her, however, if she happened to find a pair she really loved, a brand new pair, we could certainly consider it… ‘I mean if you are REALLY going to wear them…’ We perused the racks. I looked for something light, something with a velcro fastening that she could do herself. She staggered up and down as if she were walking on drawing pins. ‘No no no Mummy, I HATE them, they hurt me, I just can’t’. Then something caught her eye. A pair of shiny patent leather clod-hoppers with an impossible-to-do-up buckle and strap. We put them on. ‘Tighter please, tighter, TIGHTER!’ They were so tight I half expected her feet to disengage from her ankles and go and lie down in a corner by themselves. She was euphoric, ‘It’s THESE! We’ve FOUND THEM!’. I almost back-flipped to the cash desk. Yes you can wear them out of the shop, yes you can wear them bowling, yes it is OK to roll your leggings up to your knees so they don’t touch, yes yes yes yes YES!
A breakthrough like this puts me into a difficult position. Too much praise will highlight a change and cause her to sabotage the whole thing and ensure that the shoes are never worn again. Not marking the event at all will do the same thing. You step onto a tightrope with every chance that you will topple into the pit of near misses. More winters with soggy, sockless feet in the snow, blue lips, freezing cold and yet unable to handle the one thing that would make her warm.
Everyone was instructed to say how lovely they were if she mentioned them but otherwise to be completely casual. I celebrated behind the scenes sending photos to the people who understood the triumph. They sat at the bottom of the stairs for another few days until the new term rolled around, casual casual casual. Waiting and warming by the radiator, socks toasty and ready to go, there was a flicker of resistance met with a jaunty response and a feigned ‘Oh, remember, these are the ones you can go on the grass with at play time. Remember how lovely and tight they are…’ my heart in my mouth, casual casual casual.
A week has passed. A week of shoes with socks. A week with shoes on the correct feet. A week where she has used it as another reason not to do PE as she doesn’t want to take them off at school but I can live with that. Deep breath, enjoy it for a minute and now it’s on with the next thing on the list.