To those who laughed at my daughter’s socks yesterday

My three year-old daughter is wonderfully precocious.

One of my favorite things about her is the way she puts on socks. Ever since she started dressing herself, she’s always matched her socks…just not with each other.

She generally matched each sock to some color in her outfit. It’s a wonderful sign of her creativity that we never saw fit to “correct.”

Well this morning, she matched her socks. To each other. She hasn’t done that in years. It was as though part of her had died.

With a sense of foreboding, I asked her why. She said she matched them because “Those people at the hop-spit-al laughed at me. I don’t like people laughing at me.”

You see, yesterday, while she visited me at work, many of you called attention to her “mix-matched” socks and laughed. You never bothered to learn that the white sock matched her white shirt; the pink one the pink flowers on her shirt. [The picture to the left was taken a couple weeks ago. She wasn’t wearing that orange shirt yesterday.]

I tried explaining to her that your laughing was simply enjoying her, not making fun of her. But she doesn’t undertand that. So many of you commented on her socks and laughed, she thought all of you were laughing at her. When she explained her “missed-matched” socks, you laughed even more.

I understand your mirth. She’s really cute. She has a great vocabulary for a three year-old. And she has a knack of making people feel happy. But she didn’t understand your laughing. She just knows you laughed because her socks weren’t normal.

I hope she’ll get over it and do her own thing again. I hope the damage isn’t permanent. And I hope this will be a learning experience, teaching her to not worry about others think. To be herself. To march to the beat of her own drummer.

I hope this will teach her to be a leader, not a conformer.

That’s up to her…and us.

As for you, please think twice the next time you laugh at someone or something you don’t understand. Just because you’ve been doing something the same way for 50 years, and everyone else you know has been doing it the same way, doesn’t mean it’s the “right” way. “Different” isn’t necessarily wrong and certainly doesn’t need to be mocked.

Please remember this.


One Sad Father

Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. The author of "Ask Without Fear!®," he is the founder of The Concord Leadership Group and He's also the executive director of and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook. To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Jon Swanson

    well said, dad.

    And I can offer hope. I mean Hope, our 17 year old, who lives with her own sense of style still.

    But thanks for letting others know what it’s like on the inside.

  2. Tom

    That is sad. I guess that Inland can be Outland-ish now and then. I hope that her creativity comes back quickly. I’m sure that it isn’t gone.

  3. Rob

    Simply: Crushed.

  4. renee @ FIMBY

    Oh man… this is sad. If it matters to S. at all tell her I love her mismatched (but carefully matched to the clothes) socks, they rock!

  5. Peter R. Wood

    That is absolutely heartbreaking! If I owned socks in more than one color, I would “missed-match” them in her honor!

  6. Meg

    well said, but sorry you had to say it. I’m posting a photo of Lucy in her mis-matched chuck taylors in tribute. Sounds like these girls have stuff in common 🙂

  7. Marc A. Pitman

    Thank you ALL! I’ve read these to S. tonight. She’s not convinced. But it was WONDERFUL to read all these to her!

  8. Jim Hughes

    This resonated with me on a lot of levels. First was for Lucy and her sensitivity to what others thought that changed her behavior. Second was a strong awareness that I’m both extremely sensitive to what others think of my behavior, and as a result have to be careful of how I judge others’ behaviors. And wondering if maybe people laughed at my mismatched socks when I was young and made me this way. Blessings to Lucy for her creativity and to a Dad that’s sensitive to her!

  9. Magno

    rock on with your colorful, beautiful self baby girl!!

  10. Gennyfer

    To Mark, I have 5 or 6 children depending on how I count (my nephew lives with us) and I have seen this reaction a few times. Some of my children in similar mismatched glory have been thrilled with the power to make people laugh. My two more sensitive kiddos have at times reacted just the way your Lucy did. One of these is almost full grown now and seems to thrive on celebrating his differences. The other is 5 and still has these crushing moments we nurse her through. I have come to see these moments after 16 years of parenting as essential. This isn’t easy but it is how they learn to see the scope of the world and the people in it. For a bright sensitive child it isn’t easy but she will figure her own place in the world and she has the best of all possible starting points with such loving parents.

    To Miss Lucy,

    You are so clever matching your socks to your outfit. There are some other clever sock people who have come up with a way to make money having had the same brilliant idea you did. Ask your dad to show you the great socks here and here .

    And I confess, there are grown ups who can make some silly fashion choices. I got in to the chair at the dentists office, threw my feet up on the foot rest and noticed… not mismatched socks…. mismatched sneakers. I’m all grown up now, it took me years to learn this, but instead of feeling bad I just laughed at myself. In fact I thought it was so funny I put it in my blog so other people could get a chance to giggle too.

    So darling keep wearing whatever clothes make you happy. You are making great choices.

  11. nancy

    As Jon said, there is Hope. I know that the laughing and teasing always bothered her on the inside, but it didn’t deter her sense of “style.” She’s definitely her own person and not defined by other’s expectations. I love the picture.

  12. Ardell

    Much sadness…. =(

    Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

    May the Lord help her bounce back and continue with her joyful spirit.

  13. Jade

    Please…so, you expect everyone to not laugh at your daughter when she is being cute and funny because she’s super sensitive and might suffer adverse affects because of it? Give me a break. Try and see how far you get with that when she goes to kindergarten. Kids get laughed at, they laugh at others, and what’s more, adults do it to each other all the time. Not saying it’s right, just a fact of life.

    Teach her how to deal with it when people laugh at her. Don’t come down on those who laugh because it’s genuinely funny. If you can’t do that for your daughter, then you’re the real problem. Not us.

  14. Marc A. Pitman

    Um, Jade, I think you missed the point. Or don’t know me.

    This is a great opportunity to teach her to be herself. And we’re handling it that way.

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