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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

To tie or not to tie

Bear with me. Really, there is a point here.

Let me give you a mental image of my school morning routine:

We get the boys out of bed at 0645, usually using the lights-on-everybody-up!-let’s-be-uber-chipper-and-cooperative Method. Once all three are up, they go downstairs, and get their clothes. My eldest will get them on right away, then go and find his book, curl up and start reading. My middle will wander around, comment on this or that, usually not like his shirt, and have some sort of pain/owie/etc that needs immediate attention. My youngest will get completely naked, preparing to get his clothes on, then go play with the cat – still naked. Okay, 5 minutes of ‘get dressed!’ and everyone is at the table to eat breakfast (which I have lovingly prepared ahead of time, trying to balance nutrition with taste, blah blah blah. Yes, me in my Betty Crocker apron). Now begins the battle. It’s probably 0700 by this time, and we now have 38 minutes to eat, get sunscreen on, brush teeth, and get shoes on, then head out to the bus. In any normal rational adult life, this is PLENTY of time. Plenty. Unfortunately, my kids are not yet adults, nor are they rational so now begins the world’s slowest breakfast consumption (usually my middle but often the youngest is part of it. He cannot. Stop. Talking), bickering over the most infinitesimal inconsequential detail of some cartoon they watched a month ago, complaining about x or y, and just general lollygagging. This morning my husband said ‘You all must really hate your parents’. Because every morning, it is the same: ‘Put food in your mouth. Now chew the food. Swallow! Put another bite in your mouth. Now chew. Stop nagging your brother. Stop kicking your brother under the table. Another bite, #2. Keep chewing. Drink your milk. Take your vitamins. Another bite. Chew. No one care about x or y or even z! Another bite! Chew!’ I feel like a maniac. I find comfort in knowing that other parents have the very same experience as we do; shared pain, as it were.

Once they finally FINALLY get the food in, sunblock on, teeth brushed, we enter the shoe debacle. It is all I can do to get the three pairs on, hats on, and the kids out the door. The bus stop is at the gate. Our own gate. It’s not that far. We are, naturally, the first stop, so I also feel the compulsion to get the kids out there on time so we don’t make the bus late for every other child on the bus as well. So. What’s my point? The shoes.

This is, friends, why Velcro shoes were invented (Velcro, loopeez, yankz, twisterlaces and all the others). These were all invented so harried and harassed mothers can make it to dropping off the kids to the bus/appointment/set time constraint/etc without losing her mind. It is so we can have that breath of relief once we have transferred responsibility for our children to another adult (hopefully), fully clothed and fed. It is so we can shave off that extra 2.1 minutes off the morning routine by allowing that child to put on their own shoes. Rah rah, independence, right? Unfortunately, we are also helping to un-independent-ize (yes, I just made that up) our kids. They are NOT going to be able to wear Velcro shoes forever, right? You see a 35 year old man wearing Velcro shoes, and what’s your immediate thought? Exactly my point. 30 years ago, being able to tie your own shoelaces was regarded as a skill learned by children as young as four. Today, kids can operate an ipad well before they can tie their own laces. Slip-ons, elastic laces, Velcro … all culprits (don’t even get me started on crocs).

Tying your laces is a skill involving dexterity and patience. Your kid CAN do it. Friends, there are a myriad of sites out there in Internet land giving learn-to-tie-in-an-hour instructions; there are books; there are umpteen different ways to teach this skill. You know what it really takes? A patient parent (or big brother or sister or caregiver or anyone really; the key part is ‘patience’), a child needing to learn the skill, and a set of laces. Pick your theme song or story that you’ll follow for instruction (‘bunny ears’ or ‘the squirrel and the tree’ or ‘loop it, swoop it, and pull’ or whatever), and go. Perhaps bribery will be involved, but really, your kid can do it.

Besides teaching a simple skill, the time you invest in sitting down with your kid will benefit you both in a different way: You spending quality time with your kid. And really, isn’t that what we’re after in the end? Think of this as time invested in a valuable life skill because that is what your child will gain at the end of this. And one less pair of velcro shoes in this world. Win, win.

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