Every single day, my seven year-old son gets off the bus with both of his shoes untied, laces dragging on the ground, and his feet coming out of his sneakers with every step. Every single day I ask him how long he’s been walking around like that, and every single day I am met with a silent shrug, which I take to mean, somewhere around five minutes after he walked into his classroom.
This is infuriating because my son knows how to tie his shoes. My husband and I spent a good two weeks last year painstakingly showing him how to make the bunny ears and push one through the other, until he finally was able to do it himself. But over the summer, with all of those days of Crocs and slip-on water shoes, the skill unraveled (ha!) and we had to teach him again. But the point is, he knows how. If someone from the Basic Childhood Skills Police Enforcement Team were to come to our house, hold a gun to his head and tell him to tie his shoes or they’d shoot, my kid would make it out alive. Whew.
But, alas, just because he can tie them doesn’t mean he ties them well, as evidenced by the daily bus episode. He doesn’t pull the laces tight enough, he keeps too much space between the bow and the tongue, and he doesn’t double knot. So it’s not exactly shocking that they don’t stay tied for very long. And as someone who cares whether he trips on a shoelace and breaks his neck, it’s extremely tempting for me, as a prophylactic measure, to just tie the darn shoes for him every morning. Because on the days that I tie the shoes, they stay tied.
This, however, has caused quite a bit of tension in my household. You see, my husband believes that I’m babying him, and that instead of tying his shoes for him, I should just teach him how to pull the laces tight, and how to leave less space between the bow and the tongue, and how to double knot. And he’s right. I know he’s right. It’s just that, it’s so much easier to do it myself, especially in the mornings. When we’re running out the door and trying to get to school by 8:05, I don’t have time to patiently teach my son to do anything. I just end up yelling at him to hurry up, which then causes him to cry because I’m rushing him, which then causes me to have to spend ten minutes calming him down, and then we’re pulling into school at 8:15. So really, you can see why I would prefer to just tie the shoes.
It was comforting, then, when I received an email blast from gurumommy.com, citing a piece by Lisa Belkin in the Huffington Post called, Who Cares If My Child Can’t Tie His Shoes? In a survey of 1,000 respondents who have children between the ages of 5 and 13, 45% said they couldn’t tie their own shoes. At all! At least my son knows how to do it, even if he can’t do it any kind of useful way. But as Belkin wondered in her article, does it even really matter? Won’t the world just adapt to this new reality as it pretty much does to everything else? My husband’s main concern regarding the shoe tying issue is that when my son is older, he won’t be able to safely tie his own cleats when he’s playing sports. But I said to him, maybe instead of being so worried, you should look at this as an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade. I mean, if 45% of kids can’t tie their own shoes, then why not start a business making cleats with Velcro closures? And if the Basic Childhood Skills Police Enforcement Team should come knocking, I think we’ll be okay. My son can just shoot them with a virtual gun from one of his video games. The truth is, in the world of today’s kids, that’s a much more crucial ability to have.