Monday, March 7, 2011

The Sad Side of Shoe-Tying

I’ll share with you a secret:  I really love being a mom. There are many aspects of motherhood that bring me joy, but one in particular is the knowledge that I am needed.  I enjoy doing things for my children.  Even changing diapers rarely bothered me, because I am happy to take care of the basic needs of my kids.  But I have had the thought put into my head more than once that maybe, once in a while, I do a bit too much for them.  Yes, I realize the importance of teaching them independence and “pushing” them to accomplish on their own, and thankfully they do pretty well in most areas.  But there are times I need to hold myself back from stepping in and saving the day, or at least the moment.

Child number one never, seriously, never, went through the “I can do it myself!” stage.  Going on 8 years old, there are a number of things that a child of his age should be independent about that he would still prefer to let someone else take care of.  When he was in preschool, he had trouble getting his shoes on by himself, and while I encouraged him to try, I was always willing to step in and help when he got (easily) frustrated. Imagine my surprise when I went to his preschool conference and learned that he did indeed put his shoes on all by himself every day at school.  Really?  This same child whose tears poured forth when I suggested at home that he could probably manage on his own?   Well, from then on, he was made to put his own shoes on at home.  Most of the time anyhow.  I still didn’t mind helping.

Same child goes on to Kindergarten, and the new goal is tying shoes. Now, I was a Kindergarten teacher several years before this, and clearly remember a parent accusing me of being ridiculous to actually suggest that her child should be learning to tie her own shoes – “She’s ONLY in Kindergarten!!!”  I calmly tried to let her know that most children this age were indeed capable of learning to tie their shoes, and it wasn’t a necessity to learn immediately, but just a goal to work towards.  On the other side of the table now with my child, I was thinking, “Seriously?  He really needs to tie his own shoes?  But he’s ONLY in Kindergarten!”  I put off working with him on tying his shoes, because remember I LOVE to do these things for my kids.  But with two younger children, I was starting to realize the benefits of having at least one child who could contribute to getting us out the door faster in the morning.  So I sat down with him one day, dreading how difficult this was sure to be, but determined to at least try to begin the process.   I was shocked that he caught on almost immediately and seemed to be an instant shoe-tying pro!  Before I could be too proud of my shoe-tying teaching ability, he admitted that the helper at school had actually already pretty much taught him how to tie his shoe, a fact he neglected to share with me each day while I tied his laces for him.  Once again, I realized that he and I make a good team – he is happy to let me do everything for him, and I am happy to do it! 

Child number 2 comes along,  He very briefly went through a “do it myself” stage, but followed in his big brother’s footsteps in many ways.  He is famous for not even being able to stand up on his own while we try to get him into his coat, instead going limp and falling repeatedly to the floor.  He would still prefer to be spoon-fed each bite of every meal.  (Not that we do that.  Well, not very often anyhow.)  He comes home from Kindergarten and often immediately races to the bathroom, after holding it in at school because he needs me to wipe him.  I know, I know, he should be capable of doing that himself, I should be promoting his independence, etc. etc.  Someday I’ll fight that battle, really I will.  But for now, I’m ready to come to the rescue when I hear, “Mom, I’m done!”

Child number 2 has brought home two Kindergarten report cards so far.  They are very good report cards, with only one “black mark” -- in shoe-tying.  Now one consolation I had with child number one, and child number 2 for a while, was that once they learned to do things for themselves, there was still another child for me to “help.”  But this time around, shoe-tying teaching seems especially difficult.  Once he learns to tie his shoes, I don’t get to teach any more of my kids to tie their shoes.  This is the last time I get to do this.  The temptation then, is to put this off as long as I can.  I’m perfectly willing to tie his shoes before his high school basketball games!!!  He doesn’t need to learn.  The problem is the report card!  I’m (too much of) a grades-driven person.  I can’t stand the thought that each of his Kindergarten report cards will have an N or even an S minus in shoe-tying.  So the two of us sat down and went through the shoe-tying process.  He is a quick learner and in all of about 10 minutes he was able to produce beautiful bunny ears.  (And as far as I know, he didn’t have any secrets about someone already teaching him!)  So there it is, my job as a shoe-tying teacher is over.

Good thing my boys will both gladly let me tie their shoes for them whenever I want!