“Mom, I HAVE to learn to tie my shoes!”
The car door had scarcely closed behind him before Nathan was simultaneously ditching his backpack, buckling his seatbelt and telling me everything about his school day. I know the day is not far off when my inquiries about his day will be met with a sullen “fine,” and absent any clarifying details, so I’m trying to embrace the flood of information while it lasts.
“Hold up buddy, slow down. What’s this about tying shoes?”
“The kindergarten teachers sent a letter home and everything. I HAVE to know how by Christmas. They won’t tie them for us anymore after that!”
“Okay bud, I’ll teach you how to tie your shoes in plenty of time. I promise.”
Yes, I promised that I would teach him.
Usually, Jon is the teacher in the family. I suppose it’s because of his patience —I can only endure so many slow or misguided attempts before I take over and do it myself. I am a taker-over. It’s not my most charming quality.
Jon has taught Nathan how to brush his teeth, climb trees, shoot basketball and button shirts. He taught him how to help take the trash out and clear the table after dinner. He teaches things that I don’t even think about teaching until after the fact. If you’re thinking it sounds like Jon would make a better stay-at-home parent than me, you’re not the first one with that thought.
But I was determined this time. I would be the one to teach Nathan how to tie his shoes. I showed him the time-honored “Loop, Swoop and Pull” method. He nailed the loop on his second attempt, but the swoop and pull were lost causes. Undeterred, every single morning we headed to the bonus room a full 10 minutes before we needed to leave for school so we could practice tying shoes. I didn’t want us to be rushed; my fledgling patience didn’t need any additional tests.
Loop, swoop, pull. Loop, swoop pull. Nathan, biting his bottom lip in concentration. Me, biting my lip and fisting my hands to keep from taking over.
After two weeks, he finally did it. I held my breath, lest his loosely formed knot fall apart but it held. His whole face lit up and his eyes met mine. My grin matched his.
“I did it, Mom! I tied my shoe!”
“Good job buddy! I knew you could do it!”
We high-fived and I quickly double-knotted the laces so we could head out the door.
Usually when Jon gets home in the evenings, the kids rush to him to tell him about their day. Not that night though. I was first in line, triumphant with my news.
“I did it, love! I taught him to tie his shoes!”
Jon smiled, amused at my phrasing.
“Good job love. I knew you could do it.”
Then he turned his praise to Nathan, and Nathan ran to grab his shoes and show off his newfound skill – the one I taught him.
Of course, I learned a lesson, too. Instead of letting Jon be the patient one, I dug deep and found that I can be, too. It doesn’t come as easily, but planning does — so I’ve learned to out-plan my impatience. I’ve built time into our routine for Nathan to tie his own shoes and for Ellie to climb into her carseat by herself. I’m taking over less and letting them take on more.
It’s not the first time that motherhood has made me the student, rather than the teacher. I think that’s the hardest part of this gig, really – having to learn on the job. Every single day pushes me to be better, to confront my weaknesses and find a way to parent around them. It is a refinement of the most complete kind, this role.
I fail often. I’ve learned to keep trying anyway.
Maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all.