Last week as we got ready for the day, Lucy requested that I tie her shoes. I love Lucy, from the tips of her little toes to the freckles on her nose, but sometimes it’s beyond me to respond nicely to her because her squeaky helium voice can turn demanding and grating even before I’ve had a moment to process her latest pressing need. There is no hierarchy of needs or triage of necessities in little Lucy’s world. Everything is urgent, crucial and imminent.
I tied her tennis shoes for her that morning, but I realized that, at six and a half, it is past time for Lucy to tie her own shoes. In fact, I remember it being a thing to teach the other kids to tie their shoes before they went to kindergarten. Nana Marian coached Avery. I scoured the internet to make sure I didn’t lead left-handed Callie astray. I don’t know how Lucy’s life skill education was overlooked. Poor, neglected third child.
So that afternoon I joined her on the bright blue rug in the bedroom she shares with Callie. The other girls were off snacking or playing, it was just Lucy and me, and I’m proud to say that I mustered my A-game of parental patience and praise. She got frustrated a couple of times; I moved her onto my lap, though, as I learned when I was teaching Callie, I tie like a left-hander, so I didn’t direct her in which hand to start with or which hand to hold which bunny ear.
Two minutes later she could tie her shoes. Five minutes later her double-knot was indistinguishable in form and symmetry to what I myself would produce. When her sisters learned to tie their shoes, it took a few hours of practice, and for a month or two their knots were slack and amateur.
I don’t know. This seems really basic. Maybe I have retrenched my expectations of life at this point for my own sanity and am having dumb big ah-hah moments all over the place, things that everyone else figured out a long time ago. Apparently it’s a lot easier to learn (or teach) a skill when the person is . . . get this . . . ready for it.
Now that I know this, I can do/teach anybody anything. Or, I can at least justify waiting a little while longer before potty training Molly.
(Molly actually showed a brief but intense interest in the toilet a year ago, but I wasn’t emotionally invested because, well, I have ambivalent feelings about my children’s milestones.)