Forgetting to Teach Kids How to Tie Shoelaces

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Parenting is a lot of work, a constant struggle to stay on top of day-to-day responsibilities while keeping focused on the big picture. Inevitably, things are going to fall through the cracks. Our kids might just suffer a broken bone or two when we weren’t watching them closely enough; they might not ever reach their full athletic potential because we forgot to sign them up for T-ball; they might hit their 10th birthday without ever visiting Disney World (the horror!) simply because we didn’t plan the trip.

They will survive all of these fates, but there are simpler tasks we’re charged with teaching them — riding a bike, counting to 10, recognizing shapes and colors — that when neglected, might come with slightly more embarrassing consequences. And I totally dropped the ball on one of them: my daughter, who will start first grade this year, has no idea how to tie her shoes.

In my defense, the shoe industry has made it so easy not to teach our kids this basic lesson. Velcro, slip-on, rubberized shoes are abundant in every children’s shoe shop, outnumbering the shoelaced-options by far. She’s worn adorable shoes from Mini Melissa, Toms, Native, athletic kicks from Nike and Superga, and boots from Cat and Jack and UGG, all without ever encountering a single lace.

So I was surprised during our latest shopping excursion when suddenly shoelaces were everywhere. She’s now officially in the big-girl footwear section, and apparently big girls are supposed to know how to tie their shoes. Aesthetically, I totally supported her choice — a pair of Vans neon pink high tops — but from a functionality standpoint, I knew we had some work to do. A month later, she still doesn’t have the whole lace-tying thing down, and since she’s currently living in flip flops, I don’t see her mastering it anytime soon.

Apparently, I’m not alone in being behind on the shoe-tying lesson. At the end of the school year, my daughter came home one day to tell me her kindergarten teacher had placed a ban on shoes with laces for any child who wasn’t adept at tying their own sneakers. “She is totally sick of tying our shoes,” my daughter told me, and I got it. Having the patience to try to teach one child the art of shoelace-tying (or doing it yourself multiple times a day) is hard enough. Can you imagine doing it with 20?

And last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook when I saw a mom friend post that she was having the exact same issue with her 6-year-old son. Fellow moms came out of the woodwork suggesting helpful YouTube tutorials, instructional books, and no-tie elastic laces. Most just commiserated that they were having similar issues, with one blaming her preschool’s “no laces” policy on stunting her child’s shoe-tying development.

In my daughter’s case, I’m hoping practice makes perfect . . . eventually. But when I take her back-to-school shopping, I’ll still be rooting for Velcro.