My daughter recently learned how to tie her own shoes. This is an exciting development. She’s very proud of herself. And I’m very proud of her. But, now we are late wherever we go. It takes her a solid ten to fifteen minutes to tie them satisfactorily. It’s adorable and maddening.
That seems to be how it works with kids. They start out completely helpless. Then, they learn a skill. Then, they work on the skill. Finally, they master the skill. It’s the working on part that’s a challenge.
Even something as basic as walking follows this pattern. The first few steps are so exciting. But, then she wants to walk everywhere. It takes half an hour to get to the end of the driveway. That’s not so exciting.
Zipping her own jacket was interesting. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of concentration when it’s a new skill. And that takes time. And if the zipper got caught and wouldn’t go up or down, it resulted in a full scale meltdown.
When my daughter was in diapers, I dreamt of the day when she would be potty trained. Diapers cost a fortune and are disgusting. But that period between learning to use the toilet and perfecting using the toilet is rough. Any excursion from the house involves, “Do you have to go potty? How ’bout if you try going potty. Just try. Come on. Please. . .” before you leave. And, if by some miracle she decides that she does have to go, it can’t be done without a production. It might take some reading or singing or maybe even dancing, but it takes something. Then, there’s the whole, “Did you wipe? Don’t forget to wipe. You didn’t wipe! Don’t pull your pants up until you wipe.” And, “You have to flush the toilet. No you didn’t. I didn’t hear it flush. Just flush the toilet.” And then, “Wash your hands. Because you have to wash your hands. Just wash your hands.” There were many days where I longed for the convenience of diapers. But, we came out the other end and now I don’t miss diapers at all.
Tying the shoelaces is interesting. She’s really good at it. She uses the bunny ear method, which is not how I tie my shoes. The problem is she gets very particular about it. The bow has to be right. If one loop is too small, she starts over. If it’s not tight enough, she starts over. If it’s too tight, she starts over. It’s a great skill, but I can’t wait until it’s second nature so we can get out the door in a reasonable time.
Before I had a kid, I thought childhood was basically a progression from complete helplessness to self sufficiency. I never thought about the time it takes to master each skill. Kids don’t just learn how to walk, talk, use the toilet and tie their shoes. The try each thing, mess it up, try again, get it right, get it wrong, try again and practice and practice and practice. There is a progression towards self sufficiency, but it is far herky-jerkier than anything I had imagined.