Friday, October 15, 2010

Knotting to Worry About

My son was having a stressful morning.  Mom today was serving as his primary tormentor, as she was insisting he try tying his shoes.  Most days he gets away without practicing because we're pressed for time but he'd gotten up early and so I told him, he could do it. 

Now he has been taught the steps.  He has in the past on occasion, been successful with the steps but never all at once and thus never sufficiently to pronounce the task learned.   Wanting him to acquire this skill, I suggested he make ten attempts.   After try number 2, he announced it was too hard.  Try three brought "I can't do it. I can't do it! I CAN'T DO IT!"  Now if he had not kept up with the mantra "Can't," I might have backed down but I know my son.  He tries to live in a permanent comfort zone:  nothing too hot, nothing too cold, nothing too hard, nothing too soft.  I worry that he fears failure enough to never try if left to his own devices. I remember him being convinced he would never master a two wheeler (he did), getting dressed in a button down shirt (he did), reading, (with flying colors) and reminded him of these past victories but he just repeated his "Can't." So I didn't consider his complaints valid, just a sign that he didn't want to try.   I offered cheering and encouragement.  His siblings did too.  We got through four and five which almost worked but when it didn't, he fell back into his old pattern. 

Trying after that involved crying and ranting as his cruel mother repeated, "Make the tent.  Pull it down.  Then make the bunny ears.  Now make the bunny ears a tent...." to the constant refrain of "I can't. I'll never get it. NEVER  NE-VER.  N-E-V-E-R!" followed by sulky crossed arms.   I pointed out that if a kid in first grade is smart enough to spell a word he hasn't yet had on a test, he can tie a shoe.  "Never." he whispered.

I'd said I'd tie them after ten tries so I wouldn't be backing down  but this circular conversation could eventually end.

Stick-to-it-ness runs in the family, unfortunately, my son was sticking to his story that he couldn't do this.  I pointed out that every one of his siblings that came before him had learned this and that it took time.  "They're not me." was his retort.   Ten unsuccessful tries and thirty minutes fatigued later, I helped him with the shoe.  "We'll try again tomorrow." I encouraged.   He gave me a "Humph" and out went the lower lip and he crossed his arms.  "NEVER NEVER NEVER!" he repeated.  

Maybe it wasn't Parent magazine approved but I crossed my arms and put out my lip. "I'm NEVER going to be able to teach my son how to tie his shoes.  NEVER NEVER Not EVER!"  He looked surprised.  I pouted. "never!" I whispered.  He grinned a little and I thought I'd repaired any damage done by refusing on the first request to provide aid and comfort.   Five minutes later, he came to me crying as he had fallen down while bringing down the garbage to the curb.   I checked his shoes.  His brother had double knotted them for him after the fact.   "Now I'm sad because I fell and because I can't tie my shoes." he started and his voice started to crack.  Damage still evident, needs additional encouragement and repair....my brain said.

"Well, it's clear you need practice in many things." I explained.  "What?" he was bewildered.  "You.  You need  practice in shoe tying, true but also in smiling.  I haven't seen it much this morning.  Give me ten smiles."  He gave me a look.  "See, that's not a smile.  You obviously need practice if that's your smile."  He gave me one.  "Good.  Now More.  Give me more.  Two"...this time he showed his toothless grin.  "Excellent. You're getting better all the time but imagine with more practice." Three....four...five....now he was going to the mirror to check himself out.   By the time we got to ten, he was in giggles.   "Ten smile exercise." I filed away in my brain.  Tomorrow, we'll try a double work out and maybe by the end of the week, he'll be smiling as he ties his shoes. 

2 comments:

Angela Weight said...

Sherry, I love your blog posts. They always bring a smile.

MightyMom said...

Love it!

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