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Humor / Motherhood

My mom fail and how velcro dependency is a national crisis

My mom fail and how velcro dependency is a national crisis

It’s with deep shame I admit a few years ago I was failing as a mother:

My 8 and 6-year-old sons were just learning how to tie shoes. They hadn’t been given the opportunity to learn this life skill.

We went shoe shopping. They immediately gravitated toward the usual vinyl superheroes splayed on the sides. Superheroes on shoes means faster running, higher jumping, and greater kindergarten cred. I understand this and respect how important it is to my boys to have their feet encased in Spidey and growling men with big jaws.

As I considered their choices, I found myself becoming dismayed at the design of the shoes. Velcro, again? It’s fast, it’s easy. Kids can put their shoes on with no parental hunching. But is it too easy?

Is the ability to tie shoes an important life skill, akin to riding a bike or knowing all the words to We Will Rock You?

There, three rows deep in Target’s shoe department, I made a decision. Yes, it is an important life skill. My sons were velcro-dependent and it had to stop.

“Boys?’ I called them to my side and took a deep breath. ‘Today, you will choose shoes with laces.”

I could tell they thought it was a ludicrous, impossible idea. Maybe it was the way my 6-year-old crumpled to the ground in agony. Could have been the look my 8-year-old gave me—the same look, I noted—he gave when he found out he needed a booster shot at a recent checkup.

“But we don’t know how to tie shoes!” they wailed in unison.

“Exactly!” I said with upbeat conviction.

I told them that the ability to tie shoes would help them all through their lives. They’d be able to…tie shoes…and make bows on presents…and, uh…do stuff on boats if they ever go sailing…and oh, yeah they can tie down Christmas trees to the roofs of their cars, right? Tying is awesome!

They asked how they were going to learn.

“Daddy is going to teach you.” I noted he taught the older kids, who first wore shoes before velcro’s total world domination was complete.

I volunteered my husband because he is more patient when it comes to teaching hands-on skills. He is good at step-by-step tutorials. He actually wears shoes with laces.


Who needs laces when you have buckles, zippers, or can slip the shoe right on?

Author: gretchen

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  1. Too funny. I never thought of all the things you can do when you know how to tie a bow.

    Bring on the sailboat! Bring on the 2010 Christmas tree!

    Bring your husband to my house.

  2. This is something I made a very big mistake with. My son wore velcro or slip on shoes his whole school life. Now as an adult he wears loafers mostly. He still can’t tie a shoe worth a darn. No sailboating or Christmas tree tying for him LOL.

  3. I love your reasoning. Someday they will thank you for their ability to tie up sailboats and trees on cars.

  4. I had the exact OPPOSITE experience a year or so ago. My youngest, who was then 5, chose a pair of shoes with laces. I didn’t even notice until I got home because the helpful lady at Stride Rite had helped him try them on. We tried to teach him how to tie them, but he and we got so exasperated that, a few weeks later, we gave in and bought him a pair of Velcro tennis shoes.

    But now he’s in kindergarten and, at his school, you are cool if you have joined the “Jingle Bell Club.” When you learn to tie your shoes, you get a jingle bell to attach to your shoe. I was hoping this would inspire him. But now that I think of it, the year is half over and he hasn’t even mentioned wanting to learn.

    Any chance your husband wants to take a field trip to Texas?

  5. I made the job of teaching a child to tie their shoes one of my dad’s roles. As the Papa and not the parent, he has loads more patience. Each girl got an afternoon with him when it was their turn and he just sat there with them tying shoes over and over and over until they got it.

    My dad loved it. My kids did too. All four can tie their shoes!

  6. I love Megan’s idea!

    One of my 1st graders can tie her shoes, but her twin brother cannot. I’ve noticed it’s about 50/50 in her class.

    At least they can ride bikes, though. My teenage daughter never learned to ride hers, and has no desire to learn now!

  7. Good for you for stepping up to the plate and facing your responsibility 😉
    My kids can tie laces, but learned relatively late…after all, in the Sahara desert you wear flip-flops year round!

  8. The thing I like about Velcro is we can WAIT to teach kids to tie their shoes. (And/or we as Moms don’t spend our days tying and re-tying our toddler’s shoes.) My daughter is 8, and she just learned to tie this summer. But her mental and physical coordination allowed her to learn in 10 minutes instead of struggling for weeks.

  9. Gretchen, that’s funny! If I had a dime for every dolly apron bow, or dress ribbon, or dolly dress ribbon, or hair ribbon, or dolly hair ribbon, or ribbon ribbon I tied all day, I’d have enough money to hire a personal ribbon tying assistant. I’m not sure who will teach Claire, but I’m thinking it should be soon. 🙂

    When I was little (Kindergarten or just about ready for it), it was my uncle that taught me how to tie my shoes. I remember how patient he was and the story about the bunny and the tree and the hole. I tried and tried and couldn’t get it. Then, they made me take a nap, and I remember the vivid dream I had. My uncle was in my dream, showing me again and again how to do it, and in my dream, I did it!

    I woke up, so proud, and showed my mom right away. I’d figured it out! She was amazed, and looking back, probably overjoyed. 🙂

  10. Yikes! They need to know how to tie shoes? It will definitely be a Daddy job, since Mommy still uses a granny knot to tie her shoes. And gets grief from Daddy about it! Perhaps we’ll get the almost 5 yr old to learn when we inevitably have to buy shoes in the spring.

  11. You can teach your kid to tie thier shoes, but you can’t make them stay tied, I wish I could find “grippy” laces so I wouldn’t have to tell my teens “tie your shoes!” every ten minutes.

  12. My 5 year old just asked for shoes that he can learn to tie himself. I told him before kindergarten next year, definitely. And then wondered if the teacher would like that!

    And my husband will also be teaching him!

  13. You crack me up. My problem is that my 3yo (who has a pair of hand-me-down lace-ups) knows how to UNTIE her shoes. And she’s a pro. And that’s a problem for me. And for that reason, I think I might be okay with Velcro World Domination, for now at least.

  14. I’m all about the buckles!

  15. Velcro dependency is hard to break. I have done the food stamping in Target too…we are all going to buy the TIE shoes…and then MAJOR regret. Lazy.

  16. I feel the same way about time-reading. Who needs to learn when there’s digital everywhere? Analog-clock-reading and lace-tying are going the way of the Dodo…and so are all of us!

  17. Such a funny topic, Gretchen! I hadn’t thought too far into this since Reagan is still too young to learn. My husband and I have just talked a lot about how grateful we are that velcro has come as far as it has to make our lives as parents easier. Didn’t think about the reverse when she gets older and will ultimately need to know this skill. Will she be receptive to it after all those years of easy-peasy velcro? I think so. She seems to like a challenge. As for who will teach her, that will have to be me. And I think I’m up to the challenge too!

  18. I was going to say that I just realized my almost 5 year old can’t tie her shoes and it upset me, but I really like what Kelly said. It is so much easier when they are older!! That is thinking positive!

  19. Go to walmart and buy the cheapest flat laces and these will not come untied as easily as the cylinder laces that are for looks.

  20. For those that have trouble with the laces coming untied: AFTER your kids know how to tie their shoes with a regular bow, teach them the “Better Bow” from the Klutz Book of Knots. The rabbit just goes around twice! Super easy, super effective and you can still untie it with just one tug. I learned it as a 9 or 10 year old and always use it.

  21. I taught myself a different way to tie shoes when I was a kid. I form a loop with each shoelace, then holding a loop in each hand, I just tie the loops together.

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