Why Does My Kid Refuse To Tie His Damn Shoes?

by Meredith Gordon
Originally Published: 
Kid refusing to tie his shoes
Meredith Gordon

I can’t tell if this is a great act of strategic parenting, or if I’ve just started on the slippery slope of not giving a shit, but I’ve finally given up on the shoelaces.

My big one walks around all day, all the time, with his shoes untied. It makes me nuts. It makes me nuts because he’s going to bite the dust one day and get hurt, all because of the damned laces. It makes me nuts because he ruins the laces, and then, yes, you guessed it, I get to add “find shoelaces” to that ever long to-do list. And it makes me nuts because he already got them caught in an escalator, and we had to remove the shoe from his foot so he could get off without losing a limb, and then I had to, you guessed it, MacGyver the shoelace out to save the shoe. I only got stepped on by 47 million shoppers.

But I feel like at 10 years old, he’s at that age where everything that comes out of my mouth is nagging because there are always shoelaces untied for no reason, messy handwriting, clothes on the floor, hair that begs to be brushed, and plates that never get cleared. Some of it doesn’t affect me, some does, but it all sounds like a nag when relayed by me. It’s my kid’s time to find out who he is, on his own, without me doing the work (or the nagging) for him.

When we think about letting our kids blossom and develop into their own selves, we think about letting them blossom into their best selves. Maybe they’ll become more organized, realize they’re good at sports, or their teachers will report how kind and thoughtful they’ve become with maturity.

But we never think that part of letting our kids be who they really are means letting them be their worst selves as well. We can help them organize themselves to do their homework, teach them to be kind, and remind them to tie their shoelaces, but they get to the age when we can’t do the work for them. They have to be who they are, for better or worse.

So if you see a sports-loving kid with messy blonde hair and untied shoe aces walking down a Los Angeles street, he’s mine. He’s wise, bright, smart, messy, emotional, moves too fast, needs more confidence, writes beautiful stories no one can read because he won’t slow down enough to show off his beautiful handwriting, and never ties his shoes.

You’ll want to ask him to tie his shoes. Have at it, but he probably won’t listen. He may trip over those laces or get them stuck in an escalator, and you’ll think, “Why doesn’t his mother make him tie his shoes?” Then you’ll look at your own child’s untied shoes or unbrushed hair, and you’ll remember that part of parenting is letting them fail, fall, and flail.

There’s no silver lining in getting to say, “I told you so” — only the knowledge that no kid goes to college with his shoes untied. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself while I restrain myself from telling my kid to stop and tie his shoes.

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