For when you worry, and when you wonder, I submit the following:
My son, 9, learned to tie his shoes this year. Absent from the peer pressure of school, knowing that it wasn’t a big deal because no one told him it was, he would try to learn, and frustrated, he would stop.
“I don’t know why it’s so hard,” he would say, and because I knew him, because I’ve known him from the very start, I was sure it wasn’t a time to push.
It was learning to ride a bike all over again — best achieved in his own time — which happened to be a Sunday in a hospital parking lot. He woke up and wanted us to take off the training wheels, so we went to a place with space, and within minutes he was off on his own.
He was ready.
And he was a machine. He hasn’t slowed down since, except, perhaps, to ask me for help tying a shoelace.
But he didn’t give up on figuring that out on his own either. One day (recently) he sat down to try again.
“It’s still hard,” he said, and it took everything in me not to help his hands — those amazing hands that can slam piano keys and play soft melodies; that can draw cartoons in so many styles (my favorite being his own). I wanted to take his fingers and help him work it out. But I knew what would happen if I did.
I think I turned around in the kitchen and busied myself with something useless. I cared so much that I had to act like I didn’t.
And then …
“I think I got it,” he said. I could tell by his voice that he had.
He untied and tied again. He had it just like that. We went to the store …
A few months later, I could hear from the bathroom where I was brushing my hair:
“Do you want me to teach you to tie your shoes?” he asked. And so again, I busied myself, this time a true busy-body, listening in the whole time. Their sweet words to one another. The encouragement. I stood perfectly still. (It only took a couple of minutes.)
She was concentrating so intensely that I could feel it two rooms away.
“Yeah. You got it,” I heard him say. Impressed.
“Thanks Brother Bear,” I heard her respond. And she was filled with pride. I could hear it in her voice.
But so was he. He had taught her a valuable skill.
(My husband still remembers teaching his best friend to tie shoes in kindergarten. When anyone ever asks my daughter who taught her, she will get to say her brother. Yeah. Her brother.)
They fight like cats and dogs sometimes. They do. But not that day.
They felt like champions.
I was so proud of them both. And I tried to think then how I could apply my “in-their-own-time” philosophy to every other part of their lives.
I can’t always. I’m weak.
But I’ll try.
The worry and the wonder? No.
The patience and the faith.
That’s where I want to focus my energy.
They deserve every ounce of the belief I have in them and every additional ounce that I can muster.
Because they are amazing as they are now, and as they will be, in their own time.