This is a guest post from my friend Sarah Block. She is an ex-nurse, mother and hoof trimmer. She studied creative writing with Dick Allen at University of Bridgeport (Connecticut), then at Columbia University. She has been published in The New York Times and The Western Journal of Medicine, and contributed to a volume of prose and poetry by a nurse, called “Between the Heartbeats,” by Cortney Davis. She writes now when able!
Children are closer to the ground, and they have better eyesight than most grown ups. Which is why they are into things like laces. Adults have moved on from laces, to things like car taxes, deodorant and perhaps a mid-life crisis. Except for the dude who wrote a song about aglets. [Ed: If, like me, you didn’t know what aglets are, they’re the things on the end of shoelaces that stop them unravelling.] Children have such respect for laces, that they will tie them once, then spend three months (I’ll explain later why it is only three months) jamming their feet into the shoes, not touching the sacred lace, and effectively making the double knot as tight as hell. They will then ask you (when they have finally admitted defeat and can’t jam their feet past the crumpled back part of the shoe) to untie this by now herculean knot. This happens (always) ten minutes before the schoolbus comes.
It could be worse. You could have nails to break. You could have had six months of them jamming their feet into their shoes, but for the fact that kids grow. And they grow, apparently, due to the vibrations they get from dragging their feet on the ground whenever they are on anything with wheels. You need to let them do this, or they won’t grow and they’ll be closer to the ground forever. It is the reason you only get three months out of a pair of sneakers. They would drag their toes on the ground even from the car if you let them. But I had to put my foot down somewhere. Don’t say this, however, say it in another way. Don’t say “I am putting my foot down,” cuz they’ll wail at you, “but that’s all we want to do,” or, “oh, you get to put your foot down and we don’t?”
Anyway, Nathaniel decided the other day (also ten minutes before the schoolbus came) that his laces needed changing. He was halfway into the task, when I inquired about teeth.
“Did you brush your teeth?” (Same question, twice a day since about age three, that means I have asked this question well over 7000 times, not to mention each child so that is 14,000 plus times –just an interesting fact).
I got no answer, so I sent him to brush his teeth and I took over the changing of the laces. . . he dashed down the hall, giving me (ME!) instructions. . . “make sure they are exactly even. . . don’t skip the first hole” (as I was skipping the first hole).
I was not fully finished with my coffee yet, and the damn first hole is something only a child would notice (being closer to the ground). I get busy with my own parenting script, and a wave of crabbiness is threatening.
“You know, perhaps (that word is actually a tiny rebellion), ten minutes before the bus comes is not a good time to change your laces.”
“They have to be changed once a year.”
I am shocked. . . I have simultaneously both noticed (having had to sit on the floor, so closer to things like laces) that his old laces are in pretty good shape and did not need replacing. . . and received the news that laces, along with car taxes and dog licenses, should be on a schedule.
“WHO SAYS?” I bellow much too loudly, realizing I am about to argue with a ten-year-old about laces now 5 minutes before the bus comes, and wondering if feeling anxiety about laces needing to be kept track of could be an official symptom of something. Where did he get that information? Did I miss a flyer from the school nurse? Did I not notice the announcement at the fire station? Change your smoke alarm batteries and your LACES!
“In fact, these laces don’t need to be changed at all, they are in pretty good shape!”
Silence. Bus is probably rounding the corner. I’m not even done with the first shoe.
“Wait until they break to change them!”
Nathaniel comes back from probably merely swiping at his teeth with the toothbrush with an amount of toothpaste that would do for a mouse, looks indignant, and declares as he takes over the lacing up, “Mama. . . it is not safe!”