We spent the weekend watching our kids play basketball. There were close games with lessons on winning and losing and playing as a team- how to rally when you think it’s impossible and how to keep your emotions in check when under pressure. But this is not about any of that. This is about the little brother, that has to tag-along to all of the games, who never has his shoes tied.
Yes. You know this story! They are the younger siblings that have too much bleacher time, too many concession stand snacks, and probably too much time under dirty bleachers, and in school hallways with screens for entertainment. And it’s the younger sibling who never has his shoes tied, while doing any of it.
If I had to guess, I probably asked him to tie his shoes 25 times in 5 hours. Every time he reappeared, those laces were flapping around like we’re trying to free themselves from his shoe. After about the 20th time of asking him to tie his shoes, I kneeled down next to him and tied the shoes for him. While tying, I asked him why they continued to come undone. His answer surprised me:
“I don’t know.”
Now, if you have kids, you know that this response isn’t shocking. But what caught me off guard, suddenly, was my realization that as frustrating as it was that I had to continue to ask him to do the same thing over and over…. It was probably much more frustrating for him.
Have you ever been there? The space that exists where you feel like despite your best effort, you keep showing up in the same place- a place you don’t want to be- over and over again? The space that exists in the knowing that your best effort isn’t good enough, and as the pressure builds around you, others notice what you already know to be true and are frustrated that you cannot be or do what they expected of you?
And before you tell me to relax- it’s only an untied shoe- I think this is so much more than that.
Every day there is something that weighs on us, something that looks and feels like this. It’s the child that pushes us away when we are doing our best to connect. It’s the weight we try to lose that hugs our bodies despite what we think we are doing make it move. It’s the supervisor at work that tells us that despite more hours on the job, our performance is close- but if we could simply do a bit more, we would be where they need us to be. It’s the spouse that is frustrated, a parent that is disappointed- it is us, to ourselves- in our own minds, asking us to be or do or become what we have tried to do over and over and just cannot figure out why we are getting the same failure, instead of the desired result.
These moments, in our lives, are our shoe tying moments.
Kneeling on that gym floor trying his shoes, I paused and pulled the shoe laces out. He looked at me, shocked that I had just untied the laces, again. I smiled and asked him to just take a minute to show me how he tied the shoe. I’m not going to hide it- now, he was annoyed. I think he felt like his process would be criticized- a space we often go to when we get stuck in what feels like a reoccurring failure. As he hesitantly tied the shoe, I saw that the first loop and swoop just wasn’t pulled tight enough, and the slippery lace material, would simply slide out, despite his efforts. So frustrating.
When we walked the process back, and practiced it, it became obvious that the problem was in the foundation of the tie, and also in the material of the laces. But in his mind, my son thought that the problem was with him. And as my frustration grew with the flapping laces, and with his excuses about why they were constantly undone, he also believed that asking for support wasn’t an option- because it’s something he believed he shouldn’t need help with.
I laid in bed last night thinking about the times in my life that I wish someone would have asked me to walk through a process of whatever my shoe tying moment was. I also thought about all of the times I have asked myself, or people I love, to do something over and over again, without ever seeking a coach to walk through the process with me to see what was faulty in my foundation, or to be that coach for whomever I could see was simply not pulling the loop tight enough.
At the end of the process, you could see my son’s relief that a simple change would end not only his frustration, but the cycle of someone being frustrated with what he felt was his best effort. And while I’m sure we will revisit the shoe tying dilemma, again, at least I will understand where the problem lies, and instead of meeting it with frustration, can take a moment to help him pause and practice a process that he will actually find success with.
Whatever your shoe tying moment is, whether it is something you are frustrated with yourself for, or something that you have grown weary of with someone else, give the gift of pausing to examine the process.
Sometimes all we need is a gracious listener, someone that will patiently offer suggestions, if we are open to them, and a cheerleader to hype us up as we practice getting comfortable in our new foundation.
Bonus? When you trip, which will happen to all of us, at least you know there will be someone there to help you up. That makes the thought of trying something new and falling, a lot less scary.
Follow Erin on IG at: @loveraisingus