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Complaints about my kid, Part 1: Shoelaces

Complaints about my kid, Part 1: Shoelaces

by Wolf Pascoe on November 26, 2012


I’ve spent the better part
of my adult life looking
for the approval of a man
who’s been dead for almost
two decades.

— Kyle Bradford


Now it came to pass that Wolf went to the house of his friend John, a carpenter, and said unto him:

“Behold, my son Nick knows naught of tying shoelaces. Therefore make for me a block of wood, and set above it a one-inch dowel of wood, that my son might fasten his shoelace around it, and practice the tying of a bow.”

And John made the device and gave it unto Wolf, and Wolf presented it unto to his son Nick, and Nick said:

“Father, wherefore have you made this device for me? For why should I learn of shoelaces when I have thou to tie them for me?”

And Nick’s father Wolf said unto his son:

“Nick, surely thou shalt wear crocs forevermore, for I have done with the tying of thy shoelaces.”

Apocrypha, The Book of Wolf




Confession: I have complaints about my son. Well, I’m human. Prick me and I bleed. Who doesn’t have complaints about their kids?

In my defense, may I say that for the most part, I take pains to spare Nick my grumbles. Moreover, as an exemplary father, I never hardly ever only occasionally talk about them to others. For example here, here, hereherehere, here, and here.

At least I’m careful about how I air laundry in public. There are many reasons for care, among them that  Nick may read it someday. Also, I usually end up embarrassed as source of the problem. All the which causes me to paint my life here if not with a rosy brush, than a somewhat laundered one.

But enough is enough. Let us be serious. There are larger issues at stake: the kid won’t learn to tie his shoes.




‘I can’t teach Nick to tie his shoelaces,” I complained to Jennifer, the mother of Nick’s friend Jay.

In town for work reasons after moving to Portland, she was spending a few days with us.

“It’s Tragic,” she said.

“You’re darn right it is. What do you think I should do?”

“Let Nora handle it.”

“But Nora doesn’t care,” I said.

“Maybe you shouldn’t care.”

It pains me that there are some things admirable people do not understand. One must be patient with them.

“What about Eduardo?” I said. Eduardo is Jay’s dad.

“What about him?”

“Can Eduardo teach things to Jay?”

“No. Jay won’t let him.”

“Why, do you think?”

“Because being good for his dad is too important for Jay to risk by making mistakes.”

The words of Kyle Bradford, Chopper Papa, now inform against me:

I spent the better part of my adult life . . . 

The words knot themselves to what Jennifer has just said and tie a bow around me:

Being good for his dad is too important . . . 







A relief, it is. It’s not my fault I have trouble teaching Nick. Nick has room only for blessing from his father. A father who doesn’t bless, curses.

I remember one summer in the woods with Bly talking about mentors.

“A father can’t be a mentor to his own boy,” he said flat out.

“Why,” I asked him.

“Too much weight there,” he said. “And for another thing, they’re both interested in the same woman.”

There it is. Bless what I can when I can. Leave the rest. I’ll be damned if I’ll have Nick spending the better part of his adult life looking for approval from me. Enough said.

Which leaves only one question.

How the hell will he learn to tie his shoes?



This is the first part of a two part post. Part 2 next time: Wrestling with Angels

 Burden of Dreams




The Power of a Father’s Approval. I’ve linked to Kyle Bradford’s post before. It’s worth looking at twice.




Got a teaching story? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara November 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I wish I had some sage words to share, but I’m dry. I remember learning to tie mine in kindergarten. They gave us a a cardboard cut-out to practice on. I asked my friend Phillip to tie mine on ‘test’ day, but felt so guilty I went home and learned that night. I’m not sure how I taught my kids, but I believe it was a combination of me, Tom, peer pressure, and their teachers. And the blessed absence of crocs. And Wolf, you know you can’t get get by without teaching him something!!


Wolf Pascoe November 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I’ll figure it out somehow . . .


Jane November 26, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Get shoes with Velcro…and Vans in a variety of designs — they’re very hip 🙂 When he thinks it’s important to tie his shoes, he’ll learn in a NY minute.


Wolf Pascoe November 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I want shoes with Velcro. I want to have invented Velcro.


Sirena November 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

What if Nick NEVER learns how to tie his shoes? Is he a good person? Is he kind to others and to small animals? Is he happy? Does he play to the best of his ability? Does he have fun? Does he want to hear shoelaceless shoes for the rest of his life? Will they still be making Crocs when he’s 32 years old?


Wolf Pascoe November 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I don’t know. Yes. Yes. Mostly. Mostly. Yes. No. I don’t know.


Jim Parkevich November 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Hi Wolf,
Will Nick learn to tie a ‘windsor” knot in his tie, with his suit ? Will he learn to shift a 4-speed manual auto, being able to pinpoint the clutch engagement to squeal the tires.
Will he learn to shave with a safety razor ? Will he be able to throw a baseball overhand with enough force to burn your hand when you catch it ?? Will he learn to write in cursive, instead of being doomed to print for the rest of his life.? Will he learn how to play coy with the ladies, and win his dream girl ??? Ah ,me ?! So much to learn from the ole’ man and so little time until they fly away..And tying shoe laces is minor compared to what awaits you as teacher and mentor..My son will be 39 this Sunday..How much did he learn from me…especially how to keep learning all his life..Hang in there Dad………..


Wolf Pascoe November 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Hangin’ in . . .


Kyle Bradford November 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

“A father can’t be a mentor to his own boy”

Wolf, I can’t subscribe to your friend’s belief. Our sons will find mentors, of that there can and should be no doubt, who that mentor is should be what keep fathers up at night.

There are numerous reasons why I’ve sought my father’s approval, one is because he wasn’t my mentor. He never spent time teaching me the ways of manhood and, as such, I learned elsewhere.

Seeking my father’s approval was my attempt to get him to recognize what I’d learned. Like a dog who goes into the wilderness and brings back a dead carcass and drops it in front of his owner “Look, what I’ve found for you? Do you like it?” Unfortunate for me, by the time I had actually found my manhood (or what I thought it was) it was too late. Dead men don’t tell lies and dead fathers don’t give approval.

Teach your son to tie his laces, prepare him to defend the arrows of manhood, if you don’t, Wolf, someone else will.

I have added to my bucket list that our paths cross one day.


Wolf Pascoe November 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm

By mentor, Bly (as in Robert) wasn’t referring to the teaching of manhood, but of craft. I should have been clearer. The issue is nuanced, and fraught. I do think, with Nick at least, that my best teaching is by modeling, including the modeling of limits, which of course include behaviors I will not tolerate. Tying shoes is not that, and has its own trickiness, at least between Nick and me. See part 2 of this post. Meanwhile, as to teaching, I have always subscribed to Dorothy Law Nolte’s “Children Learn What They Live:”

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.


BigLittleWolf December 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

This Wolf might say (from experience):

A Parent who blesses his child too much… does that child no service toward independence.

This Wolf will add:

One of my kids (not saying which) couldn’t quite tie his shoe laces until he was a tween. Even then, it was oddly difficult for him.

May I add that when I recognized the problem many years earlier, I decided that God had invented Velcro for a reason?


Wolf Pascoe December 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm

A Parent who blesses his child too much… does that child no service toward independence.

We will have to have a long talk about what each of us means by blessing.
What I emphatically do not mean by it is, “Oh, sweetie, you drew your 100th banana slug, good job!”
What I do mean has to do with attention, patience, respect. No child ever got too much of that.


pamela December 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Funny! I am potty training one son and helping the other learn to tie his shoes. Both pursuits are miserable and seem utterly impossible while in them until: presto. They learn. And we look back and say, oh, that was so easy.


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