Parenting is one long teaching gig.  We’re tasked with raising up the little people until they’re self-sufficient human beings who will go forth and make a difference in the world.  So it’s kind of a big deal.

Except the people can’t go forth and do that do-gooder thing until they’ve gained the necessary skills.  Now at the risk of sounding immodest, I’ve always considered myself an intelligent woman as well as an adept teacher.  It’s not that I didn’t think we’d hit a few snags here and there, but I have to say I’ve been surprised by some of the skills that have been challenging to teach.

*  Tying shoelaces.  Once I started working with T-man and Bear on tying shoelaces I finally understood why parents kept their kids in those godforsaken velcro shoes for so long.  You know, the ones that sound like fifty Brillo pads scraping down a chalkboard simultaneously. Getting a kid to mimic my movements while tying laces didn’t seem like such an insurmountable request, but in reality?  Their clumsy fingers fumbled, and their hummingbird brains couldn’t focus long enough to put the sequence into long term memory.  When they finally grasped the concept they’d execute it at a snail’s pace, meaning if you didn’t start putting shoes on 30 minutes before the necessary departure time then you’d have no hope of getting out the door.

*  Cutting with a knife.  This one was enough to drive me to drink.  Okay guys, first move your fork to your other hand.  Yes, I know that’s not the hand you use but that’s the hand you need to use while you’re cutting.  Because.  BECAUSE.  Please just do it.  Next, pick up the knife with your main hand.  Okay, now you’re going to hold the food in place with your fork and move the knife back and forth to cut it.  If it’s soft then you can press down, but for things like meat you’ll need to saw back and forth.  Don’t let up on the fork or the food will slide around.  Try again.  Okay, now you’re holding your knife upside down. Turn it over and try holding it at this angle.  You can do this.  It was somewhere around that time when a kid would throw down their silverware in frustration or we’d give up and cut the food for them.

*  Properly vacuuming a room.  Seriously, I’m at a loss with this one.  Vacuuming seems like such a straightforward skill – push the vacuum back and forth in rows until you’ve covered every part of the floor.  If you’re really going for a thorough job then you turn and repeat the process crossing over the first rows.  It’s not that hard.  Yet I watch my kids – children who can do flips on the trampoline, ride bikes, and complete a load of laundry – aimlessly push the vacuum around the room, capturing (at best) 65% of the dirt and dog hair covering our floor.  And any comment on my part results in a snippy “I am!” and a huffy tween.

*  Opening a combination lock.  Oh my word, I did not see this one coming at all.  I mean, combination locks are a staple from my school days.  I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t have to spin that freaking dial to open something.  It wasn’t until BrightSide and I started explaining the process to T-man that I realized how absolutely convoluted it sounds…So here’s the number combination that opens this lock.  What you have to remember is left, right, left.  You turn left to the first number.  Then you turn right, but go past the first number before stopping on the second. Then you turn left to the third number and pull.  Go ahead and try.  T-man tried.  Then tried again.  Then he tried a third and fourth time.  He wasn’t exactly thrilled by this point, and when he’s in that kind of mood he’s not really open to suggestions either.  Let’s just say it was a rather tense half hour.

*  A place for everything and everything in its place.  This is a tough one since you can’t really sit someone down for an afternoon until they master putting their things away.  You can make cleaning up toys a daily chore (we did) and straightening your room a responsibility (we do), but a person has to be intrinsically motivated to consistently put their stuff where it belongs.  Which would be why a certain someone (ahem!) keeps getting pissed at me when I can’t tell her where to find her iPod/purse/favorite jeans.

Oh, to think of all the lessons yet to come…makeup, the mechanics of feminine hygiene, shaving, driving, dating, navigating heels, hardcore academics, budgets, college applications, and let’s not forget the endless battle with etiquette.  And that’s just the next eight years!

Heaven help us.