Fold the shoelace over to make a loop in one hand, do the same with the other, pinching the base of the loops. Then tie a simple knot with the two bunny-loops, over, under and through. Pull snug, repeat for a double-knot. This was how Miss Kim taught her pre-k and kindergarten classes to tie shoes. Once a student had mastered the skill, they were given a badge to wear identifying them as a helper for the younger kids to go to with their dangling shoelaces.
My daughter earned her right to wear the badge when she was five. Her gray Nikes required constant vigilance to keep those slippery laces in place. While all of the kids started with the bunny-loops, most progressed to the more fluid single loop and wrap around, under and through technique, except for mine.
She announced to me this morning that she finally met another kid her age that does it her way. They never abandoned the first style — bunny-loops. I’ve demonstrated the single-loop style many times, but it never sticks. I asked what she could do to learn it. “Easy,” she said, “just wipe my memory so I don’t remember bunny-loops, then you can teach me the other way.” After five years of almost daily lacing, she can’t imagine doing it any other way. Her hands can’t make sense of a new action or a different maneuver. She said it’s too much of a habit.
When we are pressed for time and she is slowly and carefully ordering her laces, I have been known to step in and whip the laces into shape with quick frenzy of hand movements. Done and double-knotted already. The single-loop method is faster, I would argue; it requires less visual information and length judgment, more rapid gestures and pulling. But efficiency doesn’t matter if it’s out of your grasp. Knowing it is faster, doesn’t make it easier to master.
We had this conversation in the morning on the way to school. Today, I would be watching interviews with people attempting to use a certain software to accomplish a task, even though they were experts in a competitor’s program. I expect to see some of the same frustrations and mental translations between knowing something by habit and being pushed out of one’s comfort zone to learn something new. I’m hoping we don’t have to resort to memory-wipes.