It’s National Lefties Day. I wasn’t planning to write about left-handedness today. I wasn’t planning to write about it ever. But yesterday my daughter discovered she was left-handed.
And… she is nearly 15 years old.
I don’t know who I am more furious at — myself or the pre-school teacher. Why didn’t I catch this? I’ll tell you. I assumed that in the final years of the 20th century everyone knew that you don’t force a left-hander to become a right-hander. I guess I should have known better.
So my back-to-school advice to young parents in 2010: Watch your kid color before you put her in school. Take note of her preferred hand. If she shows any inclination to be a leftie, watch like a hawk that she is still using that same hand a month later. If not, give her a pencil and see how she holds it in each hand. If when using her right hand she does a weird contortionist’s grip painful even to observe, while with the left she holds the pencil in the usual way, it is past time to march down to her school and go ballistic. Your kid’s teacher is an idiot.
So how does a ninth grader discover she’s a leftie? She goes to her second freshman art class. The class exercise is to use the hand you don’t favor to write with, then try writing with both hands at once, and then compare the output with your normal writing.
In presumably right-handed Daughter’s case, all were amazed to see that her left-handed writing was clearer than her right, and when writing with both hands at once, the words looked nearly the same.
A brilliant, curious public school art teacher (and for all but a year Daughter had always been in private schools) was intrigued and spent some time with Daughter. She noticed that Daughter did a weird grip of the pencil with her right hand, and held it naturally with her left. She asked if Daughter’s hand hurt when she wrote.
Now, a year or two ago I was flummoxed when Daughter appeared to have all the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Kids don’t get this, right? We went and got an Ace bandage or hand brace or something, more to avoid a fight on my part than for any other reason. That year she had some lengthy assignments that had to be hand-written. I considered her complaints about how her hand hurt if she had to write a lot to be either a Princess and the Pea affair or an unconvincing excuse for laziness. Maybe, I’d say, your hand wouldn’t hurt so much if you held your pencil normally.
I feel like joining the self-flagellants.
Then Brilliant Art Teacher did some exercises involving closing eyes and touching nose or something like that, probably like these, to determine handedness. Once again, Daughter checked out as a leftie.
I know I probably shouldn’t start googling what happens when a leftie is forced into right-handedness. But of course I will.
Already I am wondering how this is going to revise the past. Like for several years when she was three, four, maybe even five, Daughter insisted on wearing her shoes on the wrong feet. I’d put them on correctly, she’d change them. She said they felt better that way. I said they couldn’t possibly and she was being contrary.
I feel really really rotten. Can’t go back, though.
But I can warn others.
Parents of young children, beware. You think you’ve imagined most of the way your child can be harmed when you send her out into the world. You are thankful that there are a few things you no longer have to fear, things like lefties being forced to become right-handed.