August 13 was International Lefthanders Day. This day would have come and gone without me giving it a second thought but for this: I have no idea whether my preschooler is left-handed or right!
Sonny is almost 4 years old but his hand dominance is still very sketchy, at least to me. I spend all my waking hours with him – well, except for the brief 3 hour period when he is at school, that is – so, I should know by now, but I still don’t.
Hubby and I are both right-handed and I can’t remember anyone in our family who is left-handed. So, I thought sonny would, naturally, be one too. But then around the age of 2 years or so, he started showing signs of left-handedness (albeit so very slightly) which made us wonder whether he was going to be a lefty. For example, he would use his left hand for picking up toys or when eating.
But 2 years was still very young to really know it for sure and we did not give it much thought. Th grouping did not matter at that age.
Then when he started pre-nursery, barely past his 3rd birthday, we could no longer avoid categorizing him. At school, he was supposed to be scribbling and coloring. And during our very first Parent Teacher Meeting, her class teacher asked the inevitable.
“He needs more practice holding crayons and pencils. Do you know which hand he prefers?” She wanted to know.
“I..I am not sure, but I think it’s his left.” I stammered. I still wasn’t sure, of course; he used both hands interchangeably at home.
She sounded relieved. “I think so too! Let’s go with that and practice writing more and more with his left hand.” She said.
And so we did. For his pre-nursery session, sonny scribbled on with his left hand. Of course, he hated writing just like all kids his age (I am guessing) and he barely did any coloring and letter tracing during that year. I had to hold his left hand with my left hand (quite awkwardly too) and help him finish his homework every single day. He still remained ambidextrous (using both hands equally well) for all other activities.
Anyway, sonny’s handedness was the last thing on our minds. We were fine with it as long as he did not seem to have any problems getting things done, righty or lefty was immaterial.
So it went on like this for his whole pre-nursery year. But things started getting a bit out of hand (so to speak) when he still was not writing much in his nursery class as well. Hearing constant complaints (from his teacher, both verbally and through written notes in his diary) of how he “did not even know how to hold a pencil” started getting on my nerves.
This July, when due to certain other reasons (I will get to those some other time), we pulled sonny out of school for a month (give or take a few days), that was my window of opportunity to “fix” this issue once and for all.
And I was brutal! Like a drill sergeant, I sat him down every day for one hour to practice writing. First, few days were very tough. He would protest every single second of that hour, but I did not give in. I insisted that he use one hand – one hand alone – while writing. It could be his left hand or his right hand, I did not care, but it had to be just one hand. No swapping of hands in between was allowed. I showed him over and over again how to hold his pencil (he knew already, he just did not want to do it!) and bought him special ergonomically designed pencils (ha ha!) for easier grip and less pressure on his small hands.
And just when I was visualizing a left-hand friendly writing desk in my head, sonny decided that now he wanted to use his right hand! Was it because I was using my dominant hand (read right) to show him how to hold his pencil and to trace lines? I don’t know. I never consciously pressurized him to prefer one over the other, but this world isn’t exactly designed left-friendly, is it? I guess he just wanted to be like everyone else.
Anyway, once the writing hand issue was settled, we practiced and practiced some more tracing alphabets and letters and before long, sonny was tracing fairly well and was no longer cribbing about it. His writing now showed well-formed letters from “barely there” fragments of pencil marks.
So far, so good. His new class teacher was pleased with him once sonny resumed school. She informed me excitedly when one day he wrote number “9” all by himself without needing any help from her 🙂 Of course, he still had a tendency to swap hands (especially after he had written a few letters and was getting tired), but there was definitely progress.
And we would have lived happily ever after 😉 if only I hadn’t noticed yesterday (of all days!) that he usually picks his pencil with his left hand before placing it in his right while starting his writing assignment.
And it got the over-analyzer in me worried all over again. Am I forcing right handedness on my left handed kid? Here’s what I know so far:
- He prefers using cutlery with his left hand and eats mostly with his left hand, swapping very rarely.
- He prefers writing with his right hand, though has a tendency to swap hands when tired. (If I let him write with his left hand, his left hand’s precision is lower than his right hand’s. It could be due to all the practice we’ve had using right hand, but I don’t know).
- When offered a handshake, he extends his right hand without any perceptible delay.
- The other day, he was spelling the letters of his name using fridge magnets and he did it from right to left instead of left to right.
- On the limited occasions I have allowed him to use scissors to cut paper, he had used his left hand about 70% of times.
- While playing or reaching for objects (placed in the middle), he does not seem to have any preference for one hand over the other.
- He wears clothes and shoes preferring the left-handed way instinctively for doing it.
- He uses his right hand while using his iPAD.
There are many such small, small observations which have me utterly confused about his hand dominance by now. I just take solace in the fact that some children remain ambidextrous until they are 5 or 6 years old. Maybe he will figure it out by then.
Till then, I will just have to work harder not to push him towards right-handedness (if he doesn’t want to go there) unconsciously. Till then, I will just need to make the world around him slightly more left-hand-friendly perhaps. As for my mommy instincts, I have zero on this topic, I simply have no idea! I will just have to wait for nature to unfold in its due course of time and stop over-thinking it all.
But before I go, I must ask this from parents of slightly older kids: When did you figure out your kids right or left-handedness? Was it a clear-cut distinction or was it as confusing and foggy as ours?
I just hope the fog clears before sonny decides to swap hands again! 😉
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