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The left hand is holding a pencil and is about to write something on a bright pink-yellow background. International Left-handers Day on August 13
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Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Left hand puts Mom on wrong side of kids

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Now that both my children are handling pencils and writing, more or less, I have relaxed a bit. It appears they are both unquestionably right-handed.

I am left-handed. Based on the struggles it has added to my life, I truly did not wish it on any child I produced. Oh sure, we lefties have prompted a whole line of specialty products, from scissors to sports equipment. We also have a glib string of defensive phrases (“Left is right!”) and talk about how much more sensitive we are since our right brain is in control — we are more artistic, more creative.

Well, maybe; but for me, none of that compensates for having to spend my entire life swimming upstream in a downstream world. And as I watch the numerous “lefties” in my son’s kindergarten class fight over the “lefty” scissors and struggle more than their peers to master cutting and writing, my opinion is reinforced. I ache for them.

From the first moment I picked up a writing utensil, I wrote backward. Once corrected, I began to drag the heel of my left hand across everything I wrote upon (and still do), smearing even the hardest of leads. I can’t go near a fountain pen.

My kindergarten teacher back in the ’50s was not the least bit enlightened, as teachers are today, and seemed unable to figure out that to achieve the tidy work she required, she needed to teach me some new way to hold my No. 2 pencil. She did no such thing. She simply wrote “too messy” on all my papers. And so the frustrations began.

My handwriting remains atrocious, a terrible hybrid of all my best efforts equaling one lame effort. I joyfully embraced and still celebrate the arrival of the computer, which is practically like a prosthesis to me. Because of my handicap, I even commit the faux pas of writing my thank-you notes on the computer. I will do anything to avoid the embarrassment of longhand communication.

The worst thing has been because of my left-handedness, I am slightly ambidextrous and cannot quickly identify left from right. I cannot give directions or follow them. In ballet, I often leaped one way as the rest of the class leaped the other. My children and I practiced learning our lefts and rights together. They often score better than I do.

Then I discovered the final frustration. For years, I had been harassing my children because they seemed to always do things in the absolute opposite direction I intended them to. I thought they were just not paying attention or perhaps were simply pushing my buttons. Pondering my left-handedness, it dawned on me with a crash that all their body movement and tracking calculations are based on right-handed orientation, and all mine are based on my leftness.

When I went to put on shoes, they invariably stuck out the foot opposite the shoe I had in my hand. The same went for whichever pant leg they went to put on first. We approach the car, and I reach to open the doors on one side, while they automatically walk to the other. Arms in coats and sweatshirts, same deal.

It happens again when I sit down to help them with homework, automatically choosing the side where their elbow sticks out in to my ribs. It happened when I try to brush their teeth, and they unconsciously turn their head the opposite way.

The list goes on and on, and I am feeling thoroughly guilty having put the blame on them all this time. But I have, at least, come clean.

Nothing has really changed, but when we madly fail to match feet to shoes, at least they no longer take it personally, and neither do I.

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