Sunday, 17 March 2013

The left handed child: A month of parenting

Image from here
Our first born is left-handed.  Since the very first time I handed him something, he put out his left hand. And when we tried to get him to feed himself at about six months, he would swap his rusk from his right hand, where I inevitably would place it, into his left. He knew well before we cottoned onto it. He will probably complain in later years that we tried to 'convert' him. We didn't.

They still don't know why some people are left-handed but most are right-handed. It is just a little anomaly found throughout human history. It seems to run in some families, but like us, plenty of right-handed people find themselves parenting a left-handed child.

All cultures have a strong right-handed dominance (90% of the population is reportedly right-handed). Lefties are odd wherever you go, even if you are hanging with chimps. But left-handed people are reported to be more creative than right-handed people, and they are meant to have a bigger corpus callosum making the two halves of their brain communicate with each other better.

I know from my work with people who have had strokes that some lefties whole brains are flipped around. The language centres you usually find in the left hemisphere are found in their right hemisphere. Their brains are just wired differently and they confuse the healthcare workers who are trying to understand the mismatched symptoms of their stroke given the location of it!

Left-handed people seem to be able to do more with their right hands than righties can do with their left. Growing up in a world where implements and instruments are made for righties means lefties give their non-dominant side more of a work-out than most righties do. This comes in handy when they break their dominant wrist.

On a practical level, the most difficult things for a right handed person to teach a left handed person from my experience are:

1. Hand writing: Our text runs from left to right. Lefties have trouble with this. Although hand writing has been a difficult skill for Nugget to grasp, I suspect this is not entirely a left-handed issue (have you seen my (right-handed) writing?).
2. Cutting: Scissors are usually made for right hand usage. Nug does everything with his left hand, except use scissors.  His daycare never had any left-handed scissors in their toddler room, and by the time he moved into the pre-school room, he had established his preference for right-handed cutting. I would suggest using left-handed scissors!
3. Tying shoe laces: I swear this was a nightmare for us to teach Nugget. We relied on YouTube videos and some tuition from his left-handed uncle, because our attempts were useless.
4. Using a cricket bat: I swear I am hopeless when it comes to using any bat with my left hand. When I have to try to show Nug how to do it, it never works out for us. Lefties are meant to be pretty good a sports though. Obviously this is limited by their right-handed coach's inadequacies!

There is nothing more fun than having a little quirk. Having a left-handed child has woken me up to the plight of other left-handed people. 10% of the population have to struggle to fit into the right handed norms of our society. I reckon we all need to find ways to make it easier for them. Like sitting them on the left side of your dinner table and plugging your computer mouse into the left side of the computer for them. It is the least we can do.

Are you left-handed? Do you have a left-handed child? Tell us about your experiences fitting a square peg into a round hole!


allison tait said...

The Builder is a leftie, as is his mum and his sister. He plays sport with both hands - cricket bat left, tennis racquet right - and swears that the fact that he taught himself to hammer with both hands has made his whole carpentry career easier. No lefties for us though.

joeh said...

I am left handed on issues of sensitivity: writing, eating, shooting pool, things that are more physical in nature I am right-handed.

I'm pretty sure I think left-handed. If that doesn't make any sense to you it is probably because you are a righty.

River said...

My first husband is left handed and so is one of his brothers and one of his sisters. My eldest grand daughter is left handed, all of them are very artistic. The sister in law learned to knit right handed from her mum without any trouble, but when my mum tried to teach my step sister who is left handed, 'A' refused to learn saying she couldn't follow the instructions.

Penny's Portraits said...

My mum, 2 of my cousins and my great uncle are all lefties. All very creative. My great uncle (who recently passed away) was an extraordinary architect and did a lot for the Aboriginal community in terms of revolutionary housing.
He was ambidextrous and could start writing a sentence in his left hand and stop half way and continue with his right hand and no-one could tell the difference.
Mum plays tennis right handed. Neither Nick, myself or the kids are lefties but I kick a ball much better with my left foot. Dunno why, just do.

Sarah said...

Two out of my three children are left handed (I'm right handed) - there is a strong trend in my family for left handedness (two of my three sister and my Father being left handed).

Miss Mac struggled very much with writing and for a long time and not only wrote from right to left but also mirrored her letters - you literally had to hold the paper up to a mirror to read it.

She also struggled to learn the guitar until we realised that it had to be strung differently for a left handed person.

E. said...

Girl Child is a lefty. We don't seem to have an lefties in our immediate family but two of my cousins are. Girl has had difficulty with writing (its fairly messy) but it is legible. She has problems using cutlery. We have had left handed scissors nice she was about 2 or 3 so she uses them.

Miss Pink said...

I'm a leftie. So is Mr Black. So is Bluey. Greenie isn't though!
Working in childcare I used to refuse to write in front of the kids because I could see them looking at me funnily, and some would switch hands. My rule is never to hand things like a pencil to a child who is still learning hand preference. Instead I put it down and let them pick it up with their chosen hand.
I do agree about it not always being a leftie friendly world and I think that is part of why it is a dominant right handed world. You would be surprised at how many parents request it to be "corrected." Even in this day and age!
To me personally it's just a thing, like having brown eyes or blue eyes.

pam said...

Not left handed though my mate remembers having his left hand tied behind his back in school and at home, with complete horror and overwhelming emotions.

Mandy Ferry said...

two right handed parents, three left handed children, what is with that! painfully, we soldier on.

Seana Smith said...

Hello, my wee lass is a leftie. I've bought knitting needles and hope when we're in Scotland that my left-handed sister can help me teach her to knit. I think for me to do it might send us both demented.

She's a very creative wee soul, loves writing and drawing and making an arty, crafty messy mess.

How are you going, by the way?? Will you be back soon??? We are off tomorrow, myself and 50% of kids, to visit aged and infirm relatives.

Lee said...

There are believed to be 2 separate forms of left handedness. The one you describe, where the whole brain is built mirror image, and one where just individual functions swap hemispheres, displacing other functional areas. What goes on with the displaced functions? That's where it gets interesting, complicated, and way beyond me.

Not to worry. We've may have only recently discovered these things, but both kinds of lefties have survived the same millions of years of evolution as righties. Some people have blue eyes, some green.

rockmelon said...

we have two lefties, struggled to teach one to knit,though she plays guitar right handed easily, other is very very sporty prefers not to write at all!

Jackie Richardson said...

My husband and I have two left handed boys who are 7 years apart. We are both right handed and no one on either side of our families, immediate and extended, are left handed. As far as I'm concerned left handedness doesn't run in either of our families.

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