Confession: I’m not a perfect mom. In fact, sometimes it feels like there’s a lot I have yet to learn. Take, for instance, my oldest son. He’s in Grade 2 and his printing is messy. An occupational therapist met with him for an assessment and then called me in to meet her. Apparently, I haven’t been giving him enough opportunities to strengthen his fingers.
“Do you do any beading with him?” she asked.
“Uh, no. He’s really more into baseball than art. And he can’t sit still,” I said.
“Do you practice letting him cut with scissors?”
I must have looked at her as though she was talking gibberish. “He’s not the kind of kid you’d give a pair of scissors to,” I explained. “I do my best to keep scissors out of his hands.”
It made sense to me. In fact, I thought I was doing the right thing. Inside, however, I started to squirm. My poor kid with his messy handwriting. He’ll have to study extra hard to become a doctor because nobody can read a doctor’s writing either. Or he’ll have to type love letters to his girlfriend or call me from sleepover camp because I’m unlikely to get much information from a handwritten letter home. Despite my best efforts, I seem to have denied him the chance to improve his finger strength by not allowing him to do the simplest of tasks. Sometimes he asks to cut his nails with the clippers, but I say no in case he cuts himself. He does spread cream cheese on crackers with a dull spreading knife. That’s good, right? He also helps carry in groceries and empty the dishwasher. But there I go getting off track . . . neither of these things will help him with his printing.
Then there’s my other son, in Grade 1. We tried to play a simple game of Snakes and Ladders the other day but it didn’t quite go according to plan. I announced that the winner would get three treats, second place would get two, and last place would get one. He blatantly cheated himself to an unearned victory and I began to panic that he would become a cheater in life.
“If I allow you to cheat on a board game, you’ll think it’s ok to cheat on a test at school or at work. That’s not the kind of boys I’m raising,” I lectured them both. That day, my boys heard so many hours of lectures on the evils of cheating that they probably won’t cheat again just to avoid having to hear about it. Later, upon further reflection, I realized that I might have accidentally offered then an incentive to cheat. I apologized right away.
“Boys, I should have said that everyone gets a treat for playing but that those who display the best sportsmanship get an extra prize,” I told them. I felt a little sheepish for not having thought of this from the beginning.
“Yeah!” they laughed. It made good sense to them.
As a sign that things are already improving—that I’m learning along with my boys—I called out to my oldest: “Ari, I’m cutting up cucumbers for dinner. I’m going to trust you with a knife. Do you want to help cut?”
He dropped his video game controller and rushed to the kitchen. “Yeah sure!”
It was as though he’d been waiting for the chance to show he was up to the task. I gave him a dull knife and showed him how to cut without chopping his fingers. Then I stood behind him and supervised as he cut the cucumber into large, uneven chunks.
“Good job!” I praised. I was actually really impressed. For someone with under-developed finger strength, he did amazingly well. I guess the lesson in this is that it’s never too late to learn…and that includes me.