I was always different. As a child, I was exceptionally short, a foot shorter than the shortest kid in every one of my classes through high school. I had large features and a weird sense of humor. My mom tried to make me feel better about being so different, telling me that good things come in small packages, and that those kids were just jealous of me. But I didn’t really ever believe her. It just hurt to be different.
Then I became a mom. And much as I wanted my kids to fit in and feel comfortable, I realized very quickly that each child is different. And that is beautiful.
My Firstborn is colorblind. He used the word “aye” for “yes” as a toddler for reasons neither his father nor I understood. He didn’t say a sentence until he was 3. He was special. He was different. He still is.
My Little Man is incredibly sensitive to sound, touch, and emotion. He sang before he spoke, which was not until he was halfway through his fourth year of life. He was born with a deep sense of musical connection and an artistic skill I can’t even match. And he is a lefty.
Left-handedness does seem to run in families. My brother is a lefty; my ex-husband’s brother was a lefty. My uncle is a lefty. My mom was a lefty but her Eastern European parents made her switch because of superstition.
So I got a lefty.
Little Man seemed to be a lefty from the time he could reach for anything. He didn’t reach with both hands as most babies do; he reached with his left. Some people thought I was encouraging him to be a lefty, but as a neuroscientist mama, I know it doesn’t work like that. I watched. I observed. And I saw. A true lefty.
He was even left-footed; kicking a ball selectively and exclusively with his left foot.
I got a lefty.
I took pride in this. He was part of a long line of lefties. Both of his uncles possessed artistic ability and he did too; it made him part of something bigger in this family.
My FirstBorn had so many classic “first-born” attributes, so I never felt he was lacking attention or praise and I still don’t. He is studious and organized and a natural caregiver. He is generous and kind and charismatic and sweet.
But Little Man is a lefty.
On a recent trip to San Francisco to see some of our family, I took Little Man to Pier 39, a madhouse of a tourist destination. We went for one purpose only: The Lefty Store.
The store is completely designed for lefties. They sell everything from cooking utensils to school supplies to bumper stickers and hoodies. Everything is geared towards the comfort and success of lefties living in a world gone ‘right.’ It has been there since before I was born. My lefty brother used to go there; my lefty uncle used to take us there for him to have that space.
Little Man is typically shy and cautious, but the look on his face in the Lefty Store was tremendous. I wanted to cry. Here was a store made for him. He didn’t even know what he wanted me to buy for him; it was as if going into the store alone was the present he wanted.
We ended up with a spiral notebook with the spiral on the right side (see below) and a few pens with a very special comfort grip for lefties. We also got a deck of cards made so that the faces of the face cards are visible when he holds them in his left hand. And I got him his own tote bag that says “The Lefty Store.”
He walked out of the store so proud and so happy. We found a place made for him. A place that celebrates him and makes him feel special but not excluded.
How many lefties have walked through those doors and felt the embrace of uniqueness and acceptance that we all need so badly?
I wonder how I can continue to foster that combination in my home and in his life: how I can help him to feel special but not singled out; unique but not a freak; okay for just being him in a world where there seems to be a ‘right’ way to be.