Friday, May 1, 2009

Get a Grip

I just wasted an hour surfing the web, searching for ways to get my son to hold his pencil like a writing utensil and not a bludgeon. I’d just like to say up front that personally, I don’t give a shit how he holds the pencil. I don’t want to get all “my kid is frighteningly gifted” on you, but it is incontrovertible that Primo has some mad drawing skill.

So, since the art he produces is so impressive and since he’s so happy producing it. I haven’t quibbled about his process. I figured he’d get with the pincer program eventually.

Turns out, this was a bad idea. An expert told me so.

Upon the recommendation of his teacher, who have noticed his fist grip, Primo was evaluated by an occupational therapist, to make sure he didn’t have fine motor weakness.

“His fine motor skills are fine,” said the OT lady, “Better than fine. He scores off the charts.”

Great!” I replied, “I’m so relieved.”

“But his grip is terrible.” she continued, “Really bad, I mean, BAA-AAD.”

She went on to tell me that is was one of the worst grips she’d seen, and that if we didn’t fix it pronto, he’d have tons of trouble in kindergarten, writing and doing homework.

So, we’ll fix it, right? I mean, how hard could it be to get a kid to hold his pencil between his fingers?

The answer is: quite, quite difficult, if it is my progeny you’re talking about. Primo is, to use a term I’ve noticed educators like to employ, “resistant” to changing his grasp. These educators are being kind – either that or he is being kind to them, by showing just some “resistance.” Because when I oh-so-gently remind him that he might want to try using his fingers rather than his fist, he flies into a full-on, balls-out, no-chains-can-hold-him, rage-against-the-machine hell-no-we-won’t-go tantrum,


This is invariably accompanied by him throwing his colored pencils to the ground and a temperamental wail, “FIIIIIIIINE! I WILL GIVE UP DRAWING!”

Its gotten to the point that if he sees me watching him use his fist, he will warn me gently, before I even say anything, “Please don’t make me angry, Mommy.”

So I did what any parent would do: I bought some shit to help me help him. We now possess every manner of grip-helper or writing-aid on the market. Every color, texture and variety. Totally and immediately worthless. Especially the one that the OT lady recommended, which is a kind of bracelet-type band that has a hole for the pencil and a little silver dolphin that he was supposed to curl his two bottom fingers around, to keep his hand in the right position.

“Look! You can hold the dolphin!” exclaimed the evaluator, like clutching a little plastic dolphin in a sweaty palm was some great thrill.

Primo looked at her like, “Let’s get serious, lady. I’m an urbanite. A dolphin isn’t gonna get this deal done. Now can we start talking or what?”

So we started negotiations. Bribing, I mean. The OT evaluator recommended that I replace the dolphin with an M & M that he could hold while drawing, and then eat afterwards as a treat. This worked like magic -- for one afternoon. In that afternoon, he drew with his fingers for two hours and ate a whole pack of M & Ms. After that, he had built an immunity to chocolate candy.

Sticker charts proved equally ineffective. I would throw out or hide all the writing utensils in the house until he surrendered but the thing is, drawing is the only activity he performs without bothering me constantly, so its become my salvation. Also, this is my son we're talking about. He's stubborn like a pigheaded mule, to use a term my grandmother is fond of. The kid would find something to draw with, and I probably wouldn’t like what he came up with. I saw the Marquis de Sade movie starring Geoffery Rush.

So I’ve done the only thing possible: Give up. Or rather, I’ve taken a moment of pause to let all my hard work sink in and let his willingness catch up to my resolve.

I mean, there’s a lot to worry about out there and the finger grip just can’t be topping my list anymore. Am I right?