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A Father’s Lament

Posted by Dirck on 20 February, 2013

I think I’ve mentioned that my son is in a preschool that aims to provide remediation for autistic and other special-needs kids.  Did I?  Well, I just did.  The format of the school is to combine a half-dozen of the aforementioned sort of tots with a half-dozen “normal” youngsters with excellent social skills to act as models.  I can’t, as an aside, begin to imagine how the latter group is recruited.   Apart from a really high teacher/student ratio (1:4, plus an on-site speech therapist!), the daily activity of the school is not much different from that of a Kindergarten.  Indeed, the point of the process is to make sure that when the kids are of an appropriate age to start in Kindergarten, the whole routine will be just that from the point of view of the special-needs part of the team; think, you Big Bang Theory fans, how well Sheldon reacts to sudden change in his environment.

Included in the curriculum is getting familiar with numbers and letters.  For my son, this is pretty old hat; he has been interested in text since he could focus his eyes, and has been reading the titles of Thomas and Friends segments at us for about a year as they flash past on the screen.  He has, however, been somewhat disinterested in the productive side of literacy.  He will watch daddy writing in journals and letters, but when invited has lost interest after the second stroke.  Pencils, you see, are for making large swooping circles covering the whole of the page.  The only way to get him to make anything legible was to hold the pen and ask him to help by pushing the parental hand around, as was done to the delight of all grandparents with the Christmas tags this past December.

Of course, working with various mark-making devices is something school includes (still).  So, in recent weeks, we’ve been getting things that he’s drawn with his own autograph on them.  Joy! Admiration!

I asked him, over the weekend, to write his name for me, offering him a handy pencil.  Stunned amazement out of dad at this point, as I watched him adopt… an alien grip!  The tail of the pencil pinched lightly between thumb and fore-finger, the body of it slanting down across the finger-tips, to rest between the pads of ring and pinkie fingers.  And then, the huge, little-kid letters.

My wife is interested to see him adopt what is more or less an artist’s brush-holding posture.  I am too, in the academic way in which a biologist will gaze down a microscope at something nondescript; is it a pathogen, a sybiont, or something neutral and of neither use nor danger?  It argues somewhat for the retention of past lives, since this is neither an instinctive posture for writing nor one he’s ever had modeled.  But, as a powerful promoter of fountain pens… it troubles me slightly.  I’ve given it a try, and while cursive writing is possible with a pen held thus, I’m not sure how protracted that writing can be.  It will certainly make the “THOU SHALT HOLD IT THUS!” portions of his Griffix and abc pens somewhat useless, if not actually oppressive, and will incline him towards longer, slimmer pens.

It’s early days, yet, of course.  There’s plenty of room to undo any habits that look like they’ll be a problem, which some may read as “stifle his natural inclinations” (to which I may respond with a fallacious parallel in which toilet training has the same label).  If I could undo some habits of letter formation which were in place for decades, surely I can let him enjoy holding a writing instrument how he pleases for a few months more, so long as he is, at last, adding writing to his reading.

I gotta learn to relax.

Today’s pen (held in the relaxing Classical Tripod):  Parker “51”, which in an anti-February effort I’ve stuck my burgundy ’49 in the extra-decorative mid-’50s gold-filled cap– very fetching!
Today’s ink: Organics Studio Cobalt

post scritpus– on the subject of relaxation, I’ve managed to almost undo the backlog I got under InCoWriMo-wise, through application, judicious rescheduling, and a savage suppression of the urge to prolixity.

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6 Responses to “A Father’s Lament”

  1. Maja said

    Hope your son has joy using his fountain pens, no matter how he holds them 🙂
    One of our fellow pen club members brought along an adult friend to one of our first meetings and she held the pen in a very odd (for me) way. Chacun à son goût, as they say….
    And re: InCoWriMo…..I, too, fell behind in my correspondence and am trying to catch up! A few days ago, I was tempted to put a gold-filled cap on my new cordovan brown P51 (great minds think alike??).

    • I have these swings between permissive and prescriptive; I’m sure by the time it’s an issue, I’ll be back in the latter phase and won’t care so much. The angle is right, at least.

      SWAP THAT CAP. I fell into a fugue of admiration for the combination of the two yesterday, and nearly missed leaving work promptly. It won’t help with digging one’s way out of an InCoWriMo drift, but it will make you care less being in it.

  2. I know adults who hold their writing implements that way as well. I hold mine not in the classic tripod grip, but with the pen resting on my ring finger. I have no idea why, I’ve just always done it. But it irks people who happen to notice: “Why don’t you hold your pen the normal way? Why do you not hold it with your first three fingers??” It’s not easy being a non-conformist.

    • As a fedora-wearing, left-leaning, shiny-shoed, yoga-pursuing fountain pen booster, I totally approve that last sentence, and I really should be completely comfortable saying “if it feels good do it” in the fountain pen department. There is some German in genetics, though, and it expresses itself not in a Klaus “Mythic Wildman” Kinski way but in the careful setting of watches and the occasional glorification of a rule (which expression one also sees on the German school pens mentioned above). The fault is in me, and as I said in the previous response, it comes and goes. I promise, should we ever be in the same room and taking notes, I’ll not point and screech at your grip.

  3. […] because it was very similar to the grip my son habitually takes when he’s writing, something I was griping about not long before the film was shown.  Amazing!  Even more amazing that I could find a picture of […]

  4. […] my son and the educational system.  Last winter I mentioned his initial brush with education, and the interesting discovery about how he holds a writing device.  I was slightly concerned, but viewed as something that could […]

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