Sean does not yet hold his pencil properly. I know. If I were inclined towards over-parenting, I might be wringing my hands right now and consulting experts or at least Googling something. But I’m not. As many of you know, I’m more inclined towards “Whatever Dude” parenting.
It’s not that he can’t hold the pencil properly; it’s that he won’t hold the pencil properly. He holds it in his fist like a little caveman.
When we sit down to color, I correct him. Using the jaws of life, I loosen his little fingers from around the crayon and then reshape them into the proper position, the position that Harvard graduates and scholars everywhere use.
He immediately readjusts his grip to the caveman.
We stare at one another, like two chess players, each plotting their next move.
“Whatever dude,” I say. “If you want to be the only kid in class still holding their crayon like a caveman, that’s up to you.”
“Sometimes I just need to do things my own way,” he says defiantly.
I know about having to do things ones own way.
“Well Sean,” I say, “You’re going to make life really hard for yourself that way.”
He’s four. He doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
I don’t want him to be like me, always having to do things my own hard way. Life is much easier when you are marching with the parade and not off doing your own Snoopy dance.
“I’m going to get a notebook,” he announces boldly, “And I’m going to write down all my rules of what I want to do.”
I think I know what he’s talking about.
“Oh?” I ask, extremely interested. “What is it exactly that you want to do?”
“I want to shake salt on the floor,” he says quickly and decisively, with an edge.
I stifle a laugh and try to suppress the image of leather jacket clad bad boys with turned up collars and salt shakers.
Without a word, I get up and get the salt shaker. I hand it to him.
For a minute, he just looks at it in the palm of my hand. He takes it.
We look at each other, expressionless, like two poker players.
He hands the salt shaker back.
“Ah,” I say. “Good choice dude.”
It wasn’t the salt shaker he wanted. It was the power to make the decision.
Tomorrow he may decide to shake salt on my floor.