Strange things have been happening around here lately. Strange things with my son. Or should I say, strange things with this stranger who looks like my son, and sounds like my son, but is… strange. A stranger. And it’s all of a sudden, and while I should be happy, at least about some of it, I’m not, not so much.
This is the kid who for 6 ½ years could not hold a pencil correctly. He started out, naturally enough, using a fist grip, eventually moving on to some mangled version of a half fist grip. When he was 3, and then 4, and then 5, daycare told us they would correct that. Their main “goal” every year, was to teach him how to hold a pencil correctly.
At a parent-teacher conference last year I discussed Snags’ odd pencil gripping ways with his teacher. I expressed my concern that while yes, his hand writing was very legible, perhaps there was something we should still do? Some way to teach the kid to hold a pencil correctly? Because everything I’d tried had failed. She suggested rubber pencil grips and where to buy them, then confessed that she had never learned to hold a pencil correctly herself. Then she proceeded to prove this sad point by writing a note on a pad of paper with a nearly identical half-fist grip.
And so. Snags started first grade with the same bad pencil holding form. And mostly I didn’t care. He could write clearly. But still. When Snags’ first grade teacher sent home a form where parents could write down any concerns they had, I made a quick note about the way Snags holds a pencil. I turned in the note and didn’t give it another thought. If six and half years had taught me anything, it was that this pencil thing just wasn’t that important. Or Snags was very stubborn.
But then. Snags came home from school this week and said he had a surprise for me. He smiled as he showed me the new way he was holding a pencil. The new PROPER way to hold a pencil! And then… he wrote his name, holding the pencil in the new and proper way! I fainted.
Okay, I didn’t really faint. Instead I asked, “Who ARE you and what have you done with my son?” I was laughed at in return.
But this pencil thing? It’s the tip of the iceberg of strangeness around here.
Suddenly, Snags, the child who can’t be bothered to put away his LEGOs, wants to clean. He wants to FOLD LAUNDRY. He WANTS to MAKE HIS BED every morning. He wants to WASH WINDOWS.
This morning? He asked if he could shake out some area rugs and then he got a broom and swept the kitchen floor. He wanted me to hold a trash bag open so he could dump the dust pan into it. And I was all “Look, this is really nice of you to want to clean up but OH MY GOD it’s only 6:30 in the morning and all I really want to do is relax a bit and eat my breakfast. Can’t you do this LATER? Tomorrow? After school?” Tonight he wants to vacuum.
In an effort to have a few moments of fading morning quiet in the midst of a million repititons of “I’m bored, what can I do, PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE?”, I agreed to let him “wash” the windows. He pulled out a bottle of Windex, ripped off a single paper towel. He spayed and wiped haphazardly over the inside of the glass door in the kitchen, quietly humming to himself before stepping outside into the dawn to clean the outside of the glass. He worked away at a few spots, singing.
He picked up the bottle of Windex again, holding it at eye level, working hard to pump the top and spray the door. Except he had the nozzle turned the wrong way. He sprayed himself directly in the eye.
He’s fine, now. I watched as it happened from inside the glass. The spray bottle dropped to the ground. Snags, temporarily blinded in one eye, staggered inside. “I sprayed myself in the eye! Will I be able to see again?” He asked, alarmed, with the Windexed eye squinched shut.
I led him to the bathroom, where I flushed his eye with water, assuring him he would be fine, and sent him on his way.
When I came downstairs, I fully expected him to be cleaning the glass again. But the dropped bottle of Windex was gone, the lone paper towel had been thrown away. Snags’ urge to clean had, apparently, been wiped clean by one shot to the eye.
I found him, like in days of old, like last week, before he learned how to properly hold a pencil, before he turned into Mr. Clean, on the floor of the library, in the middle of a large pile of LEGOs. He looked up as I walked by, he asked a single question:
Aren’t you going to PAY ME for cleaning the windows?
I think about this for a moment, and tell him maybe. Maybe later. I don’t have any cash on hand at the moment. And also, I think to myself, I didn’t ASK him to clean the windows.
But I might pay him later. A few dollars for his ambitious in thought, if not in deed, effort. And then I think I’ll bill him back for the medical care I had to administer. Eye flushing is mighty expensive these days. And accidents are preventable if you know which way to aim the nozzle.
And that Windex? It’s pretty good stuff. It brought my child back. I can finish the rest of my breakfast in peace, without some crazed Mr. Clean running around me in circles with a bottle of cleaner and a paper towel, begging me to plug in the vacuum. Instead, I get to listen to him whine that he can’t find a particular LEGO piece amidst the hundreds and hundreds of LEGOs he’s spilled all over the floor. And I know, life is back to normal. A new and improved normal - one in which Snags can hold a pencil correctly.