Growing up as a left-handed child was tough – thank goodness my kids are all right-handed | #teacher | #children | #kids

What do Barack Obama, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Annie Lennox, Kurt Cobain, Leonardo da Vinci and Oprah Winfrey have in common? They, like me, are all left-handed.  

Around 10 per cent of the population are estimated to be lefties and if you happen to be one you will know that the world is very much geared towards right-handed people.

Everything from scissors, clocks, ticket machines and payment tills are designed with right-handed people in mind. So, perhaps it’s not that surprising that schools are also very much geared towards right-handers – and one of the main reasons I’m glad none of my children are lefties.

I found school pretty hard in the 80s and 90s and, looking back, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I was discriminated against for being a leftie.

I am so left-handed I can’t really do anything, least of all hold a pen, with my right-hand. I had a horrible teacher, Miss Grayson, at primary school who used to whack my knuckles with a ruler to make me straighten my book but when I did that, I found I couldn’t write in a straight line and smudged all my letters.

She taught calligraphy and was obsessed with neat writing and mine was hopelessly messy. I also wrote numbers, ticks and some letters back to front and always got told off for doing so.

It took me years to learn how to tell the time (I literally saw a mirror image of the clock so anti-clockwise seemed like clockwise to me) and tie my shoelaces. My Mum, an English teacher, thought I must be really thick.   

I remember being quite chuffed to discover in a history lesson that Admiral Nelson was a leftie, like me. He lost his right arm in a battle in Tenerife in 1797 and became a leftie from then onwards.

I also learned that King George VI (played so brilliantly by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech) was born left-handed but made to write with his right-hand at school, which was later thought to be the cause of his stutter.

So why was writing with your left-hand considered to be so wrong? The stigma seems to date back to the ancient world. The Latin word sinistra originally meant ‘left’ but took on meanings of ‘evil’ or ‘unlucky’ in the Classical Latin era.

So, if you were left-handed or sinister, you were associated with evil. I remember my Classics teacher explaining how anything from the left (birds of prey, messengers from the gods) was seen to be threatening or unlucky.

Whereas the word ‘right’ evolved to become associated with anything that was ‘proper’ or ‘just.’ The memory of everyone in my class laughing when the teacher pointed out that I was the only leftie still haunts me.

Then there’s all those damaging and desperately out of date terms which people think are still acceptable and amusing – cack-handed (which the Cambridge dictionary very unkindly relates to a number of other terms, including useless) and southpaw.

So when my three children started to pick up a pencil I watched them carefully to see which side they favoured and was quite relieved when all three of them defaulted to their right-hand.

I hope that the education system today will be kinder to them as a result, but also to left-handed children. As a parent, I think I’ve also encountered a few more challenges along the way as a leftie too.

From doing up the catch on their Baby Bjorn carriers to opening tins of spaghetti hoops to teaching my kids how to write, use a computer mouse and cut things out.

However, I have, over the years, come to the conclusion that being left-handed is actually something to celebrate and be proud of.

Left-handed people are thought to be more ruled by the right side of their brain which is linked to increased creativity, imagination and divergent thinking.

Five out of the last eight US presidents have been lefties, including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, so perhaps we make better leaders too.

We even have our own day now, which rather aptly falls in Friday 13th August this year.

Being different is so often seen as a negative but I’ve come to think of it as an advantage. We’ve had to overcome more challenges along the way which has probably made us more resilient and adaptable. As the sign in our local pub when I was growing up said: “God made few people perfect, the rest were right-handed.”

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