Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kittyboy the Lumberjack

I've been cutting out all the trees around and behind the garage, and Kittyboy has been hauling them to various burning piles. He's quite the pack mule. One tree was over an inch in diameter at the base, maybe 10' tall. He was a little frustrated that he couldn't hoist it over his head as he had the smaller ones (by smaller, I mean 9' and under). He dragged it very easily behind him, though, and hefted it hand-over-hand-over-hand onto the burning pile, which by that time was quite large.
So all afternoon (yesterday) he was asking to help saw. I have a little folding saw, you can fold the blade into the handle, kind of like a serrated flick knife. Now, our gardening lesson last week did not go well. I ended up banishing him from the garden after he (accidentally) whacked me in the head with his shovel. His "child-sized but still wood and metal and real" shovel. And the garden isn't a project I can let him mess up and say, "We'll try again," because I'm not buying plants all over again, it's something that has to be done carefully and correctly. It couldn't be a "learning process", if he could learn from it, great, but if not, he had to be out of the way. He needed to follow directions precisely, LOOK at what he was doing, LOOK at where things were as he was using his tools (to avoid problems like, oh, swinging your shovel carelessly over your shoulder and hitting someone in the head), and none of that was happening. It was a disaster, and frustrating for both of us, because he WANTED to help, but it just didn't work. Then yesterday, he wanted to "help Mommy saw".
I thought it over. The saw blade is not an exacto knife, it's not that sharp. You can grab it and it won't cut you (I did that, experimentally). I would have my hands over his, and if he ever started to give any hint of inattentiveness, the lesson would be over. I expected it to be a VERY short lesson, because, well, this is Kittyboy. But I've been thinking that five isn't necessarily safer than three as an age to start teaching the dangerous things, like how to safely handle a knife. The brain is better developed, but not necessarily impulse control. So I figured we'd give it a try, teach safe habits now rather than later. I know, it sounds insane to me too. But at the same time, it makes sense, to me at least.
I got far enough into the jungle that I had room next to me, and called him over. I said, "Here are the rules. This is a dangerous tool. This is not a toy. You never touch the blade. You never handle this without Mommy. And you do EXACTLY as I say. Got it?" and he said yes.
So we tried it! He's either ambidextrous or starting to show left-handed dominance, he put his left hand on the handle and insisted that's what he wanted to use, and me being right-handed, that made things tricky. But he was VERY attentive and obedient and DID EXACTLY WHAT I SAID. The saw slipped once, and he grabbed for it and I said NO, and he actually froze immediately, which I can't hardly ever get him to do. Instant obedience, that may have been a first. I reiterated that it was sharp and you never grab the blade, and he didn't do that again. He helped me cut THREE trees, then I saw poison ivy and cutting was over for the night. So then I closed the saw, handed it to him, told him DO NOT try to open it, carry it carefully to the front door while Mommy gets the laundry and then come back, and he did! EXACTLY as he was told!
And today again, I was cutting the trees down further to make the pile more compact, and one of the logs I let him cut with me, and he was amazingly responsible and careful, which is REALLY the opposite of his stereotype. Today, I let him take two strokes on his own with my hand just steadying the handle, so he could see that it doesn't cut by you pushing down on it, but by pushing and pulling it back and forth, and we talked about how this particular saw cuts on the pull stroke, etc. And every time he helps saw, we talk about paying attention to EVERYTHING, knowing where the blade is and is going to be at all times, knowing everything that's going on, observation skills and coordination and sensory processing abilities that he has GOT to learn. Now me, I'm clumsy like him - I walk into stuff with alarming frequency, I have hit myself in the face with a car door, tried to close a car door on my leg (both of those incidents, I was standing OUTSIDE of the car) - but I feel really, really safe doing some really dangerous stuff, because when I'm balancing on the edges of the tub taking down the shower curtain, or cutting at some precarious angles to avoid poison ivy and get exactly the branch I want at exactly the angle I want, something else kicks in. I know exactly where that blade is, what it's doing, what it's going to do. When I'm on a ladder with my back against a wall leaning over to paint something, I know exactly how my body is, where the ladder is, where the wall is, everything, I can feel everything exactly and I feel totally safe doing that. I'm better at those kind of things than walking through my own house some days. Hopefully we can maybe combat the clumsiness or lack of attention, however you look at it, by teaching him that kind of hyper-processing while he's REALLY young. Maybe then, as an adult, he won't try to slam a car door on his jaw. And while I was talking about knowing where the blade was and where it was going, I could see his eyes following it back and forth, so that was GREAT. Getting ready to make birdhouses or something with Daddy!
My little man is growing up!

Have I really not blogged since Palm Sunday? Wow......


Tena said...

I've been wondering how you were doing! Glad Kittyboy is a good helper, how wonderful that he's able to focus on tasks like sawing. A future as something very kinesthetic could be fun for him!

Kyriaki said...

Alithos anesti :) Good to hear from you.

And mmm snickers!

Kittyboy is adorable and I'm glad to hear about his progess with saws and being careful not to touch the sharp saw or cut anything bad. Very cute :)

Mimi said...

He is an amazing helper and getting so big!

Pres. Kathy said...

I have missed you! It sounds like you have been busy! Kittyboy is growing up! Have a great week! If you get a chance, drop by my blog and enter my spring giveaway.