Monday, April 18, 2011

The Biting Truth

It happened on a cold spring day. There was still snow on the ground, so I took Thumper to the library for some indoor fun. It was there, in the little wooden play house in the children’s section that she got into a tug of war with an older child over whose turn it was to play with the toy barbeque. Just as I was about to intervene, I saw the little boy reach his arm in front of Thumper in order to block her from the toy and that’s when I saw her do it. She didn’t bat an eye or have even a second’s hesitation. As soon as his arm was in front of her face, she bit him.

Just the day before, I had read a headline in a parent magazine about what to do if your child bites another kid, but I didn’t read it because Thumper had never bitten anyone before. Stupid me! Why didn’t I read what to do when my kid morphs into a vampire?!

Well, obviously I charged into the play house to get Thumper away from him, telling her “we don’t bite our friends” and “that’s not how we tell someone we would like to play with a toy.” Then I made her say sorry to the boy, which didn’t sound like sorry at all because she’s only 18 months old and just learning to talk, so no doubt the little boy thought ‘wtf kind of apology was that?’ Then I asked if he was okay, and told him he could play with the BBQ. I briefly considered finding his guardian to tell them what happened, but decided against it because I really didn’t know what to say. ‘Hi. This is my daughter. She bit your son. I made her apologize.’ (Awkward silence) ‘I hope it doesn’t scar. Have a nice day!’ And all the while, all of the kids in the play house were watching me, probably thinking, ‘oooh, she’s an adult. What WILL she do?’ when in reality I felt as clueless as them, and I know the only difference between us is the fact that I’m taller and can legally drink.

So I grabbed Thumper and started putting on her coat, continuing to tell her I wasn’t impressed with her behavior and all those other things you say partially because you mean them and partially because you know other people are listening. Then I hear the little boy telling his mom that “that little girl over there bit me” and I think, ‘why didn’t I just tell her myself? WHY DIDN’T I READ THE ARTICLE?’ I turned around to tell the mom that it was my kid who took a chunk out of her kid’s arm after they were fighting over the BBQ and apologized. I felt guilty and scolded, like the only reason I said anything was because her son did first. And really, that IS the only reason I said something, but not because I was trying to be sneaky. I was just genuinely mortified, and completely caught off-guard, and wishing really bad that I had read the freaking article.

But the truth is the article only would have told me things I already knew. Like the fact that biting is a natural response for young toddlers who simply can’t understand the complexities of sharing and taking turns, and that there’s really no way around it. You just have to remind them that it’s not an acceptable response to frustration and keep showing them more appropriate behavior (help them to take turns, redirect them to another toy, etc.) What I really needed to know was what to do/say to the other parent without sounding like an idiot or a prick.

I replayed the situation in my head over and over on the way home and I figured out what I would have/should have done after ‘the bite.’ After dealing with Thumper and checking on the wounded boy, I would’ve found his mom and said ‘Hi, I’m sorry but our kids were fighting over the BBQ and my daughter bit your son. I just wanted to let you know so you weren’t wondering what happened or where the mark came from. I’m really sorry.’

That sounds like something a responsible adult would do. And next time (which hopefully there won’t be, but let’s be honest, there will be) I’ll know what to do and what to say and I’ll show all the people who’ve stopped to stare at me and my delinquent vampire that I AM, in fact, an adult.


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