I can still remember the day. I was walking down the hallway to check on my son in the church nursery and as I got closer, I heard his cry. Not just any cry, his BIG cry. I rounded the corner and saw my little boy – I think he was one at the time -with huge watery eyes and a bottom lip quiver that would break your heart. I went to the window and the ladies working said, “Jimmy (not his name, but we will just call him that) just bit him hard.” I picked my son up and soothed him. I ran cold water over the teeth marks and he settled down. Once he stopped crying, I assessed the situation. You see, ‘Jimmy’ was recently adopted and came from a very difficult situation. I felt sorry for him. I thought, “he has had so much to deal with, this must be a result of all that he’s gone through”. Because how could a child from a stable home possibly bite another?
Well, folks, fast forward to about five months later. My son, the “victim”, who comes from a stable home, starts biting. It was rare that it was another child, he mostly bit me. Then along came my daughter, who is thirteen months younger, and who decided to save her words until she was eighteen months old. She was defenseless against her big brother’s domineering play and she couldn’t communicate what she was needing, so out of frustration and defense, she started biting him. **At this point I am crying and pulling my hair out…at the same time**
Then came the day, we were at a different congregation and we went to pick my daughter up at the nursery and the attendant told my husband and I, “She bit another child”. Mortified. I was mortified. I was embarrassed that she had hurt another child. They told us he had taken her toy away, but for whatever reason, in my mind biting is far worse than hitting or pulling hair. Maybe because it leaves a mark? Maybe because it hurts more? Maybe because not every child chooses to do it, so it seems outrageous when it is done? All I know is, as the parent, it is mortifying. Because in the back of my mind, I am worried they will go down in history as a Mike Tyson or a Luis Suarez…who are adults biting other adults.
My children are disciplined anytime this happens. We do not let it go unnoticed. We do not discipline as a reaction to being embarrassed, but as to correct a behavior. We want them to function in society and not be labeled as “the kid who bites”, because my kids are fun, and they are sweet, and are (usually) respectful, but, like us all, they make mistakes. This is not an excuse for bad behavior; quite the opposite. It is our job to help them communicate and express their feelings, rather than react and hurt others. I can count on one hand the times they have bit another child, but it sure feels like a million more.
So, as a mom biter, I just want to say I’m sorry. I’m doing my best to help them. I’m not protecting my child at the expense of yours. I’m embarrassed if it happens. I’m nervous you will be talking about my children when we walk away. I’m hopeful that it is a phase and will end soon. And I hope we can all continue to be friends.