Biting the Hand that Feeds Her

Hyde Park readers, I hope you can forgive another post unrelated to our lovely neighborhood. As some of you may have guessed from the few-and-far-between posts of late, our household has been in a bit of a state: traveling, work-gone-awry, broken a/c, slugs eating my spinach, and the onset of summer have all converged to make things a little wonky around these parts lately.

And then there's the biting.

S is a sweet-natured kid who will go out of her way to kiss strangers. She loves to hold hands. She is all smiles and sunshine and will sit in the lap of anyone who looks even remotely willing to read her a story. And when we got back in town this week after a vacation in Washington, DC, she tacked "biter" onto her list.

I've been able to stop her before she bites any other kids, but my arms are spotted with tiny bruises. She drew blood from my neck. She bites my back when we're playing pony, she bites my shoulder when I'm carrying her and she's angry. She bites out of frustration and excitement both, and, though my initial strategy was to respond only to the former, it HURTS to be bitten by a 15-month old, so the unintentional yelps became universal, ignorant of motivation.

We are laid-back, gentle parents. And this week, for three straight days, I feel like I did nothing but yell at my daughter and then, when she was sleeping and her chompers were safely packed away, cry for having spent the day yelling at my daughter. (One night this week, the crying was partnered with a glass of wine and falling asleep on the couch at 8:45.)

I tried ignoring it, I tried fake crying, I tried the stern voice, which escalated into yelling (or what felt like yelling -- even a slightly raised voice is out of character for me). I tried redirection and giving her something to chew on. I tried everything, people, short of biting her back, which I hope I don't have to say is simply not going to happen. I know part of it is that she's teething, and part of it is that she doesn't have enough words to express herself. And last night, after a lengthy round of getting bitten, yelling, accepting apologies with kisses, and then getting bitten again, I was through. I'm not yelling at my kid. It makes me miserable. It makes me feel like a bad parent, and an unhappy one, and I just won't do it.

So now what? Today she's tried to bite me four times. Each time, I've said her name and gotten her attention before she sunk her teeth in. I also let her chew on a metal key ring (comment away if you like, but if it makes her feel better for five minutes, I'll take it). Right now, she's sleeping hard after a full morning of reading and rolling on the floor of the library (Hyde Park shout-out: Blackstone Library!).

And I feel better.

A friend called me this afternoon to say her 4-month old isn't gaining weight properly and she's feeling guilty about being unable to breastfeed him enough. "Being a mom is HARD," she said. And it is. It's constant, feeling like every decision you make is risky: formula or breast; sleep train or don't sleep train; how to educate; how to discipline; how to love. I don't have answers to any of these -- I don't think anyone does.

But as for S, I can answer easily the last: we love her unconditionally, regardless of bite marks. And I just don't know how to convey that with the stern voice.

Filed under: Parenting

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