Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Love Bites

As Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, I thought I would share a tale of love between toddlers. It all began (for me) with a phone call from the daycare this week, asking me if my son’s tetanus shots were up to date. Not the kind of question you want to hear from the daycare.

I immediately wondered if any of the children had rabies. Or perhaps there was a box of rusty nails lying around that they had been playing with. But it’s just not that kind of daycare (and I really hope there is no such daycare in existence).

As it happened, my son had been bitten by another child and the bite had broken the skin on his finger, so there was (as the accident report outlined) “blood to saliva contact.” Ew. Fortunately, both parties in the biting incident had up-to-date vaccinations, so it was a low-risk incident.

As per daycare protocol, the educator will not tell you who the biter was, nor will they tell the other parent who was the victim of the biting. However, toddlers have no filter and are very eager to rat out their friends. Plus, parents just know. Especially in my daycare, since all the parents work together.

The biter in this case, was my son’s daycare BFF, also known as “Buddy” (as he calls him). These two are both the biggest kids in their class and they both have very boisterous and dominant personalities. Since the beginning they have been inseparable friends – they love to hug each other, they get excited to see each other, and they can play together for hours on end. They are also, however, the first to fight with one another and scrap it out over toys. Usually, my son is the instigator who steals toys or crayons or play-doh from Buddy, who retaliates and defends himself with a bite.

Since September, my son has been bitten at least six times. I’m not sure if it’s always the same biter, but I know he’s been the perp on a few occasions. Nonetheless, I don’t feel like my son is the victim, because he almost always does something to cause the attack.

Anyhow, they are classic frenemies. They love each other, but they also love to hate each other.

When I received an e-mail of concern from Buddy’s mother last night, I just had to laugh. Because what else can you do? Toddlers go through phases and biting is completely normal. There are many reasons that toddlers bite but most often, it’s a question of frustration. For two-year-olds, communicating is a challenge and when they bite, they’re often expressing anger or fear.

My son used to bite too. Fortunately, I’ve never heard of him biting other children at daycare, but he most certainly bit me and his father on a number of occasions. In his case, once he had been bitten a few times himself, I think he learned not to do it to others. He has often gotten upset with us and in a moment of anger, would bare his teeth like a vampire about to strike and then stop himself.

Like most behavioural issues for toddlers, this is a phase. And just as other kids will eventually learn that biting is not a good way to take out their frustration, my kid will have to learn about sharing and playing nicely.

The beauty of this situation is that two year old boys rarely hold a grudge for very long. By the end of the day, when I picked up my son, he and Buddy were playing very nicely together. But not without a little remnant of the day’s earlier incident, as Buddy looked up at me with a remorseful expression and my son held up his finger and announced “Buddy bite! Bobo!”

The next morning, the two hugged each other happily and all was forgotten. Now that’s love!

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