We celebrate lots of milestones in the lives of our children, but “Baby’s First Expulsion” (at 2½) isn’t usually one of them. There’s no Pinterest-inspired chalkboard for my son to hold, no Instagram to be hashtagged. I don’t even feel like I can talk to anyone about it. It’s a private shame—one to be borne alone.
My son is a biter.
If your child isn’t a biter, you won’t understand this. You will cluck your tongue and glare at me when your angel is in tears because of my child’s actions, but you won’t know how deeply that look hurts me. Nor do you know that your eyes say, “You are an awful person for letting your child hurt mine, and I hope you go to hell,” and are confirming everything I have to say about myself and my parenting at that moment.
You don’t know the tears I have shed over this problem. You don’t know how much I worry that my child will never have any friends, that he will always be a pariah, that at 2½ years old, I fear that his future is already sealed because I am so horribly ill-equipped to help him overcome his tendency.
Okay, in my gut I know that my child won’t be a biter forever. I know it’s “usually a developmental issue,” and when he works through whatever it is, he will probably just plain stop (and move into the next developmental stage, where he insists that he is a puppy and will only eat his meals from a dish on the floor). Still, parenting a biter presents you with some unique challenges.
Here are 10 things only parents of biters understand:
1. Playdates increase your stress level by approximately 6,000 percent.
You may risk looking like a helicopter parent as you hover over your child, but it’s not actually for his safety. It’s so you can quickly intervene when you see him going in for a chomp.
2. You shouldn’t use his clothing to warn other children.
It’s a bad idea for him to wear a T-shirt with a shark on it any time he is going to be around other children, or a funny shirt featuring a heavily armed raccoon from a recent hit movie with the phrase “I bite” across it. On another child, it would be cute because, haha, kids bite sometimes, but on a biter, apparently it’s just in “poor taste.” Also, prohibited Halloween costumes include zombie, vampire, Mike Tyson.
3. A call from the school will ruin your day faster than you can stress-eat an entire box of Girl Scout cookies.
They want you to drop everything and pick up your kid. And probably stop at Panera on the way to make up for all the horrors your child has put them through. Meanwhile, your boss is pissed off because this keeps happening. You consider quitting your job (before they fire you anyway) and finally pursuing your dream of becoming the next Vanna White.
4. Everyone has advice for you.
None of it works.
5. You’re pretty sure your kid will need braces later on.
Just look at those scraggly bite marks on your arm! Yeesh! You wonder if the orthodontist can use the impression on your arm to save money later on.
6. Your kid doesn’t look good in orange.
Sure, it’s most likely just a phase, but what if it’s not? In-laws, friends, neighbors, parents of your child’s classmates, his teachers, grocery store cashiers, the pizza delivery guy, and random people on the street may have you convinced that your child has already entered the (pre-)school-to-prison pipeline, and that you have not just a biter but “a problem child.” Those calls from his preschool will inevitably turn into calls from the local PD, so you’d better start saving up bail money right now. In fact, you could just stop calling it his “college fund” and go from there.
7. Nursing is very, very over.
Because holy shit, ouch.
8. You’ve seriously considered some very creative solutions.
How much would it cost to have all his baby teeth removed? How long until the adult teeth grow in? (He likes yogurt, applesauce, and Hulk smoothies—no worries there.) What about a puppy cone? Do they make those for toddlers? (A quick Google search suggests they do not.) Would people be horribly opposed if you asked them to paint themselves from head to toe with hot sauce before they had contact with your son?
9. Your kid is turning you into an effing detective (if you’re not one already).
With every “incident,” you collect clues. What was the trigger? Who was around? Are they becoming less frequent (read: Is there any hope)? The more data you collect, the more confused you become. Apparently toddlers aren’t like serial killers on the cop shows, and they don’t have a very organized M.O.
10. Despite it all, you love your little monster.
You still see the good in him, and you hope that others can see it, too. And someday, this will all be past you. (It will, right? Please? DEAR GOD, TELL ME THERE IS AN END.)