February 5, 2015

Details D2.01 / A Bite

counting (he always forgets number 5) snow covered sky view teaching her gentle crescent 'moon cheese' weee! paperwhite peak quiet time tea time ranunculus blooms and paperwhite crashes

Today Little Smith bit Roo's finger on purpose. I was half listening as he conned her over breakfast, inviting with a sweet voice, 'put your finger in my mouth wight here Wooby, it's okay'. Sure I was suspicious, but he sounded so innocent that even I couldn't imagine he would actually hurt her. When she toddled towards me in tears and wagging a puffy index finger with two tell-tale bite marks, I was genuinely shocked. I am an only child, but I'm not so naive that I don't get the whole sibling rivalry bit. In their year and a half as brother and sister, these kids have already pushed and smacked each other more times than I can count, and even delivered several bites in frustration. I'm working to help them find other ways of settling disputes over critical items, like Superman capes, but understand that this kind of squabbling is typical, and probably healthy on some level.

The piece that startled me about this morning, and felt different from their usual battles, was the manipulation. There was no conflict, she was minding her own business and he cooked up a plan to bite her finger out of thin air. Little Smith is such a sensitive and measured boy, why would he purposefully bite any one's finger with zero motive? When I asked him, he burst into tears. Clearly he was as confused as I was.

I was turning this over in my mind throughout the day, and I remembered a sinister scene from my own childhood. It was preschool, I was probably the same age as Little Smith. We were playing outside in the small yard behind the house-turned-school, when I quietly bit my own arm hard, leaving behind teeth marks. Then, for some reason that still completely eludes me, I convinced my classmate, Gabe, to tell the teachers he had done it. He sat on the steps serving his 'time out' for my crime, while I brazenly played in front of him. What kind of a manipulative and awful little girl would do something like that?! Oh wait, that was me.

I guess kids must just test boundaries, and try out behaviors, to eventually (hopefully!) discover basic empathy and morality on their own terms. It's still creepy though, and I hope Little Smith never sinks quite as low as my own dark preschool dealings. I don't even want to consider the cruelty of the preteen years... we'll take it one bite at a time.

6 comments:

  1. Hank regularly invites Eliza to swing on our rope swing, only to break out into a sprint for the swing and jump on it before she can get there. Many tears.

    I hear a lot of people compare their own childhoods to the behavior and experience of kids currently in an attempt to demonstrate some kind of fall from innocence, which seems silly (if Serial taught us anything about memory . . .).

    And frankly, I still struggle with moral issues like manipulation and empathy. Take care up there in the wintery North!

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    1. Ha, I love your comment! Yes, I guess each of our moral compasses are continuously evolving... way into adulthood. The ble that cruelty of kids, really good hearted kids, does still shock me. But I suppose the cruelty of adults is far more shocking, if also more complex. Thanks!

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  2. Oh man, it's those types of things that make me totally overreact as a parent! I think it's hardest when it's the older against the trusting younger sibling. But you are totally reasonable to chalk it up to normal healthy development. I remember doing sinister things as a kid too, and I think it's a healthy way to learn empathy — after all, if you remember (shamefully) your behavior all these years later, it obviously worked! Happy weekend, Lilly!

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    1. It's funny because I am very aware that this is no big deal and typical kid stuff... but I think I was in that mode of thinking 'my kid' wouldn't behave that way. Not because he's superior, but because he's really cautious and thoughtful (it would be way less surprising from Roo, and not just because she's much younger). He's been acting up in a more playful (yay!) but also disobedient (hmmm) way lately. I guess I was having some four year old sophomoric confidence that I knew my kid ;)

      And yeah, I have always remembered that naughty behavior on my part from way back in preschool. Shameful!

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  3. It is awfully candid and sincere of you to write about that little incident from your childhood. If you can still remember it in such minute detail, it means it left a mark and you obviously progressed so much from it. I am sure Lil Smith will find it hard to forget what he did, given how sensitive he is. Having said that, maybe Lil Smith just got carried away with the events. He may not have intended to bite her finger so much as experiment with 'what would happen if i nipped a lil? would that hurt her? And then, what if I bit a lil harder? how would that bite feel like? All unconscious ofcrse...And the fact that he burst into tears when you confronted him, definitely shows remorse.

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  4. I made the mistake of intervening far too often when my kids were little. Naturally I was worried about the safety of the younger. But they definitely learned to manipulate me because of how I would (over)react. They are finally just now giving up on all the fighting (most of the time). Sounds like you handled it calmly and gave him the opportunity to think through on his own what he had done.

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