Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sticks & Stones May Break Your Bones, But My Son Will Draw Blood

It is getting to the point where I almost feel like I should change the name of my blog to "Write Shit Colin Does Down" because he is definitely the front runner for blog topics lately.

So, here's the newest phase in Colin's little world...he's a biter.  It started awhile back when he bit Maddie.  They were playing in the other room and I heard one of those inaudible cries that are like dog whistles...the average person can't hear them, but for a mom, it is an ear piercing sound that stops  you dead in your tracks.  It is when a kids cries so hard that nothing comes out.  I ran in the room and tears were welling up in her eyes, her face was beat red and she was holding her shirt.  She finally let out the cry and screamed,  "He...sob, sob...bit...sniffle, sniffle, ME!"  I could see bite mark on her shirt and when I lifted her shirt to access the damage I was horrified.  He chomped her like she was a nice juicy apple.  Luckily her shirt helped ensure he didn't literally take bit out of her abdomen, but there was a pretty nasty bite mark left behind. In the months before this he had tried biting her when he got frustrated, but nothing like this.

He continued to try to bite, but it was rare and usually when he wanted something she had or when she stole something from him.  He also started pushing, hitting, tackling, etc.  Then he started to act up at the daycare at the gym.  Initially it was just on a rare occasion and only if he was cranky or tired.  Then, within the last month it became a regular occurrence.

I could pretty much bet that I would get called down to the childcare center and have them tell me he was being "aggressive."  A few times it was just pushing, shoving, hair pulling or attempting to bite or if he did actually bite, he didn't break skin.  Amidst all of this at the gym, I took the kids to Monkey Joe's to meet up with some friends.  Colin was playing in one of the bouncy bounces appropriate for his age and I was standing outside of it talking to my friend.  I looked in there and realized Colin was pile-driving a little boy about his age.  The mom said, "He just kept going and going." Her eyes opened wide in amazement.  I apologized to the little boy's mom and dragged Colin out of there.  After awhile, we decided to order some pizza for the kids and while we were waiting for it to arrive, I heard a blood-curdling scream coming from the bouncy bounce.  Apparently Colin wanted a little appetizer and bit one of the little boys he was playing with.

I ran in the bouncy bounce and immediately asked the little boy if  it was Colin who bit him, even though I already knew the answer.  I grabbed Colin and then took the little boy to his mom who had just realized it was her son who was screaming and crying.  She proceeded to douse the boys hand in hand sanitizer (not my first choice in cleaning a wound, but I will assume she just panicked).  I apologized profusely and she pretty much just kept throwing daggers at me and burning holes in my head with her eyes.  Finally, she admitted that her older son had bit her and she bit him back.  I stopped feeling so bad at that point.  I put Colin in a highchair and wouldn't let him play the rest of the time we were there.  He kept crying "Ally-Gator!" because his favorite bouncy bounce had an alligator in it.  I explained that he wasn't allowed back in there because he bit someone. I fed him pizza and then we got the hell out of there.

I had a relatively sleepless night that night worrying that I might never be able to leave the house with my son again unless I put a muzzle on him.  Or maybe one of those Hannibal Lecter masks? I ended up getting up and doing some research on the subject.  Turns out I can take him places, but I have to keep a constant eye on him and it said, "Forget using playdates as a time to catch up with your girlfriends."  Yup.  Well, that's what I get for discussing boob jobs with my girlfriends at Monkey Joe's.  I also read Timeouts can ruin a kid's life, cause low self esteem and that all you need to do is stay calm and talk to your child with respect.  Oh for Christ Sake! When I misbehaved as a child my mom threatened me with a metal yard stick and I turned out just fine...right?

Biting back seems to be the most popular piece of advice that I have received from other moms, even my own.  I will say, however, that not one book, article or professional has condoned this as a solution to the problem.  I'm also not a big fan of the whole "fight fire with fire" philosophy. So, I am choosing not to take this course of action.

I've tried all the other techniques that I have read about like explaining that biting hurts, putting him on Timeout, (despite possible irreparable damage), telling him he will get a treat if he can get through a stay at the daycare at the gym without getting in trouble and explaining that if he wants a toy he should ask nicely or ask the teacher for help.  The problem with these techniques is that I am dealing with a boy who is not even 2 years old.  I am pretty sure that much of my "reasoning" is lost on him.  Timeouts are worthless because he just gets up and walks away or he laughs at me.  Times I've told him "biting hurts," including when he has bit me, he says "OK, Mamma," but will turn around and do it again 2 minutes later.  We also make him apologize immediately after he hits, bites or pushes.

I thought maybe part of what was causing him to act out was his 2 year old molars coming in.  I figured if he was crabby and irritable because his teeth hurt, he might take it out on the other kids.  I tried making sure I gave him some Motrin before we headed out in the morning and for a few days it seemed to help.  Then came Monday.  I went to my usual spin class at they gym and spent the entire class counting down the minutes until they would come get me.  I would think in my head, "If I could just get through 21 more minutes...20 minutes...19 minutes" and so on.  Every time I saw someone outside the spin studio, I thought it was one of the ladies from the childcare center hunting me down. I finally got to the end of class and took a deep breath not just from the cardio workout, but from a sense of relief that no one came to get me.  I was talking to one of my friends saying I really thought the Motrin was helping the situation when we walked into the childcare center.  The girl at the front desk waved me over and informed me Colin had just bit someone and this time it broke the skin. I had to fill out an accident report and she informed me that since he had a prior offense, he was now suspended for three days. 

I felt like a kid who got sent to the Principal's office.  I dragged the kids out of there and despite the fact I wanted to just run to the car and drive home, Maddie insisted on having some chips in the cafe before we left.  I was talking to some other moms in there and at least four other women said the same thing had happened to them at some point.  I felt much better, but it didn't take away the fact we weren't allowed back at the gym for three days and I still didn't have a good way to correct the behavior to resolve this issue. 

One of the moms I talked to pointed out that the childcare center treats 18 month olds who bite the same as they treat a 4 year old who bites and a 4 year old knows better and will understand the consequences of his actions.  True, however I can't expect them to stand there and stare at Colin and make sure he doesn't bite someone.

I'll admit, I was pretty cranky about the fact that I couldn't get my workouts/hour of solitude in for the next three days.  Not only that, but the gym provides time for me to talk to a few girlfriends I've made at there and not worry about watching Colin.  However, I'm at the point where going is more stressful than a stress reliever because the whole time I am worried he is down there misbehaving and always have one ear on the loudspeaker waiting for them to call me.

I survived our three day respite from the gym.  Luckily, I have an elliptical machine in our garage and we had one nice day, so I took the kids for a run in the jogging stroller in order to feed my exercise addiction and not go completely nuts. 

After our three day suspension, I went back to the gym. I was extremely nervous because I knew full well our hiatus did nothing to change his behavior.  He had no clue why we didn't go for a few days. There was still a pretty good chance he would strike again. Ironically, I was watching T.V. while I was on the treadmill and the Today Show happened to have a parenting segment discussing how rewarding kids with treats and presents is bad.  Oops.  Guess that sucker I promised Colin if he was good is going to cause permanent damage. Luckily, I made it through another workout and since it was Friday, I didn't have to take them to the childcare center again until Monday.  Monday was another successful day and I thought, perhaps, just maybe, things were getting better.

Cue "Jaws" theme song.  Just when I thought it was safe...we went back on Tuesday.  I put Colin in the main play area with some other boys and was going to help Maddie find her friend to play with.  As I was walking with Maddie, I heard one of the ladies yell, "Colin, NO!" as she ran towards where I had just left him.  Everything went in to slow motion and I ran back over and entered the play area. I couldn't see exactly what happened over the half wall dividing us, but I already knew it was bad.  He had bit another little boy in the face.  I felt horrible.  As I write this, I am imagining most people must think I am nuts, right?  I guess I should just stay home and spare everyone else's child Colin's "Jaws of Death."  Well, either way, Lifetime Fitness has decided that I should do just that.  They didn't tell me when I left that he was suspended, but they called me later to tell me that we were.  Luckily, they were going to give me a break because normally he would get kicked out for two weeks at this point, but they recognized that he doesn't understand what he is doing and it would really be punishing me, not him. 

I felt a little better knowing that they recognized this, but I still feel helpless.  The advice from the "experts" clearly ranges from just speak gently and don't yell to hire a therapist now because every thing you are doing is wrong.  It doesn't offer much comfort to a frustrated mom like me.

However, as I told the woman at the childcare center (who for some reason kept apologizing to me?) I chose to be a mom, these are the things we have to work through.  They say this is a relatively short phase toddlers go through and like most other phases, I am hoping it will soon be a thing of the past. Sigh.

1 comment:

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