Thursday, October 31, 2013

Zombie toddler

My almost-two-year-old Jake is a frequent victim of toddler bites at day care.

Through Mom friends and co-workers, I’d learned early on that biting is common among little ones. It’s how some of them vent the frustration that comes with not being able to say what you need to say. So I didn’t let it alarm me too much.

But week after week, I found myself signing incident reports when a fresh set of red bite marks would appear -- sometimes accompanied by bruising or broken skin -- on his chubby little arm. It just broke my heart to see it. Today he is sporting very distinct red teeth marks on each arm, and I half considered dressing him as a toddler zombie instead of a dinosaur for trick-or-treating. (I’ve been watching too much of The Walking Dead, I think.)

When we asked day care workers about the circumstances around the bites (was he instigating this in some way?) I was somewhat surprised by what they said:

It’s been different children biting him, not the same one over and over. It happens when he invades their personal space, trying to give them hugs.

It’s apparently their way of saying dude, back off.

Oh no, I thought, we are doing a bad job of teaching him personal boundaries because we’re too affectionate and in each other’s space all the time.

Don’t you love how, as a Mom, you find ways to blame yourself for anything that happens? Too affectionate? Not possible. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong by being all up in Jake’s personal space all the time with kisses and hugs and cuddles, and picking him up and holding him every time he outstretches his little arms to me (which is all the time), but I’m not stopping now. He’ll only let me do it for so much longer and I’m savoring it while I can.

But poor little lovey dovey Jake is probably none the wiser about why these kids keep biting him. And how do I explain to a two-year-old that people who aren’t his family might not want his hugs? That almost breaks my heart more than seeing those toddler zombie bites.

How did your child learn about other people's personal space? Or was it never an issue for you?

Megan Brooks is a Sr. Public Relations Specialist for Texas Health Resources, Mom to a toddler and Stepmom to a teenager.

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