When Max was born two years ago I sang to him in the delivery room, he stopped crying, looked right into my eyes, and smiled. After a few months he was getting requests to be a model since he seriously was the perfect little cherub of a child. Kate and I knew if we still lived in New York, LA, or San Francisco we’d be making good money off this kid but were content to get compliments from strangers in the aisles of Target instead. By eight months he was fully mobile and walked everywhere he needed to go. Speech was fast to develop and by the age of one we knew we had a super-kid on our hands. He was delightful, social, mobile, self-sufficient, and able to communicate. He slept well and was one of those kids that flourished as soon as we gave him a schedule. When he started going to daycare he developed even faster once challenged by the older kids and by 20 months was putting together compound sentences. Now, I’m not signing the kid up for Harvard Law School yet because I believe all kids go through a leveling out stage as toddlers where the fast ones slow down a bit and undeveloped ones catch up…you can’t go bragging that your kid is a genius because he can say “Max is going to play basketball for the Shockers, and Max will play for Coach,” when the next item on his agenda is to eat a crayon and poop his pants. Oh how the pendulum swings. No, you just marvel in the accomplishments and know that the “Terrible Two and Threes” are right around the corner.
Yesterday Max…sweet adorable cherub Max…bit another kid at the YMCA. I can remember when Max got bit at daycare and I can promise every parent out there this fact: At some point your kid will either be bit by or bite another kid. Its true. It will happen. Its is an unavoidable fact unless to shelter your child from human contact. Your kid will get rashes, you will get poop on your hands, you will yell in a grocery store, you will evacuate a restaurant due to a tantrum, and there will be biting. Welcome to parenthood. However, there is a supreme difference between being the parent of the kid that got bit and the parent of the kid that did the biting. When Max got bit we were…
- Proud that Max didn’t bite back
- Proud that Max didn’t bite first
- Concerned for his well-being
On the flip side when Max bit a kid we were…
- Embarrassed that Max bit
- Upset with Max for biting
- Mortified of what the other parent must think of us
A little different. To you and me it makes total sense, “Biting is no, no, no.” To Max it is another way of expressing himself and getting a reaction out of people as he tests the boundaries of those around him. Contrary to my carnal reaction to flip out on him it is best to stay calm and reinforce that biting is “no, no, no…” and that it hurts people. We do this with hitting, throwing, screaming, and now: Biting. All I can tell you is that when you are on one side or the other of the biting scenario…be like the mother at the YMCA whose kid got bitten by Max. She was indifferent…because her kid probably bit at one point and may bite again. Max probably will bite again and that is just what kids do. Still…its like having an angry little horse in the house.
Aside from the adventures in biting we are also hitting again and there is a plethora of screaming. If you scold Max he angrily slaps at you. Now do you scold for what he did wrong and hitting? Or just the thing he did wrong? Ugh. Its exhausting keeping up. You want to reward the good behavior and only scold when the bad behavior exceeds a limit otherwise life would just be one big timeout all day long right now…and that’s no fun. His two favorite things are to shout “NO!” back at you because he has heard this word a thousand times and knows it has power…and you have to take it…absorb it…let it fly right past you. It’s the old mentality from when we were kids and there were bullies. I personally got the snot beat out of me till I grew eight inches after 7th grade and started towering over my classmates. Until then I got teased every day, had books knocked out of my hand, and got pushed into a few lockers as well. I’d come home crying and my parents would tell me the best defense was just to ignore them…eventually I did…and when they realized they couldn’t get a rise out of me they left me alone. Then I grew eight inches and beat them up…but that’s not the point. The point is to brush it off like it doesn’t mean anything and then the words have no power. So Max yells “No!” and swipes a lethal (yet adorable) paw at me and I have to ignore the word and take away its power. That is one of the hardest things in the world. I want to yell back “NO! YOU CAN’T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT BECAUSE I’M DADA AND I MAKE THE RULES AND I’M BIGGER THAN YOU!!!” That would not work well, I would instantly feel like a crappy dad, I would be giving power to the word”no,” and I would be the bully…I would need the timeout. So we block those flailing arms, imitate his voice so he hears what he sounds like and say things like “I know you want to step on the kitty…” then calm him down and give him a timeout. I’ve adopted my friend’s Ari and Betsy’s rule of one minute for each year, so Max gets about a 1-2 minute timeout right now. After he is done we have a calm conversation, reinforce why the behavior was bad, he apologizes, and we end with a hug and a kiss. It’s actually quite nice.
Our latest word in boundary testing is “need.” Max “needs” everything. “I neeeeeed that! I neeeeeeeed that!!!” We have tried combating that with new words of positive power like “I want that please,” or “may I,” or imitating Kate, “How about that?” It seems to be working but I have a feeling we’re in for a year or so of needs. Hopefully the baby due in 41 days will be good at taking a punch as I’m not sure if Max needs a playmate or a sparring partner. Either way, things are definitely changing in our house and it has become much more difficult to do anything. Max is like a caged monkey and anytime we take him anywhere we risk unleashing the Hulk inside. He doesn’t want to be carried, he often won’t hold your hand anymore, and you better be on his agenda…cause if you are not? Tantrum ahoy!