It's happened again: another chomp-down on my daughter. I knew something was up when I went to pick her up at preschool and was immediately swarmed by concerned teachers. I also received an official "ouch report," which documented the incident with a series of check-box choices.By the time I got to my daughter, who was sitting at a table finishing her snack, I'd been schooled in what to do and say. "Nothing," said one teacher. "Let her bring it up if she wants. It's better to make her feel comfortable here again. You can talk about it once you get home and she feels totally safe."
Of course, I didn't listen. As soon as I spotted the big red welt on her arm I broke. "What happened, honey?" I asked and she pulled her arm away, ashamed. It was the first time I've ever seen her be embarrassed (this is a girl who strips off her clothes at any occasion and I've had to bribe not to dance in places where it might be deemed inappropriate, like say, a funeral). It broke my heart that she should discover shame, especially when she was the victim, not the perpetrator, of the problem.I realized, for about the hundredth time, that her teachers know way more than I do. I kept my mouth shut about the bite and helped her collect her things. We invited a friend of hers over to play and the rest of the afternoon was all fun-and-games, none of which were blood sports, thankfully. I wanted to bite that kid back so badly. I understand why the teachers never tell you who the biter is-that delinquent needs protection. As soon as we were alone, she brought it up, showing me her arm and relaying the entire crime. She'd gone to get a ladybug costume from the dress-up stand when the perpetrator (she told me who), misunderstanding the school's rules, told her she couldn't. He then tried to take the costume away. She would not relent (don't get between my girl and her choice of fashion), and pulling-and-pushing ensued. When he realized she wasn't backing down, the violence escalated to him biting her arm so that she'd drop the costume. Putting my feelings aside about the little vampire who bit my baby has been crucial to our efforts at damage control. First, we don't want her to feel ashamed or afraid (she seems fine and still loves school). Secondly, we don't want her to see biting as an option when other means of communication break down. "Use your words," is the mantra around here, and most of the time, it works. But still, for three-year-olds and adults alike, physicalizing our feelings and frustrations can feel good. So we make critical distinctions: You can hit a pillow when you feel mad; you can't hit a person. Feel like biting? Get an apple. And leave my little girl out of it, you preschool punks. Soothe the bitten and the biters-and the punks-with a sweet lullaby to bring things down to nap level.