This is not an emergency, everything is ok, but….
By the third kid, you tend to become a bit desensitized to the various alerts and phone calls from teachers, school nurses, and administrators. Did I forget to send lunch (again)? Does his tummy hurt during gym class (again)? Is he the last kid without a permission slip for the school trip (again)? But when toddlers attack, parents tend to go into fight or flight mode. And I am not immune.
You can imagine my surprise when I intermittently checked my personal email at work today, and saw a message from a nursery school mom I am not close with simply titled “Lark”. Upon opening it, the note was quick and to the point.
“The teachers told me Caroline bit Lark today. I simply don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry and I hope she is ok”.
It took a minute for me to sink my teeth (inappropriate and unfunny pun) into what she had written. My initial impulse was to call the school and go absolutely ballistic that this was the first I had heard about it. I was totally unprepared for this news, and why hadn’t my babysitter, the teacher, the principal, the friggin police for goodness sake let me know?
Once cooler heads (i.e. my husband) prevailed, I checked my voicemail and I did in fact have a message from the teacher telling me what had happened. Lark was ok, she cried for a second, there were no marks or skin broken. The child wanted her attention. The child doesn’t have many words. The child was frustrated.
My anger quickly faded to concern, and not concern for my own accosted daughter. I was suddenly empathetic for the mother who had to write me that email. The woman who was likely similarly horrified herself when she heard the news. The woman who is likely struggling with a child who is behind in her milestones and acting out probably more often than this one occasion. I was worried for this little girl who was simply trying to connect with my lively, chatty, and very (sorry Sheryl Sandberg!!) bossy kid, and didn’t know how else to get her to focus on the quiet younger classmate.
It’s never fun to be the bitten, but as someone who has never been there, I imagine it’s not fun to the parent of the biter either. Don’t get me wrong this is NOT an acceptable behavior in any circumstance, but neither is it acceptable to pretend it didn’t happen.
In a world where our children are coddled through college, are told they can do no wrong, the easy thing to do is be mortified in silence, hope the teacher didn’t name names as per policy, and pray the parent doesn’t figure it out (or the verbal child tattle). Like I said, this is my third child. We’ve been through this before. This is the way it’s typically gone, which leaves us muttering under our breath about the intentions of the violator, and the gall of so and so to not even reach out and explain on their child’s behalf.
But this mom took the moral, yet embarrassing, high road. She owned up, she expressed remorse. She said I’m sorry. And to her, I say thank you. Thank you for admitting it isn’t only my kids who aren’t perfect. Thank you for thinking about how the working mom who never does drop off nor pick up nor PTA meetings feels when yet another thing happens that is out of her control. Thank you for giving me faith that not all parents are clueless or in denial or insensitive or out of touch with reality.
Lark forgives you Caroline. In fact, I hope you two will be good friends one day because this biting thing? It won’t last forever. And once you work through some of your delays and your frustrations subside, I bet you’ll be one of the nicest girls out there. Because your mom is a great role model, and she’s teaching you it’s not weak to admit when you’re wrong and apologize. Next time I see your teeth, Lark and I both hope it’s in a big wide wondrous smile.