Pride Goes Before Tiny Bite Marks

prideful parents, mom's downfall, don't take credit for your kids, my child bites,

I don’t take credit for my children’s many accomplishments. They are their own remarkable people.

As a new mother I didn’t have this quite figured out. Yes, I knew that babies arrive on this planet with all sorts of traits wired in. I knew it’s up to us to gently nurture them, shelter them from harm (including the damage cynicism can do), allow them to take on challenges, help them learn to trust themselves, and let learning unfold in delight.

But I had a few early years when I thought, probably with obnoxious smugness, that my wonderful parenting had something to do with how well my kids were turning out. They were very young and so was I.

My oldest, a boy, was thoughtful and clever. He liked to take my face between his little hands and call me every superlative he could think of like“dear, sweet, wonderful Mama. (Isn’t this positively swoonable?) He rescued insects from the sidewalk, telling them “go in peace little brother,” a line he picked up from one of his favorite picture books. When his father and I tried to talk over our little one’s head about issues we thought he shouldn’t hear, we used Shakespearean language to obscure our meaning. We had to stop, because our toddler began regularly using words like “doth” and “whence.”  What made things work fascinated this little boy, from the bones in our bodies to the engine in our cars, and he insisted on learning about them.

My next child, a daughter, was assertive and talented. She drew, danced, and sang made-up songs of such pure wonder that, I kid you not, birds clustered in trees near her. The force of personality in that tiny girl led us all to laugh at her improbable jokes and enter into her complicated realms of make-believe. Born into a home without pets, her drive to be close to animals was so intense that she kept trying to make worms her friends. Entirely due to her persistence we ended up with several pets by the time she was three.

Although our beautiful little children had medical problems, we had money problems, and other crises kept popping up I felt as if I lived in paradise each day. There’s something remarkable about seeing the world anew through the eyes of the planet’s most recent inhabitants. It’s like using an awe-shaped lens.

But I still had a lot to learn about parenting.

I recall being quietly horrified at a Le Leche League meeting when one toddler bit another. I thought about it for days, wondering what parenting might create such an impulsive child. All the parenting books I read, all the non-violence courses I taught, assured me there was a right way. Of course my comeuppance would arrive.

My third child was born soon after. This endearing, curious, and constantly cheerful little boy possessed relentless energy. Evidence? I’ve got evidence.

  • By the time he was 14 months old we had to twine rope around all the chairs, lashing them to the table between meals, otherwise this diapered chap would drag a chair across the room to climb on top of furniture in the few seconds it took me to fill a teakettle.
  • Before he could say more than a few words he’d learned to slide open our windows, unclip the safety latches on the screens, and toss the screens to the ground. 
  • He liked to grab the hand vacuum for experiments on his sister’s hair, houseplants, and other normally non-suckable items.
  • He watched with fascination as drips from his sippy cup fell into heat vents, the hamster cage, the pile of laundry I was folding.
  • He liked to take off all his clothes and climb on the windowsill facing the street, hooting like a giddy chimpanzee as he danced in naked glee.
  • We had no idea he could climb out of his crib till the evening he opened all the wrapped Christmas presents I had hidden in my room (keeping them safe from him) while we thought he was in bed. The look of complete joy on his face nearly made up for the hours of work it took me to rewrap.

I found myself making up new rules I never thought I’d utter, like:

“I know throwing is faster but we carry things down the stairs.”

We never run with straws up our noses.”

“Don’t poop in Daddy’s hat!”

He became a little more civilized by the time he was three, but not, as you might imagine, before he bit a few children.

Utterly besotted by the bright-eyed charm and endless curiosity of this dear little boy, I never suspected the labels doctors and schools so easily affix on non-conformist kids might be slapped on my child.  I never realized how much he would teach me about what real motivation and learning look like. And I never imagined how much he’d show me about what it means to pursue success on one’s own terms.

Today he is one accomplished young man, in part because he continues to see the world through an awe-shaped lens. And I am still learning from the four remarkable people who came to this world as my children.

21 thoughts on “Pride Goes Before Tiny Bite Marks

  1. We actually started keeping track of the things we never thought we’d say in our lives. I’m thinking of writing a book with all of them someday. Here are a couple of my favorites:
    “Please take the penguin out of your vagina.”
    “Can you please use a calmer voice when talking to the vampire?”
    “Please don’t hatch the basketball right now, it’s time for bed.”
    “Hey! That’s not very respectful to the wall!”

    I went through a similar humbling experience. I am so glad I did! I am grateful for my experiences that have taught me different perspectives!


      • Haha! Thanks! There are soooo many of them! Now when we say something weird in our house, we look at each other and say “That needs to go on the list” even the kids say it, ha!


        • At my house, even the grocery list is weird. I have a list hanging on the side of the fridge where everyone is supposed to write things down as they use them up. Mostly my husband is the creative list item namer. Here are some listed items. “Bucket grease” is diaper salve. “Beak spray” is nasal decongestant. “Ass dust” is baby powder. “Burrito skins” means tortillas.


  2. One of my three kids was also like that. He was WONDERFUL, but required constant vigilance, and it was humiliating to have other parents in my homeschool group carefully suggest that we arrange for a parenting expert come give a discipline/behavior workshop, or give me suggestions that might work for their kids but certainly not my son (such as coloring books to keep him occupied).

    Thank goodness my other children were much easier, or else I really might have thought it was my fault. My instincts told me that most of the boisterous behavior was just his personality, and my mother-in-law said his dad was exactly the same way, so I just kept supporting him and hoping for the best – and it worked! He’s almost 21 now, and the traits that used to seem a problem are now some of his best assets. Loud voice > > > sing on stage without a microphone; Lots of energy > > > Tango, martial arts, & personal training; Wild Imagination > > > very funny and entertaining. It really is fascinating to see how kids mature and grow into themselves!


    • I had some success with keeping a “bite toy” close at hand. Any time the kid bit, I’d tell him it was okay to bite toys but not people. It got hugely better once he could express himself well verbally. I suspect biting has a lot to do with frustration when they feel so much but don’t have words for it.


  3. You give me hope. I think I have your son’s 23 month old clone. My older child is a very sweet and gentle little girl. My aggressive-to-the-max-but-very-loving little boy is QUITE the culture shock! Last week i caught him dangling half his body (naked) out the kitchen window he’d knocked the screen out of, by pushing a chair to the counter and standing in the sink. Today I caught him after he had opened the gate to the backyard, escaped, and then closed it again before gleefully chortling as he ran towards the street. Bit more civilized by three? Thank goodness I only have to wait another year!


  4. I recently said completely calmly to my son. “The window can’t handle the impact of that tennis ball.” And then I almost fell over laughing, wondering what had happened to me.
    This post is beautiful – celebrating the charms of each unique child in your house.


  5. Your two elder children made me go “Awwww so sweeeeet!” and then I started reading about your third child and I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean it must have been really hard to bring him up but I am in love with him 😀 I especially like the new rules you had to make for him!


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