Monday, November 16, 2015

A Visit to the Principal's Office

Well, it's happened. We were called to the principal's office at daycare. There's actually no principal. So, the director? Or head of the early toddler room? A similarly weighty title. According to Dr. Sears and the gentler sources on the internet, I'm not supposed to call Henry a "biter." So I won't. Instead, I'll refer to him as a child who bites "excessively" - the apt word used by the daycare director. In the adult world, any biting at all is considered excessive. In the world of 19-month-olds, a bite or two whether given or received is par for the course. A handful of attempts per day and a few lucky strikes a week is excessive. I'd agree. Last Monday afternoon, I received an email asking me and J to come to daycare to meet with the director and two main caregivers to discuss Henry's cannibalistic tendencies. Given that he's flaunted his taste for toddler flesh for several months now, I figured that he had finally up and murdered a classmate. Thankfully not the case. Instead, the director decided it was time to work with us to make sure we had a unified front against biting both at home and at school. Fair enough and, as J said, about time.

The meeting was, despite Henry's attempts to divert our attention, very productive. The daycare workers have started a log of attempted and actual bites. They note what was happening, who he was playing with, his mood, energy, etc. It turns out that Henry bites or tries to bite more in the morning when the energy in the room is higher, more so in larger groups, and typically over a dispute over a toy. He is - and this is not an excuse, just a contributing factor in my mind - the littlest guy in his class. Not the youngest, just the littlest. He's not terribly tall and he's super skinny. While other kids physically maneuver their way out of sharing situations, Henry has found that his teeth are far more effective than his hands. His language is catching up but just not fast enough for his needs. Confrontation and frustration has become synonymous with biting for him. After this meeting, we are so much more aware of this at home. When he is particularly frustrated with a situation, he is calmed by chomping down on something. We've started offering him chewy objects when he gets especially worked up. It's only been a week since our meeting so no real results yet though I think everyone feels more in control of the situation now that we're closely monitoring the lead-in to biting episodes and not just lamenting during the aftermath. I should note that daycare has always been proactive in preventing biting but is getting consistently more effective.

Their advice to us is to watch out for any biting episodes at home and share the circumstances with them. Frustration is the driving factor at home though its not a huge issue since we don't share our apartment with multiple toddlers. The director encouraged us to enroll him in a park district class for toddlers, specifically something physical that involves taking direction and cooperating with other kids. She suggested soccer. 19 months seems a preposterous age to begin soccer or any other competitive sport but I can appreciate the rationale behind it.

Does anyone else have this issue? I know it's common but apparently the mothers of biters, I mean, "mothers of children who eat friends" (MOCWEF) don't flaunt their beloveds' charming habit. As for the suggestion that I bite back, I'm sure that worked that one time in the '70s on that one kid who bit that one time but I'm not interested in making a regular meal of my habitual biter.

It's frustrating because (well, for many reasons) the biting seems so incongruous with Henry's personality. He's a lover, not a fighter. Henry is a passive little soul, unfailingly affectionate with adults, children and animals, plays imaginatively both by himself and with others. He's very verbal, telling us constantly about fishies, his friends at school, his dogs and his family. I can't reconcile the behavior with the boy that kisses me and snuggles in my arms every night and asks me to sing to him. It's sad to watch him get frustrated to the point of biting and sad to hear him say, "Henry no bite. I sorry." And then I bang my head against the wall when he does it again the next day. Henry is still delighted to be dropped off at daycare every weekday and the kids and caregivers seem equally happy to see him. I know he won't be biting in high school. It's just my current mom-sigh.

On the uterine front, I had my 24-week follow up ultrasound last week. It was really reassuring. I still have complete placenta previa. Placenta accreta looks unlikely but cannot be ruled out. It's simply something that the doctors will be very aware of when I deliver, whether via c-section or vaginally. I was very relieved to find out that, should a c-section be necessary, I would be induced at 38-39 weeks and not 34 weeks as is typical for confirmed cases of placenta accreta. The idea of delivering a purposely premature baby directly into the NICU while away from my perfect, healthy (albeit bitey) child was terrifying to me. In that scenario, I felt like I couldn't take care of Henry, I couldn't take care of my new baby girl, and I knew that I would need someone to take care of me following a cesarian-hysterectomy. Doable with the support of J and my family, but completely overwhelming to ponder. Because of the lingering concern about accreta, I will continue to have ultrasounds every 4 weeks. I love getting to peek in on my lovely, insanely active girl and can't say that I'm particularly upset about this intervention. The news of an at-term delivery has allowed me to let myself fall in love with the idea of my daughter. She is becoming more and more real as she kicks and squirms inside of me. She's big enough now that I'm starting to feel the hard lumps of her head and butt or the swish of a whole limb when she moves in specific ways. J and I laugh at what a crazy monkey we think she might be.


  1. Man, that is a tough one! I mean, it's good to hear that the daycare is handling it very professionally and doesn't sound like they're laying blame and guilt trips. I think this is one of those situations (and I've been having these come up lately too) where it will be so much easier when we can talk to and reason with our children, right? I hate to want to "rush along" to the next stage, but the language barrier between me and Miss Molly is often difficult/frustrating. I think if you and Henry could have a heart to heart maybe you could figure out the issue that's causing him to act out. It sucks. Sorry to have no useful advice, just passing along a little empathy.

    Good news all around on baby girl. 24 weeks already? I know you said it's dragging but I feel like it's flying.

    1. Reason is exactly the tool I'd like to use with Henry and yet he's really not there yet. I'd like to use it to rationally discuss biting or why I won't let him play with Sharpie markers (because I'm mean).
      I'll gladly take empathy as the vast interwebs have offered little more.

      You're right, time is passing with the whole pregnancy thing. Just waiting - very patiently - for your update!

  2. I'm sorry to hear about the biting. You are correct- he won't be doing this in high school and it is just a phase. A sh*tty phase.

    Pregnancy sounds like it is going better now that you probably don't have accreta.