On Tuesday, I took my son to storytime at the library. We haven’t been in awhile, and since J has started teaching again, we’ve got long mornings to fill with activities. We’re also dealing with transitioning to one nap still, so BG was tired when it came time to go to storytime, but we made it a little late, and as usual, he enjoyed the songs and seeing all of the kids.
I don’t know if I’ve talked much about this storytime, though. It’s in our present town where there are lots of a certain type of mom. For them, storytime is an opportunity to put their babies/toddlers in their boutique baby wear, to show off their own latest $500 jeans, and to chat loudly while their kids run wildly around the storytime room (or rest in their identical Bjorns).
BG was excited to go toddle around the library, and I was glad to have the opportunity to let him do so. The kids’ area in our library is nice and big, complete with big soft blocks to play with. I hate the things (how can they sanitize these?), but BG loves them. When we made our way to the kids’ area, BG spotted a little girl on the floor, and immediately walked over to her and hugged her. He didn’t know her, and she looked up at him like, “Hey little Dude! You move a little fast for me!” Her dad, fortunately, did not find my son threatening, and he even laughed at his smooth moves.
We continued our toddling, and BG interacted with another little boy his age playing with the blocks. BG, tidy as ever, insisted on helping the boy put them away (little boy wasn’t interested in this). I quickly identified with the mom because she kept telling her son to be gentle. She was nervous about his erratic behavior and kept apologizing to me saying, “We’re working on being gentle.” I reassured her that we had the same issues, that it was hard for them to learn gentleness when they’re just so excited about things. It was a nice encounter, and I wish I would have spoken with her longer because she wasn’t one of the traditional moms there. Unfortunately, BG took off, and I had to chase him, so our conversation didn’t go any further.
A few minutes later, we made our way back to the kids’ area and those dreaded blocks. By now, a little girl–probably around two and a half–was playing with them and making stacks. As far as she was concerned, the blocks were hers, so when BG came and took one, she yelled at him, “No, Baby!” He just saw that they weren’t in their bin, and he wanted to put them away, but each time he grabbed one, this little girl told him, “No!” and then tried to grab them from him. I kept trying to redirect him, but he was fixated, and in a split second, BG was grabbing for the little girl’s hair. He hadn’t yet managed to pull before I released his hands and pulled him out of the way. The little girl was fine, although she was annoyed that he had gotten into her space. Still, there were no tears, no sounds of protest, no sad or hurt face on her part. She was fine and about to busy herself with her blocks again. Honestly. I was telling BG that we don’t grab hair when the little girl’s mother, who was ten feet away or so chatting with her friend overheard me, ran over, picked up her daughter, sat down, and started rocking her and glaring at me, as she stroked her daughter’s head. I told her, “He grabbed her hair, but he didn’t pull. I was sitting here. She’s okay. Sorry about that, though!” She glared and glared at me, then looked at BG as though he were some rabid dog who attacked her child, and curled herself around her daughter (who again was fine, not crying, not whining–probably just feeling confused at her mother’s unusual attention), and rocked and rocked. Her friend also swooped in, and as she did, I picked up BG and told him we had to leave. The friend, who was bedecked in her own ridiculously expensive attire, gave me that fake grin that these women give, and out of her mouth dripping with venom came the words, “It’s okay. We understand.” But as I walked away, they were sitting there, “comforting” the child who was still fine and struggling to get back to her blocks, whispering to each other, and glaring at me and BG.
Oh this sucked. I got BG into his stroller, and walked out of the library as quickly as I could. I put on my sunglasses, made my way onto the sidewalk, and I burst into tears. I cried all the way home. I cried when my wife called to check in on us. Suddenly, I have become the mom of the monster child who hurts other children.
And yet, my son is the biggest lovebug ever, as evidenced by his need to hug the little girl he saw. He generally attempts to hug all new children he sees because he is so very affectionate. Unfortunately, he is also very tactile, and he has had this tendency to either grab or pull hair for a long time. Typically, my wife and I are his victims, and we have tried so many strategies to get him to stop. We have such a peaceful household, and we never play with hair pulling or biting either. We have tried various means of reprimanding, time-outs, separation, and more, but the fact remains that he is an id-driven 17-month-old who doesn’t quite understand that these actions hurt people and that this is something he should care about enough to discontinue his actions.
I just have this fear, especially after reading and hearing other people talk about their opinions of the kids who bite/pull hair and the parents of those kids that we’re going to end up loner parents, that even in our new community, we’ll never find people who want to be a part of our lives because our kid will have a reputation and because somehow that reflects on our parenting or our values or who we are. Like somehow we are biters and hair-pullers, and we’re just breeding more. I wish there was more support in our culture between parents, that instead of blaming and competing with each other, we would work together to find solutions for this very normal behavior. Because in all of my years around kids, I have learned that this is in the range of normal, that most children do indeed outgrow it, and that it just takes time and patience and persistence on everyone’s part.
So what would you do in a situation like this (beyond apologizing)? If you have a child who pulls hair, how do you work with that child to discourage the behavior?