the monster’s mom

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?

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17 Comments

Filed under Baby Genius, parenting

17 responses to “the monster’s mom

  1. Pulling hair is such a tough one! We try encouraging gentle hair play during soft moments. I’d try having one of you gently stroke the other’s hair, modeling it for him. It takes practice, but playing with hair is SO tempting!
    And, hey, ignore the stupid moms. Sometimes people over react just to make themselves feel more effective. It doesn’t make you a bad mom!

  2. K

    We have a biter, so I feel your pain. He doesn’t do it often – I can count the incidents on one hand in the 18 months he’s been in daycare – but oh do I hate getting those reports from school. The thing is, he’s been the recipient of bites just as many times, so I know it’s not just him. I also know first-hand how hard we’ve worked to discourage it at home (because he bites us much more frequently than he does other kids) with so little return, and that “insider knowledge” allows me to see it as an issue of development rather than a reflection on parenting in other people’s children as well. I am familiar with the comments you’re talking about, though. I think that when it is someone else’s child and not your own, it’s harder to trust that the behavior has nothing to do with parenting or discipline or any other thing within the parent’s (or child’s) control. The reality is that some kids bite, some hit, some push or pull hair, and some never do any of those things. We as parents can only do exactly what you did – knowing what our children may do and watching them closely to stop the behavior the moment it starts – but when your kid is labeled as a bad seed because of natural toddler behavior, it is a tough pill to swallow. I wish I had some behavior mod tips for you, but all I can say is to keep up the NOs and the explanations and the redirects because eventually, they mature to an age where they can actually understand them. Elliot hasn’t had an incident in months (knock on wood) and we haven’t done anything differently, it’s just that he’s reached a point where he is developmentally capable of knowing what is and isn’t okay and regulating his behavior accordingly.

    You’re not alone, and I’m sorry the mean mommies ruined your outing with BG.

  3. c storm

    I laughed and cried while reading this post. I was a young, punk, heavy, dark Mom in an uptight NY suburb when my eldest, in a fit of pique, threw sand in the eyes of multiple children. She also bit two kids during the ensuing chaos. I was told not to come back. (Said daughter began college at fourteen,and is a delightful kid: bright, sweet, effective, dear, and a Quaker.)

    In five years this will be a blip on the radar screen in your rear view mirror and you will laugh about it. Right now it’s immediate and excruciating. But it will pass. I know so many kids. They are, and proceed to grow into, fine people. Good people. Pacifists, some of ’em.

    Getting a non-parent perspective on the issue of toddler aggression, and human aggression, helped me both understand and squelch her aggression. I read Natalie Angier’s chapter in “Intimate Geography of a Woman,” and I devoured Sarah Blaffer Hyrdy’s “Mother Nature.”

    We’re rearing little humans, here, and aggression happens in, and to, everyone.

    I’m stepping off my soapbox and shutting up, now.

  4. Jen

    Damnit I wish we lived closer! BG and Chunk could be besties and we would never judge! Why are some people so judgemental and entitled! When I posed about chunk biting one comment actually made me cry (!) even though the majority told me what I knew; this behavior for boys this age is perfectly normal and a phase. Email or fb me if you need to talk more. You are both amazing parents and BG is a great kid.

  5. I don’t have kids, but just reading this was infuriating. I cannot believe how ridiculous parents can be. Sounds like that little girl is well on her way to being coddled, overprotected, and highly over-praised. She’ll probably be an insecure egomaniac and eventually, an alcoholic. Or maybe not. But I just know that type of parenting is crap.

    I’m sorry you went through that. You didn’t deserve that, BG didn’t deserve that, and none of that situation was something to feel ashamed of. But I also have a feeling I probably would have burst into tears, too.

    Hang in there. You and your kid are awesome!

  6. jay

    For goodness sake; that woman must live in a constant state of Stress and Anxiety. I pity her child being wrapped in fake cotton wool 😦

    I totally would have cried too. Your son is clearly LOVELY.

  7. Your kid is normal. Her kid probably is too (thus far at least). It’s her that’s weird and totally overdramatic! She really needs to get a grip. I’m sorry she made you feel rubbish, but really, you have no need to feel bad, apart from being upset that she was so ridiculous and rude.

    Honestly, this reminds me of my experience as a dog owner. When I first got my pup, I lived near a big park communal surrounded by lots of housing. When my pup was pushy or loud or annoyed any of the other dogs using the park, the owners would smile indulgently and say, “Let them sort it out for themselves. He’s got to learn how to fit in.” Then we moved to the posh part of town and started using the smart park nearby. All the dog owners there rushed to pick up or leash their precious pedigree pups the moment they saw our mutt coming. An over eager approach, or a bark to come and play was all it took to set them off swaering and cursing me to “Get that bloody animal under control. Vicious think!” Same dog. Different people.

  8. ok, this is about to be a little UN-pc (but oh well!)

    I would have had to bite my tongue in front of those lazy mothers and try my best NOT to say something along the lines of “Yes, he DID get upset, totally expected as he is a BABY. Perhaps if your 2.5 year old had any idea how to share, she would realize it would not be the end of the world to let a baby play with her blocks. Probably not the easiest for her to learn though, since her mommy is so busy trying to outdo all the other library mommies”.

    I am SO SORRY you were made to feel this way. BG’s response was totally typical and, in the absence of words, how do these moms expect him to respond to being shrieked at with “NO! NO!” repeatedly by someone who had previously seen him playing with the blocks!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am angry for you!

    Hang in there. You are a wonderful parent and your son is in no ways a monster!!! Big hugs 🙂

  9. Ah, yes. With our Thing One, we have gone through many situations like this, and even though I don’t remember any specific examples anymore, I can still clearly recall the feeling of being the parent of the “bad” child, feeling judged on my parenting and feeling my child be judged. Funny how the feelings stick around long after the actual situation has faded away…

    My only advice is to not let it get you down (as much as possible). Parents like that maybe feel the need to prove something, but it doesn’t mean you should feel horrible about yourself or your parenting or BG. His behavior is normal, he’s just a little boy learning how to interact socially, and any parent worth their salt should understand that.

    Keep up the great parenting!
    Ayslinn

  10. Ugh! I am so sorry that you have to endure such behavior from adults! I mean really, get a grip! I worry about this same scenario as we live in a similar type of area (one where the parents’ coddle and give their children an inflated sense of entitlement.) I dread when our baby reaches toddler hood and starts to encounter other children in our area.

  11. A.

    You are NOT the mother of the child who hurts other children. This is so age-appropriate. You handled it in a completely appropriate way…it’s those other monster moms who overreacted. I’m so sorry they made you feel like crap. XOXO

  12. My mouth dropped when I read that the mother of the 2.5 yr old, who wasn’t upset, started coddling her. I agree with Lucy in that the mother is probably going to end up ruining that girl by being severely overprotective. You obviously stepped right in and took control like a good parent.

    I know that some eyes might be on the Vermillion household when referring to the ‘victims’, but I want to say that as soon as I knew that the mom of the child who bit Miles repeatedly really cared and was working with her child and the daycare about it, I sympathized with her and I know…I KNOW it’s not the parents’ fault. This is absolutely normal toddler behavior, and there’s as much chance that one’s child will be a biter or hair-puller or whatever as he or she won’t be one. Coin flip.

    We’ve actually been in situations where children have pushed or hit Miles, and if the parent of the other child steps in, and Miles is not upset, we just take a back seat and chill. There is no need to turn it into a bigger situation than it needs to be. That mom you dealt with was in the wrong and I’m sorry she made you cry. There will always be people like that in the world, but harder still to grow a thicker skin against them.

    BG will grow out of this behavior and you won’t be the loner parents, promise.

  13. cousin

    It’s the moms & not BG.
    Bad town for good people. He’s a 17 month old boy and I’ve never met one that was “gentle.” HA that’s what makes them 17 month old boys 🙂

  14. I’ll just share a little story. Last week we picked up little j from day care and they told us that he shoved another child. Ugh. We felt terrible. Two days later he scratched another kid’s face, bad. He got sent to the director’s office. We felt even worse. When we got home I made little j draw an “I’m sorry picture” for his friend and we brought it to school the next day. The day after we got a card from the kid’s mom. She wrote that she totally understands and that a couple of months ago her son was the class biter. She wrote that we shouldn’t worry to much and that kids have to learn how to manage heir feelings. It was so validating and sweet. So not all moms are like the ones you interacted with. I’m sorry that happened to you.

  15. He’s just being a toddler. In Holland’s day care class the kids hit each other one minute and hug the next. It’s totally the age. Definitely redirect and talk to him about why we don’t do that but I’m sure that little girl has pulled someone’s hair at some point too!

  16. Jodi

    I was really upset for T when she told me of this incident, but upon further reflection, my response was more along the lines of “A” above: the little girl was clearly bullying my son, and he grabbed her hair. No harm done. I think I would have gotten sarcastic with this mom, though. I mean–really? the girl didn’t have a head wound, didn’t require stitches or emergency care. Her mom’s response was so totally over-the-top as to be comical. In retrospect, it’s kind of funny and a nice example of what not to do. Let’s all just chill out a bit!

  17. poppycat

    I honesty have no idea what to do here but I can’t wait to read the comments and see what great advice I can file away in my brain to pull out when my kids start doing this.

    Good luck and I’m sorry those women were so horrible to you. Bitches.

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