Important Information on Parenting (Alternatively Titled: My Kid Bit Another Kid ‘Cause His Arm Was in the Way)

I got a note from school last night. It arrived in the hands of a sheepish child and read: “Your child bit the arm of another student because his arm was in your child’s way” which made me sad for the kid who was bitten, the teeniest, tiniest bit glarey at the kid who did the biting, and deeply grateful there wasn’t a brick wall in my kid’s way because we seriously cannot afford to fix broken teeth right now.

Now, please understand, that note was not necessarily surprising, and not just because that kid’s arm was in my kid’s wayand what could my kid have done, really? Ask him politely to move it? I think not.

No; that note was not surprising for several additional reasons, some of which are as follows:

  1. I’ve previously received notes from school like this one: “Your child was excused from class today and sat in the principal’s office for head butting a child who cut the line.”
  2. And like this one: “Your child received a recess detention today for flicking a child between the eyes because he took a colored pencil out of turn.”
  3. And like this one: “Your kid punched another kid in the nuts.”

That last one might have had certain extenuating circumstances, but listen up anyway, kids. Listen, because this is Important Information: Head-Butting, Forehead-Flicking, Nut-Punching and Arm-Biting are frowned-upon activities at school. Also, other places. Frowned-upon, children. As in, UNfavorable. Which I’m noting because that’s clearly not obvious to certain Woolsey Children.

The other reason I was unsurprised by the note that came home was the fact that I’d received an email immediately following the incident. It read like this:

Good morning,

I had a disciplinary conversation with your child this morning and wanted you to be aware. Upon entering the science classroom today, another student had his arm in your child’s way. Your child bit him.

I let your child know I would be writing a Major Incident Report to document the incident. This will come home today. Please sign the form and have the child return it to the office.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments regarding the incident.

Sincerely,
Ms. Assistant Principal

Mm hm. Got that message while I was at work. POP! Up it came in my inbox, a nice little treat like all the generous offers I receive for penis enlargement.

Yep. I got that message while I was at work, and I took Immediate Action because Immediate Action is what Good Parents take. Yes I did; I took Immediate Action where Immediate Action = Face Palming, Head Shaking, and Texting My Husband lots of “OH DEAR LORDs” and “FOR THE LOVEs.”

After I finished my Immediate Actions, though, I wrote back. Particularly because the Assistant Principal had so kindly noted I could let her know if I had any questions or comments. ANY questions or comments, she said, though she did specify “regarding the incident” which was helpful because I have loads and loads of questions and comments about Things in General — like why in the world God put our Breathing Hole right next to the Swallowing Hole because, honestly, that seems like fairly obvious Design Flaw ripe for problems, not to mention other Adjacent Hole issues, if you will — and so her instructions helped me narrow my questions and comments to Just This One Thing.

Thanks, Ms. Assistant Principal, I wrote back, for letting us know and for the opportunity to let you know if we have any questions or comments regarding the incident.

We do.

Here they are, in order of importance.

Questions:

1. What the heck?
2. What the ACTUAL heck?
3. An arm is in your way, so your solution is to BITE IT, Child? WHO IS RAISING YOU? And why aren’t they doing a better job??
4. Do you think this incident will hinder my child’s ultimate career goal which is to become a chicken farmer? Please reply with Yes, No or Maybe and also your reason for that assessment. Unless you don’t have time to send the assessment because you spend your day dealing with biters, in which case I’ll give you a pass.
5. Do you feel that my child has sufficiently made amends? Because I am happy to take away All the Screen Time and turn it into Make Cookies for the Kid You Bit Time. Does he have food allergies? If not, do you think he likes chocolate chips? We believe when a child is injured it’s important to reinforce the idea that food makes you feel better; this way we can keep America obese by eating our feelings. Chocolate chips taste way, WAY better than feelings. And I’m serious about the baking. Nothing says “I’m sorry” like “My mom made me give up Animal Jam so I could make you these stupid, stupid cookies.” For reals.
6. Also, what the heck? 

Comments:

1. This is a school email and I don’t know you, so I used “heck” in the questions above even though that was not the word in my brain. I’ve done this to demonstrate that someone in our family has restraint and, in a twist literally NO ONE saw coming, that restrained person is ME. I hate to throw my child under the bus here, but I sort of feel like this is a personal win. I mean, SEMI-PUBLIC CREDIT FOR RESTRAINT, right?? WOOHOO!
2. Out of our five kids, one has apparently turned out to be a biter. I just feel like you should know that’s an 80% success rate on the Non-Biting Scale of Good Parenting, which is a B.
3. OK, fine; it’s a B-.
4. Oh dear, dear sweet child. God bless you. But, FOR THE LOVE. Seriously. For the love.

Sincerely,
Beth Woolsey

P.S. Thank you for the work you do with our kids. All you teachers/principals/counselors deserve medals. Medals, I tell you. MEDALS ALL AROUND.

OK, parents, now it’s your turn to listen. Listen, because this is Important Information: KIDS. Kids, you guys. Kids are NUTJOBS. Every last one. Nutjobs, I tell you. Just like grown-ups, except fun sized. Miniature humans, all divine and devastating and full of magic and madness. Sweet precious angels and darling cherubs with occasional red, glowing eyes and heads that spin on their shoulders. Kissy and snuggly and then — BAM! — bitey, but for good reasons, like there were arms in their way.

KIDS. Kids, you guys. They are ANNOYING, and endearing, but mostly ANNOYING because they are made from imperfection like all of us, and strangely perfect, and they make just AWFUL choices sometimes until they make AWESOME choices after which they make AWFUL and AWESOME choices again in rapid succession.

I don’t know what you to tell you about this whole Child Rearing Scam, friends. I don’t know what to say except this — we are not raising children as though we’re the raisers and they’re the raisees; it doesn’t work that way. We are raising each other. We are all in this boat together, raising each other along the way — kids and parents, humans all — lifting each other like the tide, as consistent and relentless, as high and as low, responding to the pull of the moon which we can’t easily explain. Am I raising them? Of course I am, and I’m doing it well and ruining it all entirely. And they’re raising me. Undoubtedly and surely. They’re raising me, too. And I suspect that Raising Each Other Well means trying to row together, somehow, against and with the tide, and getting tangled in the ropes, and missing the instructions, and falling overboard, and being rescued by each other over and over so we can try to row together again, which is grace.

Being rescued over and over again, to try again, which is grace.

So if you’re spending the evening a little bit huffy at your AWFUL and AWESOME, ANNOYING humans; if you’re spending the day helping your DIVINE DISASTERS bake cookies for the humans they dented with their teeth; if they’re sweet and darling and their eyes are glowing just a touch red while their heads start to spin, and yours, too; and if you’re rising and falling in the boat not sure of your progress, I just want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not alone.

And I’m sending grace.

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Next Post
Previous Post

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
21 comments
  1. Am I the only one wondering about the principal’s reply? Please, please, please tell me I’m not!

  2. My oldest daughter bit some other kid once. She was preschool age. I parented this by taking her arm in both my hands and chompind down on her arm. Then I said, don’t ever bite anyone ever again. And she never did.

    But, yeah, I also had that What the Heck? response, but with a stronger flavor. Kids. I now have grown kids and grandkids. And dogs. I find that dogs biting doesn’t disturb me, because I can understand dogs. Because, dogs.

  3. Thanks for the grace. It’s been a head-spinning day. OK, three days. All because MOM had the NERVE to be in BED for half a day because her fever was so high she could barely stand up straight, and so Nana and Dada (who we see ALL the freakin time) were *gasp* here at DINNER instead of MIDDAY! Oh noes! Our ROUTINE!

    All I’ve got is what I dashed off after our last Major Meltdown (because we had the gall to have a Family Holiday). It obviously needs work but I don’t have brain cells or time.

    Stimming, and screaming, and loud toddler meltdowns,
    Throwing myself on the floor ’cause it’s bathtime,
    Diapers and drooling and all-out war zones,
    These are a few of my Reeeeegressive Things…

    When the child bites, when the NOOO! sings,
    When I’m feeling AGGGHHHHH!
    I simply remember my Regressive Things,
    And then I still feeeeeeeeel as bad!

    Waving in the dark,
    Sarah

  4. Many moons ago I bit my sister. She had the gall to try to come into MY fort after all. I haven’t bitten anyone since. Thank goodness! Now I have 2 boys who have more than made up for all my childhood naughtiness between the two of them. Neither were biters, but I did have a thrower of hard objects. against walls.

  5. Adjacent hole issues, LOL. (I HATE when that happens!)

    Anyway, I’m not surprised at all that the child in question is a male child. My 13 year old male child who had basketball practice last night left his soccer jacket (embroidered with his last name, thank God) in the bleachers where I happened to be sitting reading whilst the boys practiced, since going home is a waste of time in this case. When we left, I grabbed my book, my phone, my purse and my glasses. He had his water bottle. This morning when he looked for said jacket and realized he left it last night, told me that it was MY FAULT. Why didn’t I get it?
    This is only the most recent experience in my brain.

  6. Oh honey… I remember those days. My kids weren’t biters but boy they were handy…
    Babygirl almost got kicked out of Sunday School for shoving another little girl (hard!!) into a wall and knocking her down. Later she punched a boy who was teasing her (autistic) friend, though I gave her a semi-pass on that one honestly.

    My son… My son went through a period of such violent temper tantrums we seriously (and extremely briefly) considered residential treatment. Thank the good Lord above for competent mental health providers and for the medications which treat his depression and anxiety.

    At 18 and 15, they are now normal (as defined within the parameters of adolescence at least) teens. No hitting. No 4-hour long screeching, kicking, destructive temper fits. No pushing others down.

    They are also two of the most empathetic and loving kids I’ve ever known.

    I think that some kids just have great big emotions, and they need our help learning how to control, corrall, and express those emotions appropriately. I’ve always told my two, you can’t help what you feel, but you can always decide how you’ll express what you feel. It’s important to make good decisions.

    Good luck, Mama. As I’ve never met an adult “biter” (at least considering normal development,) I’m fairly certain they’ll outgrow the tendency. 😉

  7. I adore the change in tone between the VP’s note and yours. Regarding the hole placement issue, my mom always said God was clearly a committee, because only a committee would locate the playground right next to the sewage plant.

    1. One of my kids’ favorite playgrounds is (really!) immediately downwind of the water treatment plant. We don’t go there very often.

    2. I had only been moderately giggling because sometimes I find I swallow instead of breathe and apparently that is bad – and then I read this and snorted right out loud.

      🙂

  8. Oh, how I needed this tonight! Thank you for sharing. Mine wasn’t a biter at school, but I could have wallpapered a bedroom (or at least a couple of its walls) with the Referrals, Incident Reports, and Whatever Else We Can Decide To Call These Bad News Notes regarding other ways of being physically aggressive.

    I am happy to report that at 17, he is no longer head-butting, hitting, kicking, tripping, poking, or flicking people. He would probably make it as a chicken farmer (I have this on good authority because my husband actually WAS a chicken farmer years ago), but alas, last month my child actually stated that he MIGHT want to maybe go into counseling.

    I cannot tell you how many What the hecks?!? and For the loves!! I have said. But there is hope, my friend. There is hope. When people told me there was home even 9 months ago, I couldn’t see it, but now glimmers are there. So I stare through the dark to catch sight of the glimmers and imagine a counselor and ask myself, “What the heck? Where did that come from?” and I hope that the answer is “For the love…of those who are hurting and frustrated and needing help to find glimmers in the dark.”

  9. You are at 80% non biters?!? I’m only at 50%. Same situation, someone’s arm in the way. Arm attached to the girl on top of him who was also after the same basketball.

  10. Dear Beth Woosley – I was a biter, and a sister who held kids down so her brother could bite them (because *do not* cut in line at the slide), and I may have once kicked someone in the nuts (who never bullied my brother again).

    I grew out of it. I have never bitten, kicked, or otherwise physically hurt someone as an adult.

    I really needed this tonight, both for a laugh and to remind me, we mostly grow out of it.

  11. My kids never bit anyone at school. I think you’re doing it wrong.

    1. BAHAHHAHAHHA YER FUNNY I like you Old Marine. Licensed Childcare Provider, 17 years.. Never stopped amazing me that Parents thought you could identify a Biter before they bite. Small boys first day. Sitting on stairs with like sized child. Child 2 leans over and appears to be kissing child one on the cheek. We all remark ” How Cute” Child two sits up and has clearly bitten child one on the cheek. Deep teeth marks. Never bit again. Who knew?

  12. This story reminds me that I was that biter. I had a particular friend when I was in grade school that I would bite often because he was so frustrating, I remember one time his mom hauled us both into my house and confronted my mother who asked me if I did it. I flatly denied it. Unfortunately my imprint was still in his arm and it was pretty damning – so then I was a little liar too. My mom never seemed to concerned, which really bothered his mom. I don’t remember being punished, but I did have to apologize. I’m not even sure I was made to promise not to do it again. I’m now 45 with an advanced degree and a good job and happily married and a mom and generally well adjusted – so take heart. The impulse to bite is still there though – when I’m stressed, I clench my jaw and have to remind myself to relax. I grind my teeth at night if there’s stress in my life too.

    He got me back though… We were “digging to China” and he “accidentally” brought the hoe down on my head – permanently imprinting his initial in it. 🙂

  13. This is reminiscent of the time that I got a call from the “Solutions” Lady at the school because a 4th grader stabbed someone at the desk next to her with a pencil in the arm. I think he was breathing or something idiotic like that. I kind of reminds me a little bit of the time the “Solutions” Lady called to ask how I would like to pay for the child’s classmate’s glasses which were broken in the process of a face punch, because, after all, he was a boy. It’s also reminiscent of the time I got a call from the “Solutions” Lady to Please Come Get My Kid Right Away to begin a three day suspension for hitting her PE teacher over the head with a tennis racket, because, according to this kid, he put his head in the way and she was mad. The good news is that this very same kid of pencil stabbing, glasses breaking and teacher smacking fame is now 1) STILL ALIVE and in college even (God Bless us) 2) close friends (in the way that only physical violence brings one close) with both the boy with a pencil stab scar AND the one with poor eyesight, and 3) Upon graduation, the violated PE teacher announced publicly that he considered her a daughter (as physical violence often occurs in close familial relationships) and she now tells EVERYONE he was ALWAYS her favorite teacher. Because growth, and forgiveness, and most of all, memories. and yes. #medalsallaround

    1. Could have been worse.Kid threw my son into the brick wall at school and I was told I should have insurance for that. Fix the tooth? The kids parents didn’t have that kind of money…… Luckily my children visited the Dentist regularly and the Dentist loved them so he fixed it without charging us.

  14. I use the word/pronoun,”nutjob(s)” every single day. Not always to the nutjob in question, but frequently nonetheless. We have much in common, and that makes me feel better. You know, since misery loves company and all. Thanks for being awesome company, no matter which emotion you are feeling at the time. But mostly, thanks for being so honest and real!

  15. My almost-2-year-old punched an angel (battery-powered, thank goodness) in the face today. because she stopped spinning in a circle and singing “Joy to the World.” His birthday is next week, kinda afraid to sing to him now.

  16. OMG Beth! I got a call last week from our school saying my 8-year-old (twin at that) bit a peer at recess. I basically had the same questions. Actually, really only one. “WHAT?!” said about 10 times with varying tone and inflection. I think I also said things like “That’s something one would expect from a kindergartner!” and “Is this behaviour some how consistent with what you think he’s got going on?” and “Is there anything you’d like to see me doing at our end?” He had a pretty legit reason. But still – he’s big, he’s a boy, he bit a girl, and I mean, he bit. How does one parent that? I love that I have three very different kids and I get calls from both sides of the school yard drama and I’m learning, everyday, how to be human, and forgiving and whole lotta grace – how to ask for you and how important it is to give! And more importantly – YOU ARE SO FREAKIN’ FUNNY AND I LOVE WHAT YOU DO!

  17. Welcome to the club! I had an 11 year old bite his 10 year old sister’s arm…. BECAUSE, you see, I had required the biter to clear the table after dinner. And he WAS, bless his heart. His arms were treacherously full of at least one plate and a spoon, and he began to slip. The situation was dire. The ONLY WAY he could break his fall was with his sweet sisters’ arm, which was handy. With his MOUTH, and then when that began to give way, he HAD to use his teeth. So he shouldn’t get in trouble, because he was merely taking care of his assigned chore.

    I sat and laughed until I cried.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *