Beware, friends with kids, we have a biter. On Monday, our daycare provider sent Dylan home with the book, “Teeth Are Not for Biting.” And even though she assured us this is just a phase and it will pass, I couldn’t help but feel like I should have seen this coming. Just recently, Dylan has been responding with his teeth to just about everyone and anything when he’s excited, angry, uncomfortable, tired, cranky, bored, frustrated, and/or hungry. He’s gnawed on his wooden toys – puzzle pieces and train sets – as well as clothing (his own shirts, my robe, socks, etc.), couch cushions, carpet, his own pudgy little fingers and yes he’s also taken a few chomps at Oscar’s feet. He even bit me while nursing. And it was no accident. It was 5:30am. The room was dark, save the starry glow from the nightlight, and it was bitterly cold – damn this old house and the uneven heat flow. Dylan was standing in his crib, squinting his eyes toward this side of the morning and he was whimpering – crying about having to wake up so early, I presume. I picked him up to comfort him, settled into the floor cushion, and snuggled in to nurse. But something went wrong. Instead of latching on, he situated his teeth just so and clamped down. Hard. It was so painful, I can’t even. You don’t. I don’t know how to finish this sentence. I screamed. Loudly. Yelped, really, is more like it. And then proceeded to pry his mouth off of me. He cried louder. I was aghast. I worried he might have drawn blood. I stared at him, incredulously, and for a brief moment, something flickered inside my brain about the animal kingdom and offspring who attack their parents. I was scared and sad and hurting, both for him – for his own confused and stunted communication skills (because surely this was him trying to tell me something, right?) – and for me, and the immediate throbbing of my breast. I’m telling you – my nipple was sore for days.
By comparison, it made Oscar’s toothless little gummy tugging on my nipples entirely forgivable. So when I heard that it was poor little Rosalyn’s foot that took the brunt of Dylan’s frustration this week, my heart went out to her.
I’m aware that Dylan’s biting is probably equal parts teething and an attempt at getting attention, in the wake of having a new sibling, but that doesn’t make it ok. In fact, if anything, it gives me more trepidation about sending Oscar to daycare with him next week…not that I have a choice. The upside is that this book is clever and engaging. When we read it to him, he chimes in with the refrain, “Ouch! Biting hurts!” He points to the dog chewing his bone and says, “Doggie!” Dylan reaches out for me and hugs me every time the book suggests you get a hug instead of biting and I love to read the line, “Mmmmm…that feels better!” Unfortunately, he also giggles at the page that shows a little girl crying, under the words “But teeth are not for biting.” So, progress? No progress? Who knows…
I tried to have a little chat with him last night about looking out for his baby brother when they go to daycare together next week. I know Dylan couldn’t understand my words, but I’m hoping some sort of brotherly camaraderie magically kicks in, and he starts to love and appreciate and protect Oscar, rather than try to eat him. I’m anxious for him to learn that teeth are for smiling, not for biting, but I know this won’t change overnight. In the meantime, friends with kids may want to keep a safe distance.