Wednesday, September 21, 2011

one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater

"I said Mr Purple People Eater, what's your line?

He said eating purple people, and it sure is fine

But that's not the reason that I came to land

I wanna get a job in a rock 'n roll band"

What in tarnation is a purple people eater?
Whatever/whoever it is...I think I birthed it. His name is Felix, and he's already giving me a run for my money.

I'm not sure I'd call him "all boy," but perhaps that day he was splashing ferociously in his bath at a mere 3 months and my mom said, "he's going to be a handful" I should have believed her.

And maybe all of those hickies he gave me before he was teething while I would hold him was a sure sign I would have an oral aficionado on my hands.

It floors me how different my boys are--and just at 18+ months apart.

Miles bit at school only a handful of times, and I was MORTIFIED. I think I may have even cried about it at home. He was going to need to go to boarding school, and then next thing you know, we are the subject of 48 hours mystery and how after a vacation in Aruba with the family, Eric and I mysteriously capsize on a family kayak and die, while Miles miraculously survives. You know all deaths in Aruba are murder...

(Of course, I also had to whip stitch my heart back when Miles wasn't even crawling, and a bigger baby crawled by and swatted him in the head for no particular reason.)

How cruel! What negligent parents. My kids will NEVER do that.

Then Felix came along.
  • He left the baby room last year at childcare being known as the "people eater."
  • After 1+ year of nursing, I had to stop cold turkey after he shredded the "tap" so badly, that my wince and cry at 1am that mid January night surely woke the street
  • He bites when he is teething...which you know is constant from about age 7 months until 3 years
  • He bites out of excitement, boredom, and sometimes anger...but mostly I feel like it's just this impulse he has when he is excited.
  • Many days I am met with his teacher saying, "he bit a lot today." And on his wrap sheet chronicling the day's events: Biting. :(
  • He is a swatter. Again, it's usually just out of excitement.
At this point, mortification has turned into defeat. I mean, what can I say when I am met many days with his teachers pointing out his misbehavior? "I am soooo sorry."

I know all the other parents know he's a "biter" and "hitter." And yeah, I take it personally. I put him in the car almost every day and say "Felix, biting hurts." He looks at me like I'm crazy, especially because he's probably like, "mom, where did that come from?" I know that you need to address these issues with toddlers when they happen, but after leaving school knowing he's had a bad biting/hitting day, I say it more to make myself feel better.

There is a quiet chair at school, and I don't *think* Miles has held up residence there a terrible amount of time, but I do know Felix has graduated from the quiet chair to a contained high chair that is faced in the corner. I should bring in a dunce cap, huh?

He certainly isn't modeled this behavior at home. We don't bite in our house, we don't hit or spank, we really don't yell or do much of anything "aggressive."

I'm starting to think it was all the procardia or terbutaline I took while preggo to keep him from delivering earlier than he did. I mean, what else could it be???

And the thing is--he's just the happiest kid. He has his moments, but it's not like he is this angry bully who bites and swats out of malice. It's like he thinks he is constantly at an amusement park doing that whack a mole game. WHACK! And then he looks at you and smiles.

Eric really thinks he gets bored easily. And of COURSE the first thing I want to do when I am bored is bite flesh. Duh.

And I've tried it all: put his hand in his mouth when he bites. Squeeze his cheeks. Tell him it hurts. Use direct language. Redirect. Show him "gentle" hands. (Eric's favorite is firmly saying to him "IMPULSE!" as he winds up to swat). And now we put him in his crib and shut the door for 2 minutes. We always make him apologize, which I guess is good practice, but I am not sure that's the panacea.

I've read some stuff about it being a result of not having the language to express emotions--good and bad. Okay, I sort of buy that, but Miles has always had FAR better receptive than expressive language and didn't resort to wrestling to get his feelings across. And Felix actually has pretty good expressive language.

What makes me laugh is that now in any social situation with other children, I'm pulled in 2 completely different directions: I have one child who is so shy and unwilling to play or enjoy himself without holding your hand, and another one looking to make a friend to become "blood brothers" with by biting. (Actually, in all fairness, Felix has never bit or hit a child he didn't know. He usually just goes up to them and giggles.)

As with all things (except potty training. As of this week, we are starting OVER. And I'm researching schools that allow kids to wear diapers through college.), it's a phase. What's good is that in general, I really love the early toddler age.

I just don't love the biting. And realizing that I need to draft an agreement of understanding in regards to the real and threatened risks of babysitting my child. (So is it now $10-$12/hour AND a tetanus shot if needed?)


  1. Can you get him some sort of bitey thing to attach to his clothes that he can gnaw when the impulse comes? I've seen that before.

  2. Yes, the reason all the techniques, talking, apologizing, and all don't work at this point is that it is such an instinctual and impulsive thing (you still need to continue all those measures, though). Perhaps Nick's suggestion may help. He will grow out of it, and as you say, he is genuinely a happy and people loving little guy. It's awful to have one's child be the victim (at times Miles) and worse to have a child who is the perpetrator! It is not your fault! He is not a criminal in the making! It will pass.
    Toilet training will happen in due time as well - promise.

  3. I keep thinking about this... What if - because Felix seems to have such an intense need for physical contact - you worked on training him to "hug" and "kiss" whenever he goes in for the smack or bite? I know it's impossible to anticipate when he is going to perform Purple People Eater, and you've been trying to refocus him by reminding him not to bite and/or hit. What if you try to replace those impulses with hugs and kisses each time he has that impulse? "Felix - Hugs!" or "Felix - kisses!" or "Felix - hugs and kisses!" and demonstrate for him what to do. It's just a thought.