This morning during worship, we began singing “Shout to the Lord.” Somewhere in the refrain, I felt tears welling up in my eyes and I started to get choked. I don’t usually cry. Not even during those “chick flicks” my husband teases me about. And it had nothing to do with the song really. I like that one, but it is not usually one that evokes much emotion for me. But I had just changed Baby Bear’s messy diaper and returned him to the two year old room. The teacher mentioned what a sweet boy he was and commended him on his manners. I smiled, praised him and went to service.
And that’s where this past year kind of hit me. One year ago, he was kicked out of the nursery for biting. I don’t fault them. He did bite. Anyone littler than him. And completely without warning. In fact, he seemed so friendly, like he was going to give a hug and then he’d leave a nasty mark. I grew tired of all the advice. “Biting is unacceptable. You have to stop that kind of behavior.” OK, in principle, I agree with that. But how does that work out practically in someone who is one? There wasn’t much point in punishing someone that young twenty minutes after the behavior occurred. And it never happened around me. Some told me that was because he really did know better. I needed to stop “babying” him. I figured it was because I never gave him the opportunity. On the rare occasion we were around younger children, I always stayed between him and that child. But what does mom know? So I walked the halls with him so that my daughter could attend Sunday School and we sat, isolated, in the crying room because there was no way I would dream of trying to sit through service with him.
Then I started hearing all this stuff about family worship and how he should be with me in service anyway. I know this isn’t how it was meant, but all I heard was, “what kind of parent are you?” My son bit. My son would prefer to run than sit still. I obviously had no ability to control him. I kept thinking, “But he’s one!” Just beginning to learn proper behavior. Those toddlers who sit through service are aliens.
Then the YMCA staff called me down to remove him from Childwatch (I was upstairs watching my daughter’s karate class). They warned that if the behavior was repeated, he would be suspended.
I almost broke down in tears right then. My husband is gone a lot. It is just me and the kids most of the week. The only adult interaction I get is Sunday School, it seems. My husband works for the railroad so his schedule is not very predictable. And the one hour per week I had to sit and do something special with my daughter was about to be taken. I felt painfully isolated and all anyone had to say sounded to me like I was a horrible parent to have a one year old who bit. And wouldn’t sit still for service. (That did not come from the church. In fact, when I finally asked for prayer on the matter, I got offers from people to help with him so that I could atttend a Sunday School class or enjoy an uninterrupted service.)
And now, one year later, his Sunday School teacher is saying what a pleasure he is. He listens. He shares (kind of…as well as anyone his age). He says please. He loves to help clean up and pass out snack. What did I do? Nothing really. I prayed. I cried. And I loved him and let him grow out of it.
The other day, he stuck the baby’s hand in his mouth and I jumped. He looked at me confused and said, in his cute little toddler-speak, “Mommy, I no bit no mo’.”
(This was originally written two years ago on my old blog, and at least in theory was published in Jane Bullivant’s book, Juggling With Hamsters.)