Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If You Must, Bite Your Sister

When I arrived at school to pick up the girls on Drew’s first day, the teacher immediately gave me the dreaded Teacher Look--a cross between “You’re lucky I didn’t kill your children today” and “You’re a bad mother.”

“Drew bit,” she said, her voice filled with such reproach, I fully expected her to complete the sentence with “...somebody’s nose off” or “...into a live electrical wire” or “...her tongue clean through...and here it is” as she handed me a bumpy, bloody napkin. But she did not. She simply let the words--“Drew bit”--hang in the air, like fart.

Drew, as if to prove she wasn’t entirely maladjusted, began to embrace me so tightly it felt like she and my leg were reenacting the kissing scene in The Notebook. I have never before witnessed her so happy to see me, and I might have appreciated it had I not been momentarily paralyzed by the words running through my mind: Please let her have bitten Blair. Please let her have bitten Blair. Please let her have bitten her big sister and not the little boy whose daddy is an attorney.

In this brave new world of parenting, I have discovered one inalienable truth: biting is bad. It is bad enough at home, where Drew does it quite a lot. But amongst the children of others, biting is worse than all other offenses: hitting, spitting, touching bathing-suit parts. It is the preschool-version of first degree-murder. And now, in just a single day, Drew had been cast as the two-year-old Hester Prynne of Tiny Treasures Learning Academy, emblazoned forever (or at least until she left for kindergarten) with a scarlet letter “B.” The Kid Who Bites. The Biter. The Bad One.

“Look Mommy,” Blair said, as she crossed the room, lifting up her dress to reveal her new Ariel big-girl panties and a circle of dark red tiny teeth marks. On her back. “Drew bited me.”

“ poor thing,” I said (though I was really thinking Thank God) as I leaned down and examined her wound. Drew hadn’t been messing around. Skin was broken. There would be a significant bruise. Blair looked up at me with her big blue eyes and shook her head in four-year-old disgust. I looked down at Drew who was still melding with my thigh.

“There is no biting, Drew. We don’t bite people,” I admonished, using the pronoun “we,” which has become my odd parenting habit. (“We don’t eat Doritos for breakfast.” “We don’t put My Little Pony in the toilet.”)

Drew looked up and me. Then at Blair. Then at me.

“But I bite Blair,” she said. And then she grinned, which made one teacher put her hand to her mouth in alarm. I didn’t wait around to see her reaction to what Drew did next.

Because, next, Drew growled. Like a dog. An angry dog. And then--as if she hadn’t quite made her point--she pretended, with her teeth, that she was yanking beef off of a bone.