Dear Fellow Hawthorne Kindergarten Parents,
Many of you probably know me as the “banana-bread mom” from the last few parent-teacher nights. I hope this e-mail finds you in good health and spirits as we start the new year. I’ve met some of you in person, and I hope to meet the rest by the time our little ones start their first summer vacation. (Oh my God! Are we ready? Just give us a few more months! Kidding.)
Now, as you have probably heard, our son Tyler is going through a biting phase. This is not unusual behavior for a 5-year-old, especially for a bright, inquisitive boy eager to explore the boundaries of interpersonal contact.
However, the reaction from some of you, as well as from Ms. Wilson (don’t get me started—does she even like children?), has turned this molehill into a mountain. So I’d like to give you a few tips that I hope you will pass on to your children. Tyler is just a sensitive boy who happens to have a small number of triggers that can set him off.
Don’t hold eye contact with Tyler for more than one second. If we can teach our kids not to stare at the sun during an eclipse, there’s no reason we can’t ingrain this in them as well. Tyler’s father and I have learned to focus on the natural hollow between the neck and the sternum.
Never approach Tyler from behind. On a biological level, we’re all animals, so naturally the perception that he is about to be ambushed causes Tyler’s “fight-or-flight” hormones to take over. And Tyler is definitely a fighter! (Wonder who he got that from?)
Don’t make sudden moves that may startle him. Many bites have resulted from classmates abruptly standing up from their seats, raising their hands, or sneezing. These actions should be preceded by an announcement in a calm, indoor voice.
If a child believes Tyler is moving toward him or her with intent to bite, the child should quickly assume the “submissive” position. We all know this one: Drop to the floor, roll onto your back, and expose your throat. Again, just as we learned to “duck and cover” back in the day, our kids should have no problem picking this up.
Don’t mention any type of salad dressing while in Tyler’s presence. I really can’t explain this one, but we all know what happened to the substitute teacher.
If your kids can remember these few precautions, we can keep these incidents to a minimum. As a parent, I found it’s very helpful (and fun) if you incorporate tips like this into a song that you and your child can sing around the house or in the car.
To be honest, I think this unpleasantness has been exaggerated. There have been children in the class who claim to have been bitten by Tyler, even though there were no witnesses. We know children do all sorts of things to get attention—and that includes biting themselves. Of course, when I asked to take a dental impression of that one girl’s teeth, people reacted like I was a monster, so I just dropped it.
One final note: Tyler’s father and I will no longer fully reimburse for tetanus shots. We were happy to do this for a while, but began to feel people were taking advantage of our generosity. From now on, we will pay half the cost. We believe this is more than fair, as every biting incident involves two people.
I hope we can put this conflict behind us and focus on the real adversary for the rest of the year: the so-called “adult” in that classroom who has a great deal to answer for. To give just one example, why is she so stingy with her self-esteem awards?