My 23-month old son, Eddie, goes to day care at a local church, where they are taught to share, to greet their fellow students every morning as each one arrives, and I assume to say grace before lunch because sometimes at dinner now, Eddie takes mine and my husband’s hands and has a moment before we can begin eating. So I was surprised this afternoon when I went to pick up my son, and I was told another child had bitten him.
“Tom had an apple, and they were all sitting at the table, and Eddie went to take a piece,” said Miss Jane, one of Eddie’s teachers.
It now made sense to me why the moment he saw me today, he said, “Mommy!” and wrapped his arms around my legs. Usually when I pick him up, he’s engrossed with the doll house and all the little people that can be placed in the different rooms, or the farm and all its little animals.
Eddie must have known what Miss Jane was telling me because as she spoke, he looked up at me and his lower lip began to quiver.
“Oh, buddy,” I said and hugged him.
“He’s okay,” Miss Jane said. “We put a little ice on it, and he was fine. We gave him a little butterfly bandage and he started smiling, saying, ‘Butterfly.’”
“Who did it?” I said. I felt like a mafia don, who hears a family member has been wronged and doesn’t listen to the rest of the story. They care only about the name of the person on which they will seek their revenge.
“We’re not allowed to give the name of the student who bit him,” she said.
Well, I already knew. She inadvertently gave it away when she told me the name of the child who brought in the apple my son had grabbed. It’s hard to imagine one child would bring in a piece of food, Eddie would grab it, and a third child would intervene and bite my son for taking it.
It was unfortunate because Eddie’s second birthday is Sunday, and I’d invited his entire class, and all but one child either did not respond or said they could not make it. The only child who could come was the biter. He probably wants a second taste.
“I’ll just have to sharpen Eddie’s fangs tonight,” I joked. I was only half kidding.
The teacher then gave me a form to sign. It was an “Incident Report.” It said, “Was bitten on the finger by another student.” It didn’t even have a subject, like, “Eddie,” or “Your child.” It seemed like they were trying to distance themselves from the incident, like politicians who say, “Mistakes were made.”
The form went on to say that TLC and ice had been applied. It should also have said, “And Tom was put in shackles for the rest of snack time.”
Eddie and I left and drove to the home of the woman from whom we pick up our bi-weekly ration of organic produce. She has a large yard with a bunny rabbit. I told Eddie we would be seeing the rabbit, and he seemed in good spirits.
As we drove there, I looked at him in the rear view mirror and said, “You know that kid who bit you, he shouldn’t have done that. Biting’s a real chump move, pal. People shouldn’t bite.” And with that, I had issued my first life lesson.
While Eddie already seemed to be over it, I wasn’t. Just thinking about it made me want to drive over to the child’s house and bite him back. He could have taken my son’s finger off. It made me think about all the things that could happen to Eddie when I’m not around. Just this week, I had bumped into the director of the school in the lady’s room, and she was visibly upset. She said her son’s best friend had just gotten his driver’s license, and still unsteady at the wheel, he drifted too far over the middle line, drove into oncoming traffic and then went flying into a tree and died. His parents were on vacation in Florida at the time. She had to wait for them in the emergency room, where the boy had been medi-vaced before he was pronounced dead.
After Eddie and I picked up the organic produce, I was sitting at a traffic light and decided to pull out the incident report the teacher had given me. I noticed that under that report was another incident report, a blank one that had not yet been filled out, as if we’re just waiting for the next incident to happen. It’s not a matter of if but when. I also noticed the time of the biting was 11:45 a.m., just 15 minutes before the end of my son’s school day. It almost didn’t have to have happened. If 15 more minutes had gone by, the boy wouldn’t have been able to bite my son’s finger because I would have arrived by then and been standing between him and my son. I’m sure the parents of the boy who died in the car accident feel that way: if only their son hadn’t gotten his driver’s license yet, if only they hadn’t gotten him a car, if only they’d been home to drive him where he’d been going, if only they’d just kept him in the house, locked up, so that no harm could ever come to him.
As Eddie and I arrived back in our town, I decided that instead of going home, we should take a drive down to the beach, which is about seven blocks from my house. When we got out of the car, the wind was blowing so hard, I zipped Eddie up in my down vest. He looked so small in the vest, like an insect that had not fully crawled out of its shell. We walked onto the sand and as we got closer to the water, Eddie saw a tennis ball sitting out on the tidal flat and ran after it. I stood on the sand and as Eddie headed toward the water, I watched his figure get smaller and smaller against the vastness of the ocean and sky, until he almost seemed to disappear.