Childrearing

Anonymous Mom: I Whacked My Neck-Biting Toddler — In Public

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Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.

When my son was two and a half, we went on a Florida vacation with my parents. We had a grand ol’ time, going to the beach, playing in the pool, sampling all the tasty junk at the flea markets. One rainy afternoon, we hit up the local mall.

It was Christmas time, and the mall was in full holiday swing. Santa was there with a small army of elves, holiday lights twinkled in abundance and, needless to say, the place was packed. To occupy the kids, there was a massive winter wonderland set up with bouncy castles, mechanical reindeer rides and, the piece de resistance, a ride-on train. Oh, how my son loved that train.

His first time on, I rode with him. On the second go-around, he went with my dad. My mom had her turn next. Seeing as my kid was so completely enthralled, I left him there with my dad, and my mom and I hit the shops. Our final words were: remember, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

About 40 minutes later, we returned, laden down with bags. My son was still in the same spot in the caboose, grinning from ear to ear. As the train pulled into the “station” we told him he could have one more turn. He smiled and agreed. We waved at him as he enjoyed his last ride. He waved back, posing for pictures. The train stopped and all the children alit.

Except one.

We reminded him that it was time to go. He begged us for one more turn, “just one more.” Torn between standing my ground and not sweating the small stuff, I figured this was one battle I could lose. This small short-term victory for him would be a long-term victory for me.

My mom shook her head. Obviously she knew something I didn’t: never negotiate with a toddler.

The ride finished and I beckoned to my son. He pretended not to see me. I enlisted the help of one of the “elves,” but as soon as she approached, my son white-knuckled the sides of the train, refusing to budge. I tried cajoling him sweetly. Still, no movement. The bell started ringing as the train prepared to set off again.  I grabbed my boy and hauled him out of the train. As my parents hurried behind me, my son tried to take off into the crowds. Panicked, I flung him over my shoulder, firefighter style and off we went.

Of course we were miles away from the parking lot. And on the wrong floor. My son started screaming as we headed to the elevator. The glass in the elevator held no appeal, nor did the pressing of buttons as my son went crazy. I tried to comfort him by hugging him, still holding him close. As the elevator doors opened and we lost sight of the train, my son buried his face into my neck. And bit me!

I dropped him, shocked and in pain. This was no little nip, but a full on bite. Two small holes appeared in my t-shirt and, at that moment, I lost it. And whacked my kid. Backhand to the upper arm.

People stared and pointed. My parents looked stunned. My son? He just stared at me, aghast. The look on his face said it all: he couldn’t believe I had the nerve to hit him. To be honest, neither could I. He stared at me angrily. I felt disapproving looks all around, but was so fed up at this point, I didn’t care. I grabbed his hand and we walked calmly to the car, eyes of strangers burning into my back. I thought I’d be embarrassed, but to be honest, I didn’t give a shit. I just wanted to get to our car, so I could be pissed off in private.

This turned out to be a one-off incident. I’ve never hit my son again. I was, and continue to be, a fierce opponent on corporal punishment. He, of course, has no recollection of that day, though my parents and I most certainly do. I wonder if it’s affected him at all? Doesn’t seem like it. Except for one thing: he’s never bitten anyone since.

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(photo: Suzanne Tucker/ Shutterstock)