We had our first serious discipline moment on Wednesday night. Sure, Truman has had time-outs and stern talking-to moments before, for offenses ranging from repeatedly smacking the television to pulling everything he can reach off of the table and chucking it around the room with glee. Wednesday night though… it was a bad one.
It was 30 minutes until bed time and since we try to calm it all down around this time, we were all cuddle together on the couch. Mike was on one end and I was on the other, Grant lay between us kicking and punching the air and wiggling around, and Truman was sitting next to Mike. Truman decided he wanted to “yay down” next to his brother, which is nothing new. He always loves laying next to him, hugging him and touching his head. He wiggled out from under Mike’s arm and squeezed himself next to Grant, face to face, their legs pointing opposite directions. He grabbed Grant’s arm and held it, baby talking sweetly to his little brother as Grant stared and grinned in awe of this big boy before him. Mike and I were talking about what ever show was on and both turned our heads to watch a particularly key scene unfold. For 30 seconds we took our laser beam focus off of our children, foolishly thinking that since we were touching them, they would both remain safe.
“WHAAAAA!!!!!” Grant’s high pitched shriek brought us both back to reality where apparently, no child is ever safe no matter what. Ever. We both jumped, looked at each other like, “What the hell just happened?” and whipped our heads around to look down to the space on the couch where our boys were peacefully lying just 30 seconds before. They were still lying there, but this time Grant was red faced and crying big crocodile tears, and Truman was slowly sneaking his body backward away from his brother, wearing a surprised but sly little look on his face. He smiled sheepishly and whispered two little words that immediately filled me with rage.
“What happened Truman?” I asked sharply. I picked Grant up, squeezed him to me, and began checking him over. I assumed Truman had squeezed his arm too hard or maybe bumped their heads together. Mike had Truman on his lap and was questioning him.
“What happened to your brother? Why is he crying?” Truman wasn’t talking. He smirked and actually looked a little bit proud of himself.
That’s when I saw Grant’s hand. His sweet pudgy hand was bright red and had a perfect impression of Truman’s top teeth dug into the area where his teeny thumb joins his hand.
“He bit him!” I stammered, shocked. I kissed Grant’s poor bitten hand, hugging him close and turned my gaze to Truman. He was no longer smiling. He looked a little concerned. “Truman! You bit your brother?” I felt myself get shrill and had to stop and rein it in. If some kid bites your baby, you want to beat the crap out of that little beast. Well, what do you do if the kid who bit your baby is your own other kid? Who you don’t believe in beating the crap out of? (For the record, I would never really beat the crap out of any kid, but there are a few out there that make me stop and have to remind myself of my beliefs. I’ve given a few stank eyes, I won’t lie.) While I was carefully pre-selecting my next words in my head, Mike was already stepping in.
“He bit him? Truman!” He jumped up and looked at Grant’s hand, “Oh my God! He bit him!” And that’s when the Daddy roar broke loose. “GET IN THE CORNER, NOW!” Mike had Truman off of the couch with nose to corner faster than I could ever have imagined. Truman was no longer smug or finding the situation funny. He was sobbing. Hard. Like we were beating him. Grant, on the other hand had stopped crying and was now just watching the drama unfold with left over tears hanging onto his lashes. Mike and I were kind of frozen, looking at each other with wide eyes and shaking our heads slowly. Mouths opening and closing, but no words really coming out. Was our kid a biter now? He was going down this road? What next, stealing lunch money?
“MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA (SOB) (HICCUP) MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA (SOB SOB) (ANGRY FERAL CAT YELL) MAMA MAMA MAMA…”
And so went the longest two minutes of my life. Truman was angry and devastated. Mike took him out of the corner and got down to his level for a talk. He explained that he can not hurt his brother under any circumstances ever and biting is not allowed. I had him come to me and showed him Grant’s hand, which was still very red and “ouchy” looking. At that point, Truman really got it. Regret clouded his eyes when he saw the damage. He knows what an ouchy is and he knows that they aren’t fun to have. He told his brother sorry and kissed his hand for him (to heal the wound, obviously.) and climbed back up to cuddle with Daddy. We both made sure he understood why he had been punished and told him how much we love him. He was silent for the next 20 minutes.
While Truman sat quietly, Mike and I were left picking up the pieces and second guessing our handling of the situation. I wondered if it was intentional in the first place, maybe he just got too excited and bit him? I’ve seen him do it to other things like toys or blankets, squeezing and clenching his teeth overwhelmed with excitement. Mike brought up his sneaky “fo-pop” and mischievous little smirk, which did make it seem pretty intentional. We both felt bad that he was now so somber, knowing that he felt ashamed and sorry. Yet, we also knew that hurting the baby cannot go unchecked and needs to be nipped in the bud.
So there we were, both kids completely fine but both parents a little bit traumatized. If this tiny issue was so hard, how am I going to handle it when they are pummeling each other as teenagers? What if I have to put a kid on lock down and take away everything they own? Why can’t we just sit our kids down and say, “Listen. Let’s don’t be assholes mmkay?” And they say, “Yeah, okay! We love you beautiful, angelic Mommy, we would never disappoint you.” Then we all go on to live friendly, respectful, loving, asshole-free lives? Is this really that difficult? Sigh. Given that my sister once made me black out by beating my head against a refrigerator (Sorry Sissy, I know you hate this story but it is relevant here. I forgive you and I love you!) and my little sister shoved me down a flight of stairs, (I caught myself, it was totally fine.) and I once smacked my little sister so hard in the shower (think wet hand, wet face) she had a flaming red, perfect handprint on her cheek that I’m pretty sure you could have traced my fingerprints on, (She screamed so loud it turned my stomach to ice. I can still hear it in my nightmares.) I know that these issues are bound to come up. I have to believe you become a little desensitized. At least I hope so, otherwise I don’t know if I can emotional handle disciplinary tactics for all of these future offenses.
I thought she was nuts then, but now I completely understand what my Mom meant when she used to say, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”