We were at McDonald’s. I was chatting with a friend and the boys rampaged through the child habitrail. Mid conversation I noticed a rumble inside one small room within the playplace. I peered in for a moment, trying to determine if any of the shadowy figures in there were my sons. I saw Raphael’s head bounce by, and headed over to determine if my kids were involved in the brawl.
As I neared the plastic window, I saw Max, standing in the middle of the room, faced off against a little boy. Max’s hands were on his hips, and he was bouncing anxiously on the balls of his feet. The little boy kicked at him, and he sidestepped it. The little boy charged at him, both arms outstretched, and Max reached out to block him. In return, the boy grabbed one arm and clamped down on it with his teeth. Max’s shriek of outrage and pain immediately got the attention of all the parents in the room. Just then I reached the doorway, which was suddenly populated by small, indignant people. A little girl crawled out, yammering excitedly about what had happened. Max followed close behind, gripping his arm and wailing. Raphael was behind Max, repeating with conviction,
“That boy BIT my brother! I told him DON’T DO THAT TO MY BROTHER! He BIT him! I said, DON’T BITE MY BROTHER, YOU BOY!” “That boy” slipped out behind the chaos, glaring in Max’s direction, and ran away. I looked around for his parent, but didn’t see anyone, so I shrugged and led Max back to the table. He sat on my lap and wept, half out of real upset, half out of enjoyment of the concern. I hugged him and reassured him and inspected the bite. It wasn’t too bad, a small oval of angry red tooth marks. It hadn’t broken the skin, and that was the main thing.
As we were cuddling and recovering, a man led “that boy” over to our table.
“I’m so sorry. I understand my son bit your son. Is he ok?” I assured him that he was, and the man nudged his boy. “Say sorry.” The boy glared at us and muttered,
“Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry.”
“Say it ONCE,” his dad pressed.
“Sorry. Sorry sorry.” The man gripped his son’s shoulders and looked at me, clearly at a loss about what to do next. I smiled at him.
“Hey, it happens.” He nodded in relief, and I looked at the boy, who was still muttering his apology. “Good luck,” I added. The man nodded again, grimly, and led his son away. I turned to my friend. “You know, once upon a time I would have been outraged at that kid’s behavior. Now? I’m just glad it wasn’t my child doing the biting.” She nodded knowingly.
I used to be fairly quick to judge. I remember taking Tre to story time at the library when he was three. After the three year olds’ story time came the four and five year olds’ story time. When those four and five year olds barreled into the library I would move protectively over to Tre. I watched those boys romp and knock things over and shook my head. Privately I referred to them as “the piranha.”
But then, in time, my angelic little three year old grew up to be a piranha himself. He ran in the library, his footsteps thundering, as he knocked books off shelves with his newly gangly elbows. I saw first time mothers clutch their toddlers close to them and glare at MY son.
I was humbled.
But I learned my lesson. Judge not the piranha, for the next piranha may be yours.