Monday, August 29, 2005

Guilty Grudge

Today was Simon's first day of 4 yr old preschool. While waiting in line for the throat check, I was chatting with one of the other moms from last year, who had transferred her 3 yr old back into this school because a week ago, at his new private Christian school, the teacher had hit his hand with a ruler (old skool cruelty lives, people!) and forced him to sit at the snack table without a snack, watching the other 3 year olds eat theirs. When asked for an explanation of why he deserved this punishment, her only response, repeated several times, was that "Boys generally have behavior problems." Ludicrous for many reasons, not the least of which is that this particular little boy is MISTER SHY. Anyway, the mom promptly yanked her kids, and brought them back to our tame little school.

This brought up a particularly painful guilty grudge that I live with every day.

Back when Ethan (who is now 10 3/4) was a baby and toddler, when I was working full-time, a sitter watched him in her home, along with her own 2 kids and a couple of others. She seemed pretty unobjectionable to me. I gradually became aware, however, that her own son, the oldest of all the children at 4/5 or so, was a bit of an obnoxious, rowdy kid, and Ethan didn't like him.

Ethan has always been a very calm, zen, quiet, well-behaved, polite, untroubling sort of child. Almost to a fault. As in he was sort of an unmoving blob as a baby, quite content to sit in one place and stare at the wheels of a car on the floor for hours at a time. Because he didn't cause a ruckus about going to this sitter's home, my maternal radar was bleeping along without alarm bells going off. He didn't like the kid, but it wasn't enough for him to throw screaming fits, so I just chalked it up to life lessons (we all have to learn to get along with obnoxious, rowdy people) and didn't worry about it.

Even when the sitter every once in a while would point out thumb-shaped bruises on his chest, arm, or back that I hadn't noticed, and carefully suggest to me that perhaps his father (from whom I was divorced after a drama-filled cheat on me with his best friend's girlfriend scenario) was being a bit rough with him. I didn't question this.

Until one Christmas break when I went to pick him up and she told me she had bitten him.


In a completely matter-of-fact manner, she explained that he had bitten her son (he had never bitten ANYONE, or even acted up in any fashion EVER) and that as a punishment, so that he would know what it felt like, she had bitten him. She explained that her mother had done this to her. And I was aware that there are people who do this.

So I took him home, and at bedtime that evening, when I pulled off his shirt, there on his upper arm was a full, round, adult human tooth impression bite mark. Like, every tooth was chillingly represented. Her whole freaking mouth wrapped around my toddler's arm, up to the wisdom teeth. I never took him back.

But I never went off on her either. In fact, because she had sent Christmas presents home with all the kids she cared for, I freaking drove back to her house over the holiday to drop off a present I bought for her horrible kids. I GAVE THEM A PRESENT, PEOPLE! I was so damn inexperienced as a mother, and so unsure of my own instincts, and so unable to yell at people who deserved it, and to express outrage, that I simply told her some lie to explain why he wouldn't be coming back, and smilingly handed her the present. All the while, thinking to myself that some people do this, and to them it is ok. I didn't agree with it, but some normal people do this biting their kids thing, and while there was no harm done, it bothered me just enough to put him into institutional daycare where I could be sure my discipline methods jived with the accredited caregivers'.

It gives me chills to think about this.

And you can be sure I have an internal script I've rehearsed 4,000,000 times that I will unleash on this woman (Nora) if I ever run across her again. Over the years, as I've grown up and become more sure of myself as a parent, I've rehashed this so many times. I can't BELIEVE I reacted the way I did. I can't believe this woman convinced me Ethan's dad was manhandling him, when he'd never had a bruise before this time, and certainly hasn't had any since. Geoff loves his kid, and has always been affectionate and tender and kind to him. I'm so ashamed.

I contemplate driving by her house to unleash the script. To this day. I think about calling up her husband and telling him what a ghastly human being he's married. I wish I could see her with her atrocious kid, and my beautiful, French-speaking, smart, compassionate boy would be with me, and she would be forced to acknowledge how superior my own son is. (I think she always knew this, and that's why she hated him. Because seriously? Ethan has never caused any trouble for ANYONE. He has never had behavior problems of any sort. And he was luminous as an angel. While her spawn was ugly, inside and out. HA!)

My ears burn as I write this, with shame and guilt and impotent rage.

Thank god I at least had enough sense to pull him out of there. But this incident has just about EVERYTHING to do with why I would rather be dirt poor with 1 bathroom for 5 people than work full-time and send my other 2 children to daycare.

Trust your instincts, people. Don't end up like me, bearing this sort of guilty grudge forever.


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