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While learning to walk, Jonathon had clung happily to our fingers, leaning on us for support. We had held him safely between us.
Now that he could walk on his own, however, he wanted nothing to do with either parent. If I carried him, he squirmed to get “down.” Once on terra firma, he scurried away as fast as his wobbly legs would carry him.
Terrified for his safety, I dashed after him, clamping my hand around his chubby fist. Then I endured ear-splitting screams of protest as he tried to free himself from my restrictive vice grip. (Oh, and the disapproving glances and tut-tut head-shakes of passers-by who assumed I was needlessly harsh with my adorable toddler!)
Several weeks into this new routine, Jonathon tried a new tactic. We were walking through the market – me fighting to focus on my shopping list as my tiny son was fighting to get loose from me – when suddenly he stopped struggling.
Now, I normally have s.l.o.w. reflexes. I’ll drop a bottle of soda, think to myself, “When this hits my foot, it’s sure gonna hurt!” yet be unable to move my foot to avoid the pain and eventual bruise.
Yet on this particular day, my physical reaction miraculously occurred even as my brain registered, “He’s stopped struggling. Something is about to happen.”
I gripped Jonathon’s hand tighter and, with lightening speed, rotated my wrist a half turn, moving my hand away from him. Sure enough, with a strategic gleam in his eyes, Jonathon opened his mouth and chomped his rasor-sharp baby teeth…into his own pudgy hand.
Shock, confusion, and dismay replaced defiance on his face. Pain registered, and he began to cry. I comforted him, and then we walked on, hand-in-hand without resistance.
I felt grateful Jonathon had experienced the natural consequence of his biting. He had bitten, and he had experienced the pain.
And then I thought: Daniel.
Jonathon will try this on Daniel.
I’ve got to tell him before Jonathon tries this on him!
That evening, before bed, I recounted the brief incident to my husband, concluding with the recommendation, “So if you feel him stop pulling to get away, don’t think; just rotate your hand away from him.”
The very next morning, Daniel took Jonathon on a quick errand. He returned with a meek toddler and a knowing wink. After settling Jonathon down for his nap, he told me,
It happened just like you said! I was dragging him down the isle. He was fighting to get away from me the whole time, when suddenly he stopped. My brain was thinking, “All of these bananas are too ripe. Don’t they have any gree-” when suddenly it switched to, “Rotate your wrist!”
He chomped down SO hard! It took five minutes to stop his crying.
The whole time, what kept going through my mind was, “If he had bit my hand, I wouldn’t have thought. I just would have slapped him across the face as hard as I could.”
Daniel paused, shook his head at the thought, and resumed.
I’m really glad I was prepared.
Jonathon turned out to be a two-bite baby. Natural consequences nipped what could have been a nightmarish habit in the bud.
I still shudder to think what could have happened if I’d not told Daniel about my near-biting incident with Jonathon.
What if Jonathon had bitten him? What if Daniel had slapped our toddler across the face? With whom would I have sided? How would that have impacted our less-than-five-year-old marriage? How would Daniel’s image of himself as a father been altered? How would Daniel’s relationship to his son been changed?
Daniel and I learned some important lessons about teamwork that day:
- Keep each other “in the loop.”
- Prevent situations that encourage “siding” with a child, against each other.
- Refuse to play tug-of-war when there’s a child between us.
- A little preparation goes a long way in building parental teamwork. (Click to Tweet this.)
We also learned how vital it was for us to keep clinging together. To keep leaning on each other – and on the One who has always safely held us – for support.