Something happened to me today that hadn’t happened in a long time, and I wasn’t expecting it. I got bit.
Imagine my surprise when a three year-old whose mother was over for lunch leaned over and chomped down on my hand as I was multi-tasking, task one being holding the gate closed so he could not bolt into the street, task two being trying to give instructions to a chawkidaar who watched in horror as the child latched on to my hand and refused to let go. The chawkidaar seemed appalled. The three-year old seemed vindicated. He ran off, a hyper-active vortex of toddler energy, hopped up on chocolate cake and the thrill of a new location.
Imagine my surprise when it happened again. This time his six-year old brother got me with a bite & run ambush when I tried to stop him from opening the front gate and pushing his siblings out of it. Then he grabbed my arm and was in the process of giving me an Indian burn (no offense to the Indians intended) when I turned the tables and held his arm behind his back until he stopped struggling. When I let go he gave me a flying-kick and ran away. He later returned to threaten me with a basketball to the face. There was a stand-off. I won. Barely.
What’s the point of this? I’m not sure, I think I’m just shocked, not at how badly the children were behaving (they weren’t shocking, they were downright traumatizing) but at how I nearly lost my temper with a six year old. I feel guilty for inwardly seething at a little kid, but at the same time, the inner child in me is saying, ‘But he hit me first!’
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I could complain that people don’t discipline their children, but since I don’t have four children under the age of six, I have no right to tell them how it’s done. I could complain that Indian burns should be banned and that the UN should pass appropriate resolutions to do so, but as long as there is school-yard cruelty, there will be Indian Burns. I could complain that chocolate cake should be given to those only with the appropriate license, even then only after they have passed rigorous sugar-endurance testing, but then I don’t think I would get any either. (Chocolate makes me happy, but man, I don’t bite people, honest!)
What could I have done to make lunch less of a disaster? Be more patient? Not serve sugar? Wear protective gear? I don’t know. I like to tell myself two things. The first is that I’m a patient person. I may have to reevaluate this statement and turn it into a resolution: That I try to become a more patient person.
The second thing that I like to tell myself is that I will raise well-mannered children. I don’t know anymore. I know I’m going to try, but how much of a today’s bad behavior was lack of discipline and how much of it was just a vicious personality? I could get into the whole nature vs. nurture debate to try and figure out whether any child can just be born inherently evil (and likely to bite poor defenseless Abez’s who let them play video games and eat chocolate cake, *sniff) or whether lack of punishment just lets perfectly normal children get out of hand, like a nice yard gone all weedy because no one mows it.
Based on a few arbitrary rules I’m going to make up, I’d say that in this case, it’s nurture. I don’t think any one family could have two purely evil children in it. I don’t believe they’re common enough (2 out of 4 children? 50%?) to account for me being bitten by two sons of the same household, whereas lack of structure and discipline can ruin 100% of kids. There, that’s my arbitrary, psuedo-expert analysis. Make of it what you will. I’m going to go lick my wounds.