My daughter is attempting to eat a packet of potato snacks with one hand, and I am somewhat concerned. It has been over 24 hours since she was bitten on the thumb by a fellow two-year-old and she has stopped using her left hand.
There was a lot of blood at the time – they took a huge chunk out of the middle of the thumprint – but surely it can’t be broken? Can toddlers carry rabies?
The things is, the moment it happened, my sympathy did not lie first and foremost with my daughter. I mean, I ran to her aide and I kissed and cuddled her and made soothing noises. Then I ran it under a cold tap, and put antiseptic on and wrapped it in a plaster.
But the person I really felt sorry for was the other child’s mother.
All I could think about was how awful she must have felt. Publically shamed as the parent of a feral attacker in front of all those other parents and childminders. Then having to go through the rigmorale of making her child sit apart from the others and think about what they had done. Even though it had been forgotten by both parties within seconds.
Of course I was instinctively concerned about my daughter. I felt protective and defensive of her fragile little fingers as I prised them, limp and dripping with drool, from the jaws of her attacker. Then when she recovered from the initial shock and didn’t immediately appear to be fatally wounded, I dusted her off and sent her back into the fray.
But I kept on feeling pangs of empathy for the other mother. Remembering just how I had felt when pulling my little thug away from a much smaller tot she had just shoved away from the toy she had her sights on. My cheeks hot with shame and my voice strangled in my throat with embarassment as apologies tripped clumsily off my tongue. My effort to remain composed as I gripped my daughter’s wrist with a vice-like strength and told her, “No, you mustn’t do that. Say sorry.” Oh yes, I have been in the Mother-Of-The-Violent toddler’s shoes many a time.
My feelings almost manifested themselves as guilt. Guilt that my daughter allowed herself to be bitten? I spent time supporting and reassuring the biter’s mother; laughing it off and playing it down; offering stories of bad things my child had done in the past that made the mouthful taken from her thumb just desserts.
When I noticed later that day, back at home, alone, that she was not using her hand at all I took her own pain more seriously. I went into neurotic mother mode and scrutinised it carefully for signs of broken bones, insisting she grip my finger and show me she could bend and wiggle each of her digits. I checked for pus and Googled symptoms of infection.
I am a little concerned just what kind of toddler germs may have been injected directly into her bloodstream with needle-sharp baby teeth.
But to be honest, my strongest emotion is still relief – that she was the victim in this scenario.