Botany's third birthday has come and gone. The celebrations lasted, like some extended royal wedding, for over three days. It felt longer than that in some ways, as we had all her little friends' parties in the days preceding- and so for what felt like six weeks, I spent every spare moment buying presents, unearthing party clothes, eating cake, playing pass the parcel, negotiating treaties during disputes over balloons and the last lollipop.
The insanity culminated in a small gathering held here. That morning, it poured rain, drenching the garden and restricting us to the relatively small confines of the flat. My parents decided they would prefer to be elsewhere, leaving me to get on with it single handed. After an hour or so of four toddlers hopped up on sugar and screaming up and down the hallway like caged wildebeasts, I handed out glasses of wine to their parents, which my fellow mothers gulped in frantic gratitude.
Afterwards I found Botany lying, her party dress rumpled, entirely under the duvet in her bed. I think I was not alone in finding it all just a bit much. And I am still picking bits of raisins out of my living room rug.
While Botany has settled in nicely to her new preschool, problems are emerging at the old place where she continues to attend twice a week. She has a special- and one might go so far as to describe it as passionte-friendship with another little girl her age whom I shall call "Milly". The two of them are more or less inseparable during the day and when she is not there, Botany refers to Milly frequently and lovingly as "my best friend" whom she would one day like to "marry".
Which makes it all the more dismaying that Botany has lately taken to venting any displeasure with her friend by sinking her tiny fangs into Milly's tender flesh. It's happened four times now- twice in one day-and on two occasions, Botany has drawn blood. Worst of all, one of the bites was on Milly's face. To say I am mortified and flummoxed by it is an understatement.
I confess it's not the first time Botany has bitten someone- she had a go at a small child some months back when he pushed in front of her, and once, during massive tantrum, she bit E. But I would not characterise her as a biter- except evidently, she is, at least where Milly is concerned. I don't know what it is about Milly that inspires such extreme rage and frustration. And at least up until yesterday, Botany has not seemed overly remorseful about it. The first time it happened, I talked to the staff to make sure Botany was appropriately reprimanded. E. bought a card for Milly which we wrote together- a profuse apology explaining that Botany understood biting was wrong and it would not happen again. We re-read "Teeth are Not For Biting" about 800 times.
Then it happened again, and Botany seemed actually quite pleased with herself. I was horrified when they told me upon pick up that she had done it, and then she giggled. Dear God, I fretted, am I raising a sociopath? The next day, I passed Milly's mother in the corridor at work and I burst into flames with embarrassment. What do you say? Hi, we don't know each other but your kid is wearing my daughter's tooth prints? My child is actually quite sweet and loves your child to bits- when she is not trying to gnaw off her arm?
Yesterday was the dual chomping incident, and for the first time Botany did seem contrite. "Mummy, I bit twice," she said, head down and with tears in her eyes as soon as I walked in. "Sorry," she whimpered, unprompted. Botany, Botany, how you test my patience while breaking my heart sometimes.
But I reviewed the discipline measures with the staff and it seems they may be taking a somewhat firmer line now with an immediate and a longer time out. They are going to try to monitor Botany and Milly when they are together (keeping them apart is apparently not feasible) and while I don't have high expectations for the amount of attention they can give, I hope some of what is causing the volcanic frustration can be deflected. They have patiently assured me that we'll get through it, which gives me some optimism in the face of this bewildering behaviour.
Either that or I will be packing a muzzle in her lunchbag.