Babies, as we are told, might bite or kick or punch or pull or grind because they are little scientists, innocently exploring their world by pummeling it into a mush. They don’t mean any harm; they just want to see what will happen when they knock something senseless, is all. The important thing, the experts will tell you, is not to make a big deal of these playful experiments. Ignore. Or simply issue a firm “No.” Do not yell or carry on. There’s nothing a baby enjoys more than a dramatic reaction, naturally — your pained shrieking is, to them, delightfully novel!
But the first time Henry decided to experiment (scientifically), his chosen subject was my mom. She didn’t know what I and the experts knew. She had not been apprised of this new thinking. She was holding him and he was gurgling and cooing, and then his hand was a fist and it landed in her eye socket. She cried out in surprise and pain. I lunged forward to stop her, which further alarmed both her and Henry.
“You’re not supposed to react!” I cried out. “The books say not to react!”
Later I thought, How is that a nice thing to say to someone who’s just been struck? By your child? Which means it’s somehow your fault? “The books say your human reaction is incorrect, Mom! Cease and desist your, uh, having it!”
My mother looked at me with her one good eye as if I had lost my mind. “You try not reacting to someone socking you in the face. Get me an ice pack.”
Holy Smokes- what do you do?