Before I had children I imagined I’d occasionally have to be the peacemaker.
When they would be, I dunno, arguing about who’s turn it was to recite poetry or list the elements of the periodic table, I would explain mutual respect and tolerance to them and they would nod and smile and apologise to each other, then hug and skip outside to gather flowers and plait each others hair.
For some reason it never for one moment occurred to me, perhaps partly because I was hoping that my wife would give birth to human children and not, I dunno, honey badgers or a litter of dingos, that I would have to try and stop my children biting each other.
And it’s not my son, even though he is more than capable of behaving like some sort of feral woodland creature. It’s my tiny, sweet, cute as a button, still less than two years old daughter. And her lunging at her brother like a tiny, ginger, hair-clipped Dracula, isn’t even the most shocking thing about it. It’s how much my son enjoys it. Not the biting. The repercussions.
He’s not blameless. His cackling as he pesters her nearer and nearer to biting point is chilling. Finally she reaches breaking point and goes in, fangs bared.
“She bit me!” my son wails. I have to wade in, but I have no idea what to do.
“That’s very naughty.” I say. She glares back at me, defiant as a psychotic prison inmate. “You should never bite. Very naughty.”
“She should say sorry.” My son points happily.
“Say sorry to your brother.” I tell her.
“No.” She says. She lowers her eyes menacingly.
“Do the counting!” My son instructs me gleefully. I start counting. “Say sorry to your brother. One. Two. Three.”
“Put her on the naughty bag!” He demands.
“She’s too small for the naughty bag.” I say, feeling powerless. “I, er, I’m sure she’s sorry.”
She doesn’t look the slightest bit sorry.
I go to check his wound. He pulls up his top to show me. I can’t see anything.
“I thought she bit your hand?” I ask.
“Errr…” My son’s eyes dart shiftily. “There too.”