I Bite
I Bite

Rachel Fallon

It is 1.25a.m. I listen to my son grind his teeth. It is louder than it should be. He has the price of a small car in his mouth. All of his baby teeth crowned in metal, the result of a genetic failure. His teeth would crumble without the support. Or is it because of the drugs I had to take when I was pregnant. Is it my fault? In my first pregnancy I had partial kidney failure and when, during my second pregnancy my kidney’s blocked we ended up in the same hospital in Berlin, even though by this time we had moved far away. The pain that gripped my entire torso felt like being strapped into an iron corset. I could only bend at the knees. I took the tablets and I could breathe. My fear, my husband’s fear that we could have a second more terrifying birth eased slightly.

He is nine weeks old and I have brought him with me to a toddler group. I carefully lay him down and attend to his brother. Suddenly there’s a piercing shriek. I turn. A small child has his finger in her mouth. She is biting, biting down on my baby’s finger and he is bleeding and screaming. The child’s father is unperturbed. “These things happen”, he shrugs. Another mother whispers “She’s a biter”. I am shocked and horrified. I do nothing. I yell at my own toddler in frustration. He cries too. I have not protected my child, my children. That night I ring the mother of the other child. She isn’t interested. I leave the toddler group. My older son hated it anyway but I still feel guilty. My baby wakes each night screaming. The doctor says it is trauma. I have let my children down.

He is three in H&M. His brother is roaring. His brother shows me a wet stain on his chest and lifts his t-shirt. There is an uneven line on his chest, teeth marks, red and sore. “He bit me”, the brother howls, “He’s a biter”.

I am afraid of biting, of its connotations; dirty, wild, untamed. I am no longer afraid my children will bite but my terror has settled on the dog. I train her, try to control the situation but in truth, it is myself I am attempting to control. My own wild instinct to protect my children and bite all whom they fear. I try to civilise myself and act according to the rules of society. I don’t bite. I want to bite.

About Rachel Fallon

Rachel Fallon is a visual artist and mother of two sons. Her work explores the nature of defence and protection in the domestic and maternal realms.

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4 Responses to “I Bite”

  1. Frances Earnshaw

    Your story have lit up the rage and helplessness I felt, in this same situation. When My daughter was around two or three, there was a little girl in our circle who was a biter. She achieved her hurting in a stealthy, sudden way. Everything would be fine, children playing, mums chatting, then there would be a sudden cry of pain and surprise.

    The little girl was sullen, and the mother was one of those endlessly loud and cheerful, positive types. An amazonian hippy. She squeezed the space out of any reply you gave in conversation. Everything is alway alright, it is meant to be.

    When the little girl bit, she would immediately say, oh dear. Now hug Kaysha, say sorry…

    And the furious little girl would immediately encircle my crying Kaysha, squeezing and robbing her of space once more. I too was too self-blaming to be assertive enough in this situation. I simply avoided them like the plague, from then on.

    They say many women get raped from an excess of politeness, an unwilling to hurt feelings, to cause a fracasse. This makes me feel helpless… as in times like my daughter swung outwards over the cavernous space above a restaurant, on the open railings. Assertiveness failed me. Uncertainty. What to do. I did not want to scare her… I should have stepped forwards like a calm warrior, and taken her in my arms.

    I enjoy the rhythms of your story. Writing this is the healing.

    Reply
  2. Rachel Fallon

    Thank you Frances for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. It’s a strange one isn’t it. Biting is still a big taboo in all areas of life. it can be a sign of aggression but also an indicator of terrible fear or a sort of “I warned you now take the consequences”. In society we punish our animals with death or banishment so it’s no surprise that it evokes such emotion and yet we try to avoid dealing with it as humans. I suppose I am fascinated by those who seem to take it in their stride, who are somehow not upset by the damage it does and who don’t care enough about politeness. It’s also the ‘what does it mean when my own child bites? Am I a bad mother ? ” question. I think it has a great deal to do with boundaries.

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  3. Helen Sargeant

    This is such a strong piece of writing. I love how you weave the thoughts together. I often feel like a snarling, raging, angry dog. The mother urge to protect our children is intuitive and strong. Animals work on instinct, so do humans. Have you ever read Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes ?

    Your writing also made me think of Sydney grinding his teeth in his dreams. I’ve always found it really distressing when I hear him doing this. What is it that he is grinding down upon, what experiences is he eating up in his sleep.

    Naoise went through a stage of biting down upon my breast when I was feeding him. I think he found my reaction to him amusing. He would laugh, I would cry out in pain. He eventually stopped after I adopted a very stern look, said no and put my breasts away whenever he bit.

    My other thoughts on biting are that it’s not always a violent action. Perhaps sometimes children love other children so much that they want to taste them ?

    Reply
  4. Rachel Fallon

    Thank you Helen and yes, you are right-there are other sorts of bites. Tasting bites or love bites! More to think about.

    Reply

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