You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I’m a lover not a fighter.” If our one-year-old could speak English, he would never say such a thing. He would proudly proclaim that he is a lover and a fighter.
He’s a little scrapper, that one. He loves to roughhouse and he’s not above bopping a family member on the nose when push comes to shove, or at any time before or after. He’s not very big for his age, but he makes up for his lack of volume with full doses of piss and vinegar.
My wife suggested that we change his name to Buster, or maybe Brutus. Brutus was the big meanie who picked fights with Popeye. This was either directly before, or directly after, his name was Bluto. I can’t remember the chronology; it’s so hard to keep up with Popeye now that he’s not appropriate for children anymore.
Buster and Brutus are tough guy names. But our little rough and tumble kid has a sweet side too. He’s a really good hugger who is never shy about passing out kisses to his family. If you rescue him from his crib when it has become a prison to him, he’s apt to take your face in his hands, turn it toward him, and plant a big wet one on your lips. (And you can pretty much count on baby kisses to be wet, even out of runny nose season.)
Pick him up from day care and he will smother you with hugs and kisses. He’s never loved anybody so much as he loves the particular parent who brings him home from that peculiar form of exile.
When you have a toddler who is both so rough and so tender, you have to be careful about how you teach him to employ the opposing sides of his personality. We’ve learned it is dangerous to lead such a child to the belief that a kiss is the equivalent of an apology.
Sure, it seems like a sweet kiss would be a nice way to say I’m sorry, when the culprit is too young to say I’m sorry with actual words. But no.
Whenever the little boy plowed an unprovoked fist into this brother’s ear or pinched his arm, we asked him to make up by giving his brother a kiss. He had no problem doing this. After all, the punch was meant in good fun. Since no one hits him, he doesn’t know how much it can hurt.
Kisses seemed like a fine substitute until Buster could express his remorse in actual words.
Then, one day Mommy picked up her little boy and asked him for a kiss. He knitted his brow. He wanted to give her a kiss, but could not recall having anything to apologize for. So he punched her in the ear.
And then, in accordance with his training, he gave her a sweet kiss dripping with love (i.e. baby spit).
Be careful what you inadvertently teach your Buster.