I know I am not making an original observation when I say that many of the ideas about parenting that I had before Pumpkin was born have turned out to be completely wrong. I don't know why I continue to be surprised by the number of things I didn't know, but I do.
Earlier this week, I had lunch with a good friend of mine. She has a job very similar to mine, and has only recently returned to work after having her second baby. As you'd expect, we spent much of our lunch discussing the ups and downs of working motherhood. I mentioned that we are working with Pumpkin again on "no biting"- after a couple of months of no bites at day care, we have started getting bite reports again. We have no idea what has triggered this, but are back to talking to Pumpkin about biting, reading her the Teeth Are Not for Biting book, and playing out the biting scenario and consequences with her baby doll and stuffed bunny. The conversations are slightly more enlightening now, since Pumpkin has more language skills, but we still can't get her to tell us why she bites. She does tell us who she bites, and that she bit on the arm, and "no, no, bite, hurts". She also is responding better to the play scenarios. She's not biting everyday this time around, and seems to know that biting is wrong. So maybe we'll get past this phase faster this time.
However, it turns out we are lucky that our day care doesn't expel children for biting. My friend listened to my story about Pumpkin, and said she was really glad her eldest had only bit once or twice because several kids have been expelled from her day care for biting, and that the school only gives the parents a week or two to sort the biting out before they expel. Both my friend and I think this policy is unduly harsh- it is very hard for a parent to stop a toddler from biting. I could see expelling a child if the parents weren't taking the issue seriously, if there was some indication that the child needed specialist care, or if there was reason to believe the bites were causing serious harm. None of the bites Pumpkin has ever gotten at day care were bad enough to worry me. They are just little marks on the arm. Her teachers say that the bites she has dished out are similar. Expelling a child who developmentally doesn't yet have the capacity for self control for minor bites seems unfair, particularly if the parents are doing everything they can to solve the problem.
The child is not going to learn from the experience. A toddler is too young to understand why her day care arrangement has changed. But the parents will have a pretty miserable time dealing with the expulsion. Most day cares that take babies under the age of 2 have long waiting lists. The parents of the expelled child would have no option but to hire a nanny, and would probably end up taking at least a week off of work while they found a nanny.
Pumpkin landed in a day care with more lenient policies purely by chance. It did not occur to me to ask about this when we were looking at day cares, and even if I had asked, I don't think I would have realized that the answer I was looking for was the lenient one. If I ever write a book about the things you really need to know to be a working mother, this would definitely be something I'd put in the chapter on choosing day care. This, and the advice about sippy cups.