When I wrote this post about how Thing One had become an Avenger of the Meek at his preschool, I was pretty pleased, because he was on the side of justice, even though his actions (tipping over a play kitchen on the class bully) spoke of an incipient might-makes-right attitude and, frankly, I’ve always been more of a Jeremy Irons than a Robert DeNiro type of girl (see The Mission, in which Irons’s character utters the immortal “If might makes right, then love has no place in this world,” to Deniro’s before promptly getting shot). So I was okay with Thing One slapping down the brutalizers of smaller, less aggressive children, but now he seems to have transcended that realm, gotten a taste of what it’s like to subject others to the reign of terror, and gone from vigilante for justice to just plain gangster.

The change was abrupt. Even at the last community meeting (we are a co-op preschool, which means that we have monthly meetings in which people talk about their kids’ issues, or filter their issues through their kids), we were able to sit smug in the knowledge that our child was the only one there who never hit anyone. But the honeymoon is over: K. came home from the school yesterday to report that Thing One not only hit, he had kicked and shoved. A sampling of incidents:

1)”Chad,” a frequent pusher, was playing in the vicinity of Thing One when Thing One hit him. It’s unknown if there was provocation. Chad burst out crying; an adult nearby rushed to Chad’s comfort and aid, whereupon Thing One hit Chad again.

2)A melée of violence occurred in which “Cornichon,” a frequent biter, and his cohort “Buzz” pinned down Chad by sitting on his body while Thing One sat on his head. Chad’s muffled cries were eventually heard by a horrified adult.

3)”Neville” was lying on the ground crying, reason unknown. Thing One proceeded to kick him while commanding, “Stop crying!”

Disturbing incidents all, particularly the first and last, which speak of a Marine Corps-esque shut-up-and-take-it (and indulge in some homophobia and jingoism while you’re at it) attitude. Not the kind of thing we want to hear about our children. So disturbing were these incidents (and these are only the ones involving MY kid; apparently the day was a free-for-all of unrestricted violence, an orgy of assault) that one parent — Cornichon’s mother — wrote the rest of us to suggest that we AVOID AT ALL COSTS having that many children in the same room at once. I wouldn’t go to that extreme, but I confess that I was completely unfazed, in a you-got-yours kind of way, to see that Thing One had sustained injuries resulting in fingernail-shaped purple marks on his face.

When I tried to talk to him about it, here’s what happened:

Me: “So, did you hit anyone at playschool?”

T.O.: “I bonked Chad!”

Me: “Why did you bonk Chad?”

T.O.: “Because he was crying!”

Well. Okay then. That clears things right up.

Actually, I don’t think that Thing One’s actions are that surprising, mostly because he’s been dealing with a baby sister who cries a lot, and occasionally he finds this so trying that he yells from his car seat, “STOP CRYING! I’M GONNA HIT YOU!”, which is disturbing but not that shocking, as anyone who’s ever been driven to distraction by a howling baby can attest. Their cries are, after all, supposed to really jerk our chains, that being evolution’s way of making sure they get addressed, right? And I, for one, find a crying baby extremely enervating. I immediately become like a cross between Stalin and a Mexican jumping bean: steely-eyed, jittery, unable to sit still and willing to sacrifice the masses for my cause, which is getting that kid to SHUT UP already. So I can’t blame Thing One if it bugs him too, even though the prospect of his hitting his sister really fucks with my wiring, since I don’t know whom to protect (although she usually wins — evolution again, I’m sure). And him not wanting to listen to another two-year-old crying is par for the course, because a toddler’s sobbing is almost as enervating as a baby’s and, besides, doesn’t he go to school to get away from that crap?

Our conversation continued thusly:

Me: “Were you mad today at playschool?”

T.O.: “The gnome was mad. He was really GIANT. He bonked everyone down and kicked them again. He shouldn’t do that. That’s not nice. The gnome was screaming. He was screaming really loudly. He was hitting everybody. He smashed them down.”

Me (silent): Craptastic.

So the gnome is back again, the Crazy Wild Gnome, only instead of avenging the little people he has now grown to gargantuan size and is dominating the ring like Hulk Hogan in his heyday. On the one hand, I have to give the kid points for imagination (and did you notice he used TWO ADVERBS??? And he’s not even two and a half!), but on the other, this seems disturbingly like a “Mistakes were made (but I didn’t make them)” speech.

The other piece in this unpleasant little puzzle is that Thing One has been wearing underpants for a week now, and although he’s only had accidents on one day, I think he’s feeling just a teensy bit tense about it, even though it was his idea, and on the day he did have two accidents he woke up from nap swinging — screaming and hitting and howling, “I WANNA CRY!”

I could see how being fearful of disappointing every adult in your circle of acquaintance by peeing your pants could make a person a little aggro.

I don’t know how to explain the actions of the Cornichons and Buzzes in the mix. But it is the holidays — we’re gearing up for the big Dongzhi party, trying to make it hugely fun for Thing One while fielding the incredulity and skepticism of our secular Christian extended family and friends, and presumably their families are also dealing with, if not censure and a lack of respect for decisions of religious practice, huge amounts of stress in the way of finding enough presents and making enough turkey or ham and dealing with unpleasant, drunken, and/or dysfunctional in-laws and getting the children to behave themselves.

SO WE’RE ALL JUST A LITTLE BIT ON EDGE, OKAY?

Not that I’m condoning the return of the Aggro Gnome. But I can kind of understand where he’s coming from.

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