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Disciplining Another Mom’s Kid: Would You Dare?

Trust me, the title is not as scary as it looks. On Wednesday I took JD to story-time at our local library. The mommy-and-me class is two parts. First, the group meets in a common room where Miss Rosie reads books and we sing songs. There’s also a simple tutorial that involves alphabet recognition, counting, colors and shapes. For part 2, the group moves into the library to do a craft. Because it was raining and snowing a lot of the moms stayed in the library longer than usual so our kids could play before settling in for a long afternoon. JD plopped on the ABC rug and began building with bright wood blocks that he thought were super cool because we don’t own this particular brand. I sat near him in a chair and flipped through a magazine.

The other 2 and 3-year-olds all found something to play. One little girl was busy putting a 24-piece puzzle together and two kids were building with Legos. There were 3 other kids sitting at the table coloring.

“I'm making a park, Mommy,” JD said. “This is the slide.”

I looked up from the magazine to find that JD had built a little universe of playground equipment. The slide was comprised of a chubby block and a long skinny one that leaned on it, making a slope. Another structure looked like a seesaw and JD tipped one of the blocks up-and-down.

“A cool seesaw, Mommy!” he said proudly. “I’m going to build a fort for the park now!”

Just as I was about to say, OK, a one-year-oldish boy came running over and crashed into JD’s glorious park. Gulp. The baby picked up a piece of the park (OK, a block) and put it in his mouth. Gulp.

JD reacted.

“You’re messing up my park!” he screamed and everyone looked up. Mortified.

I jumped to the ground and explained the little boy was a baby and that he didn’t mean to break it. Then I offered to help JD re-build his park. The baby was now sitting on a big stuffed dog pillow, clutching a yellow block. His mom was sitting at the table with his sister.

We built up the park again.

The baby came crashing into it again.

I explained to JD again that he was a baby and doesn’t understand that we are playing a special game.

We built it up again.

The baby crashed into again.

JD yelled, “I am mad!” and ran away.

The baby was now holding 3 blocks and sitting in a pile of what was JD’s playground.

The baby’s mother didn’t move from her chair. She saw everything transpiring and didn’t budge. I didn’t say a word. JD showed up again and tried to build but it wasn’t happening.

“Let’s all play together,” I suggested.

So we tried and every time JD built something, the baby crashed it down.

Keyword here is baby. The other keyword here is pre-schooler who doesn’t understand why baby is breaking his awesome park. Don't get me wrong, JD knows how to and does share. He is kind and has many friends, but I think he just wasn't getting why this tiny human was destroying (over and over) what he thought was the coolest creation ever. Ever.

Meltdown ensued. JD started crying, then he threw a block. Mortified. The mother finally came over and got the baby and flashed ME a look, but by then I had JD under my arm like a squirmy football and was RUNNING out of the library. I think EVERYONE was looking at me. GREAT!

I’ve never disciplined another kid. I’ve never told another mom to discipline her kid (even when some kid threw a snowball right at JD's face and it stung his eyes and he was screaming. I just picked him up and walked away. I told JD that throwing snowballs is not nice and never to do it!) But, let’s face it, this baby didn’t need disciplining, but if he was my baby I would have removed him the first time he knocked over a pre-schooler’s block creation, or maybe I would have sat with him and offered to all play together. There were babyish toys that the baby could have played with and I actually felt bad for JD. The ages didn’t mesh and this is all trivial (baby, blocks, pre-schooler—these are the conflicts in my life these days!), but it was pretty much my entire morning and getting JD strapped in his car seat mid-meltdown was NOT fun.

That evening, I had a big talk with JD while we sat on the floor in our living room and played blocks. I explained again that the baby didn’t mean any harm and it was just his way of playing, like how JD plays with his friends at school.

“But they don’t crash my towers, Mom."

Speechless. Day over.

How would have you handled this situation? Motherhood is hard. I can understand why some parenting books have the word Chardonnay in them.

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