A not-so-small bit of anxiety has crept into our Tuesday night ritual of storytime at the library. Here we have been going for nearly two years, feeding our hearts with all sorts of wonderful books, never worrying at all about the other families who gather with us to be nourished by Pumpkin Soup and Apples, Apples, Apples.
The past several weeks, however, every time we go to the library we have encountered a mischievous sprite who insists on pushing the babies down and hitting the other toddlers on the head. She has the most disarming smile, and is certainly a sweet sight to behold when she's bouncing up and down and flapping her arms with the songs. But then, when you least expect it...pop! She hits you across the face with a book.
It's hugely embarrassing. For us. Because--ah yes, she's at it again--the storytime stalker is none other than our Jules, our sweet Jules, who is tormenting the other kids. I feel like I'm always apologizing, and we are constantly monitoring her as she weaves in and out of the children scattered throughout the room. If ever she pauses just a little too long in front of one child, gets just a little too close, we are quick to scoop her up and plop her back in our lap.
Some nights she's better than others, although our stress level never diminishes, and then there are nights like tonight. She smiled at a baby for a few seconds, and then after establishing eye contact, Jules pushed her over. That earned her some discipline with Daddy out in the hallway. Later on, she was watching another child play quietly, and crept closer to observe. We reminded her, "Gentle," which she interpreted as "Grab the baby in the face." Uff da.
Her ferocity is entirely characteristic of her: she tackles us with her hugs, smothers us with her kisses, wraps her arms tightly around our neck as she screams, "LOVE!" Sydney put it best the other day as she rubbed the spot where Jules hit her: "I know she's just trying to get my attention, but it still hurts." If only all her passions could be channeled so positively.
Even though almost 2-year-olds aren't always known for their kind and gentle spirits, Jules seems to bypass kindess and gentleness more often than not. We praise her to the moon and back whenever she exhibits kindness, and yet, it doesn't quite stick with her. I want to teach her to be nice, to refrain from using violence. I don't want to be the parent who shakes her head and sighs with comic exasperation, "Oh, two year olds. What can you do?"
I also don't want to be the parent who is worried about her child's behavior because it reflects poorly on her parenting skills. More than anything, I want my children to be caring because they want to be caring, because it's part of their character.
It's hard to talk to a 20-month-old about character, though.
As for advice? Yes, please.