I do not feel like I handled a situation very well today. Mabel and I have been going to a local community center for some unstructured playtime for a couple months. There are anywhere between a dozen and zero other kids there. It’s basically a gymnasium with little kid cars and balls and other such fun toys. Mabel runs around for an hour and a half with one toy or another and I leave with an exhausted, happy toddler who naps for several hours. It’s awesome.
On occasion, Ms. Nancy from the local library will come for story time. That happened to be today. Mabel loves Ms. Nancy’s story time at the library. However, today was the first time she was introduced to story time in the gym. While all the rest of the kids sat nicely and watched Ms. Nancy, Mabel refused to get out of her little car and wouldn’t come anywhere near the group.
Honestly, Ms. Nancy has said before and will say again, that is isn’t disruptive to her at all when toddlers are “toddling.” It’s what they do. And I don’t think the other parents were disrupted either. Mabel was on the other side of the gym. And to be honest, even I wasn’t even really bothered by it. But I am starting to wonder if this is because a lack of discipline. So I picked today to make a stand. I told her that if she didn’t sit down with the rest of the kids, at least for a sliver of a second, that we were leaving. Well, this didn’t work. Surprise. She was the only child, out of about a dozen, that would not sit down even for a little bit. Is this my fault? Should I be disciplining her more? Should we have more structure in our home routine? Or is this just Mabel? I know it’s not all two-year-olds because there were several kids there her age who listen to their parents.
I got our coats and bag, uncertain about if I was really going to leave or not, and Mabel surprisingly made the decision for me by bolting out the door and running to the car. So we left in the middle of story time. I’m sure the rest of the kids played in the more typical unstructured atmosphere about 5-10 minutes after we left, but we were already gone. I didn’t give Mabel the usual Elmo crackers in the car because I wanted her to know that Daddy was upset at her. My thinking is that I need her to feel empathy when she upsets Daddy and that empathy is the whole key to discipline. Or something like that.
Anyway, I still feel terrible about how I handled the situation, sneaking out without saying goodbye, which is very atypical of me, even though Mabel ran out of her own volition. I’ve been worried all morning that I gave the wrong impression of us to the other parents there. Should I have just let her go, potentially being labeled as the undisciplined child or should I have made a scene by making her leave? Am I overparenting? When should I really start to discipline her for things like this? It’s not like she was being malicious to anyone. She is one of the more popular kids at story time likely because she’s so much fun. I suppose this is the other side of being fun.
As is typical, as soon as I was feeling confident with this parenting gig, another hurdle leaps into my path. And this is one I don’t think is going away anytime soon. For those still reading, what the heck should I be doing? Should I let her run amok so long as it doesn’t interfere with story time? Or should I be giving her ultimatums and handing out punishments, like not giving her the Elmo crackers or not going to the playground? Will she even understand that yet? Can somebody with an older, ornery child please tell me what to do?