You’ve all seen this parent. A mom or dad who comes to playgroup with a sweet child in their arms. The baby is all smiles and is excited by all the excitement around them. The colours. The noises. The pandemonium.

The parent and child team get settled in their corner, and then the parent lets the baby loose. In a matter of seconds, baby is off like a rocket — crawling over younger infants, taking toys away from unsuspecting victims, crawling up to other mothers urgently pointing and gesturing for toys, bullying the older toddlers, ripping out binkies from the mouths of babes, and horror upon horrors, smacking everyone in the face. The parent watches all of it, quickly growing pale and runs behind destructobaby, apologizing, redirecting, distracting, and eventually just picks up the the child, withdraws to their corner to regroup and calm down. It’s all over in about 5 minutes. The parent is flustered and shocked. The baby is frustrated and restrained. The playgroup silently marks the baby as being a bully.

Yeah. That would be me.

Yesterday I took Eryn to a new playgroup at a free centre and experienced the above scenario. The parents were super nice about it, but I couldn’t understand what was going on. Eryn isn’t violent. She’s not usually a bully. She’s spent the last month attached to my hip and terrified of leaving whenever she’s confronted with strangers. I completely didn’t expect this assertive, talkative and pushy baby to fly from my arms.

In retrospect I’m so proud of her. She scared a 3 year old boy, wasn’t afraid of any of the adults, shared a few of the toys without being prompted and had a really great time.  I’m more worried about the face hitting. She gave a really good whack to a 5 week old infant — and that’s just not acceptable.

We’ve been modeling gentle behaviour with her recently — she rocks her “baby” (Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas) to sleep, and gently strokes my arm when I ask her to show me “gentle touch.” So I was really taken aback when she ruthlessly attacked every child in the room. And for no apparent reason.

“dum, da dum, dee dum. I’m crawling, crawling, crawling… oh hello! Nice toy you have there.. WHACK! What’s over there? crawling, crawling, crawling. I see you sitting in your bumbo seat. Nice rattle. You want some of this? KAPOW.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be teaching her how to fight Crouching Tiger style.

Eryn play fighting with a friend

Thankfully, I think it was just circumstantial.  Babies are individuals with their own moods and needs.  Today I took her to another, bigger playgroup. She didn’t hit anyone and even offered some empathy. My heart melted when she crawled past a 2 year old girl, paused and sat up to pat the girl on the back. Like the hitting, she did it for no apparent reason.

Maybe she’s playing good baby/bad baby? No matter. She can hold her own in a room full of strangers, and that’s awesome. (we’ll just have to work on the hitting)