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Thou Shalt Not Damage Library Books

If books came alive like toys did in Toy Story, they would fear our house.

You remember Sid?

Books have it pretty rough at our house. I think few have made it without being ripped, drawn on, slobbered on, chewed, flushed, cut, thrown, spilled on, lost, etc, etc, etc. If the kids had access to matches...well, you can connect the dots.

You would think that since I knew this about my children, I would steer clear of the public library. But I am not willing to give up hope that someday my kids will learn to be civilized human beings who yearn for knowledge and refinement. I am partly responsible for that training after all. So, I continue visiting that great institution, returning with fresh victims text.

A couple of weeks ago, I found yet another fallen comrade. It was a small board book that had been left out on the patio during a spontaneous rainstorm. I scooped up the sodden book and set it on the counter hoping to salvage it. Maybe with a little time to dry...and a miracle...

That night as I was making dinner, I turned around just in time to witness Deacon carefully and purposefully pulling the book apart! NO!!!! Not even a blessing from the Pope was going to bring that book back now.

This was ridiculous! How could I teach my children to respect other people's things, in this case the library's things, namely books?!

The wheels began turning...

Deacon is five years old now. Just barely five--he celebrated his fifth birthday last month--but still...five. Too old to be ripping apart library books just for the fun of it.

I considered this development. I considered the money he had leftover from his birthday. I considered the effectiveness of a little tough-love lesson.

After much consideration, I arrived upon the solution. It was time my big, book-breaking boy took some responsibility for the choices he had made.

I explained to him that he had broken something that did not belong to him. When we break things that do not belong to us, we must do everything we can to fix our wrongdoing. In this case, he would have to go with me to the library, tell the librarian what had happened, apologize, and use his leftover birthday money to pay for the book.

This upset him and I have to admit I was pleased that it did. I'm not heartless. I just knew that the message I was trying to get across was beginning to hit home. Truthfully, it made me sad to watch him go through this process, but a little excited too. This is probably Parenting 101 to more experienced parents, but this was a first for me. It was exciting in that my son was going to learn a valuable lesson that he will surely have to use over and over again in his life.

I know I did. For me, it was my sister's Barbie doll. One day I was angry at her and ripped her head off (the doll, NOT the sister...although I'll bet that's what I wanted to do...), throwing the plastic carnage behind our bunk bed. I had to admit my wrongdoing, apologize, and do extra chores to pay for a new doll. But, my aggression towards Barbie dolls can be saved for another post...or how about never brought up again? Yeah. I think that would be for the best.


We made our way to the library. Since my husband was at work, I had all three children with me. I didn't want to make an example out of my son...but if I was being really honest...I kind of did want to make an example out of him at the same time. I wanted them all to learn this lesson and if they could by watching their older brother...why not?

We waited in the long line at the librarian's desk and as we got closer I could see Deacon's anxiety level rise. By the time we walked up to her, he was on the verge of tears. I gently pushed him forward, hoping he would take the bull by the horns. Instead, he took a knee by the desk. Sobbing. I tried to gently talk him through it, but he just cried and cried.

In the end I was the one to explain to the librarian what had happened. I put the book on the counter. I took the money from his hot little hands and placed it in hers. I paid the difference when his money didn't cover the cost of the book.

The librarian was kind as librarians typically are. I think she thought I was being rather harsh to have him do this, especially when he was melting into a little puddle of teary, snotty goo right before her eyes. But she played along and told him she was proud of him because most people who broke their books didn't take responsibility for them. He may not have even heard her say that over his sniffles.

I suppose some of you may be thinking I was harsh, too. Or not harsh enough. I don't know. I feel like I constantly question my own self as I learn my lessons as a mom. Even as I wrote this post I wondered if I had done the right thing in trying to teach my boy the lesson of not breaking other people's things.

Mid-post, I turned to Deacon and said, "Remember when we went to the library the other day? Why did we do that??" to which he promptly replied, "To fix my mistake."
I think I might be doing okay.


Evelyn Perkins can often be found barricaded in the bathroom, holding the laptop hostage in exchange for fifteen minutes of peace and quiet from her captors, three darn tootin' cute kids and one patient and hungry husband. More of their hostage negotations can be found on her personal blog, The Perks of Life.

*image from Google images

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