The first time she ripped a book, I made a big deal about how it ruins the book and I made her sit down with me to tape it back up.
I patted myself on the back. That should be the end of that, I figured.
The second time she ripped a book, I made a big deal about how it ruins the book, and told her she wouldn’t be able to read it until we fixed it, which might be awhile since I was busy. She watched me put it up on a high shelf where she couldn’t reach it anymore.
The third time, I discovered the book next to her bed when I checked on her at night. It was a “Noah’s Ark” book where you lift the flaps to find all the animals throughout. Every single flap had been ripped out, probably close to a hundred in all. I stared at the mess quietly as my daughter nestled her head into the pillow, and silently picked up the book with all the stray pieces of paper and put it into her closet to postpone deciding what to do with it.
The fourth time, she was sitting on her potty reading, which I’ve always thought to be a delightful habit of hers that makes her seem more grown up, and she started ripping, for the second time, her favorite book.
“Celia! What are you doing?!” I asked, rushing in to take the book from her.
“I’m ripping it.” Celia looked at me straight-faced. A simple answer for a simple question.
“But why?” I asked, trying to piece together the stray thoughts of a two-year-old.
“It’s my favorite,” Celia said seriously. “I want to eat it.”
I shook my head. “Celia,” I crouched down and showed her the ripped book, “When you rip it, it’s broken. Sometimes it’ll stay broken forever. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Celia said.
“I’m taking this book away from you. Do you understand why?”
I put the book on a high shelf and wondered when it would stop.
The fifth time Celia ripped one of Michelle’s favorite books. It was at least thirty years old, and had been in pristine condition, a delightful little book about the games kids play.
Michelle’s face changed color, “That’s it! No more books for you! We’re taking them away until you grow out of this.”
I stared at her with wide eyes. It wasn’t what I expected, but as I thought about it, it made sense. Celia watched as Michelle cleared seven different shelves of all the books, and put them into plastic bins. She left the bin that was most difficult to open next to the story-time chair, where I could still read her stories at night, but the rest disappeared into the closet.
Who knows how long we’ll have to wait. A few weeks? A few months? But one thing’s for sure, Celia has stopped ripping books.