People make a huge deal about their kids sharing. At any given time at any given park you will hear a chorus of moms and dads yelling, “Honey, share with your sister,” “Lucy, can you let that other little boy use your shovel?” “Ian, give your friend some of your goldfish crackers!” We as a society are big on sharing. It seems that we find it to be a reflection of our own and our child’s good manners. I’m not immune to the pressure to make my children share but lately I’ve been wondering why we insist on forcing this issue when it clearly doesn’t come naturally.
My fourteen-month-old twins are already fighting over toys, attention and their fuh-fuh blankets (I know fuh-fuh is cloying but my friend Diana came up with the name for those little taggy blankets from Target. The real name is Chi-Chi which happens to be slang for boob in Spanish so I went with her on fuh-fuh). I’m pretty sure if left to their own devices my girls would fight to the death over a yogurt covered blueberry that fell on the floor. It’s a good thing I don’t keep any weaponry lying around the house or it would be like medieval times around here. The only person in this house who detests sharing more than the babies is Elby, their four-year-old sister. At the mere sight of one of her sisters grabbing for one of her toys, Elby reacts like she’s being mugged –which I guess she sort of is. “No Mattie,” she’ll scream, “That’s mine!” Of course my first reaction is to ask her to share but at the same time I sort of get it. I just have to put myself in her size nine light-up shoes to realize, sharing sucks. Why would I want to let anyone who comes in contact with something of mine have it? What if a friend of mine came into my office right now while I was writing this and just started grabbing my computer? I’d be pissed. So why do I expect my child to just hand over her prized possessions? And by prized possessions I mean anything she’s claimed ownership of in the span of her existence.
At my daughter’s preschool, if a child pees their pants and doesn’t have a spare pair of underwear, that child will be given a pair out of another kid’s backpack. How do I know this? Because Elby’s been on the receiving end of quite a few pairs of someone else’s Cinderella panties during the months after the babies were born and she had a few months of potty regression (read: a year). I wonder how I’d feel if someone at work broke a heel on their shoe and the boss just grabbed a pair of my Jimmy Choos and handed them over? I’ll never know because A) I don’t work in an office and B) I’ve never owned a pair of shoes that cost more than fifty bucks but still!
The more I think about it, the less natural sharing seems to be and the less apt I am to insist that my child do it against her will. There’s something so sweet about Elby’s face when she decides on her own to let Sadie hold one of the million stuffed animals on her bed or when she hands over a bite of her ice cream sandwich to Mattie after asking, “Can Mattie try some of my ice cream, mommy? It’s really yummy.”
Granted there are times when all kids need to share –like when they have a friend over for a play date and the other kid doesn’t think to bring their entire collection of toys with them so they have something to do –and at those times, I guess we as parents have to be the Share Police because plain old reasoning never seems to work. But, the next time I’m at the park and another kid hops on my kid’s bicycle, I may not be so quick to insist that she “let the other child try it for a little while.” I may just tell her that it’s okay to say “sorry but that’s mine.” After all, if I don’t know you and you decide to take my Volvo for a spin around the neighborhood, you’re going to get the exact same response.