From a young age, we’ve been told to share.
You had to share your toys with your siblings even though they had, in the past, broken your favorite play thing. Then it was bring something to school for Show and Tell, which is just a glorified way of sharing a precious item of yours with your whole class.
In our adult life we also are expected to share.
You share your photos online with everyone, including friends of friends that you don’t know. Buy this cell phone and share your minutes with your significant other or your family. Even Google and other sites have a specific button to press so that you can share an article or picture instantly to others subscribed to you. And what’s that button called ... Share!
Sharing isn’t a bad thing. It builds the ability to spread the wealth as well as teaches us how to delegate responsibilities.
Plus, it just makes us nicer people.
But what about when we become parents? Do we suddenly forget how to share? Does the death of so many brain cells from sleep deprivation cause us to forget how to take turns?
Yes. As parents we teach our children how to share, yet we forget how to do it ourselves.
Most of us parents have experienced this phenomenon at some time or another. For example, you are sitting with your toddler in a gym class for kids. Plastic balls and multicolored foam mats surround you as you sit tensely next to other tense parents, hoping your munchkin won’t bite any of the other kids. In between the gym class teacher bursting into song and having to get up to pull your child down from the shelves, you try to begin a conversation with these other parents. You’ll chat about work, daycare, and other topics known to parents.
Then one parent mentions a milestone their child has or hasn’t hit. They are sharing with you this concern or this celebration. “Johnny said his first word the other day,” or “Little Lily isn’t rolling over quite yet.”
There can be reasons behind this openness, but, nonetheless, it is sharing. You look at them and watch their mouth move but nothing they are saying is entering your brain. For all intents and purposes, you are “listening” but you aren’t “hearing” a word they are saying.
Instead you are waiting for them to stop talking so you can begin with, “Well my darling angel ...”
Next thing you know, you are comparing your darling angel to theirs, never mind that the person before you was sharing first and that you didn’t acknowledge their words in any way.
If you haven’t done it yourself, you’ve had it done to you. Comparing instead of sharing. It’s not meant to be hurtful (although sometimes I question this with certain parents) but it’s rude and downright unnecessary.
My suggestions when faced with a “comparing” and not a “sharing” situation are as follows:
1) Hear them: Don’t just listen to the sounds their moving mouth is making. Honestly hear what they are getting across to you.
2) Ask questions: I know you are dying to start sharing about the time Sweet Jimmy rolled over and said Mama in one day, but asking a question first before you begin telling your own anecdote is important. It shows you heard them and that you cared enough about what they said to inquire further.
3) Respond: If they are sharing a concern and you’ve asked for more details, follow up with a positive response to help calm their fears. Or, if they are celebrating, congratulate them.
4) Don’t advise: Make sure you only give advise when asked. No one dislikes having their child compared to another child. But even more distressing is when unsolicited advice passed out.
5) Share: Try not to compare your child with theirs. If they’ve shared a big moment with you, they are opening up and allowing you into a small part of their life. Don’t use that moment to dig in a little and remind them that your child did the same thing, just bigger and better. Instead, share with them something else.
It all seems so simple but, yet, we forget. I blame the late night feedings and the exploding diapers for my lapse in judgment from time to time when my son was little. Now I have no excuses. Now, if I want to be heard, I must listen first, with an open mind and heart.