A Selfish Thought
The next time you’re in a waiting room, or anywhere that’s you and a room full of strangers, go up to one of them and try this …
“Excuse me, I’ve noticed that you’ve had that US Weekly for over ten minutes and it’s my turn for it now.”
Ha ha ha! What just happened to you? Did you get the mag stuffed up your nose? Okay, well, forget the magazine, go over to that lady who is sipping from a Starbucks latte and do this …
“I want some of that, please!”
Did she just throw it at you?
Of course, you’d never do either of these things because a) you’d look like a freak and b) I mean, bring your own damn coffee next time! Grab that untouched copy of your local Parent magazine instead if the US is taken. That’s life, Sugar.
So why oh why do we teach our kids that they should expect similar types of scenarios to work out in their favor?
I’m talking about the S word, that S word that we’ve preached at our kids as early as we believed they could understand us, a word whose meaning is (well in my selfish opinion, anyway) so misunderstood, so misconveyed (is that a word, well it is now), and so misguided. Come on, let’s all say it together now …
Ohhhh sharing. Share, share, share. “Boys, you need to share!” “If you’re not going to share your sand toys with the other kids, then we aren’t bringing them to the park with us,” “Oh, that little boy wants to share the slide with you,” … okay, you get the idea. And used in the correct context, sharing is an important life skill that we all must learn, pretty early on actually, if we want to be productive citizens and have people not hate us. My boys SHARE the Wii Logan received for his last birthday. My next door neighbor SHARED his extra bike with Logan the other day because Logan’s is broken. A good friend of mine SHARED one of her strollers with me recently because I needed a lightweight one for a day and buying new would be silly. When we go to the park and bring our sand toys (and oh do we have a stash), I expect my boys to SHARE the stash…which to ME means that since we own like ten dump trucks, 300 shovels and 6,000 buckets, if other children, even children they do not know, want to play with their stash, well then play with it they may or else next time, the stash gets left at home. That’s not necessarily because I feel sorry for all the stash-less children digging in the sand with woodchips they’ve swiped from the swing set area, it’s just that to have my boys think that it is ok showing up with all of that crap, digging a giant moat around themselves and then declaring “MINE” to all their peers is a fast way to get their asses kicked, and I don’t want that as their mom.
How many times has it actually gone like this …
You arrive at the sandbox with your arsenal of sand toys and one of your sons begins loading up the yellow dump truck with sand while the other begins digging a giant hole to India with a large shovel he just received in his Easter basket. Immediately, the masses begin to gather and suddenly you find some child you’ve never seen before in your face, practically spitting with indignation, announcing, “HE WON’T SHARE THAT DUMP TRUCK!” You check your watch and confirm that you’ve been at the park for all of five minutes.
Before you can act, you’ve got another moment of drama as you look up to see two strange children digging with your other son’s Holy Grail Shovel and your other son watching them sadly, afraid to say anything because to not share has always been a direct path to an intense dressing down by a mom (either his or someone else’s).
How have we conditioned our kids to a) think that sharing means you see something cool and that something’s owner must hand it over immediately on demand and b) that if someone comes up and just outright takes your cool new toy from you, you can’t fight back because that would mean “you’re not sharing” and therefore, a really bad person?
This morning in the dentist office waiting area with Adam, my four-year-old, I had one of these moments. Adam had brought a couple of his trains with him for moral support and was playing with them while sitting next to me in a chair. A boy old enough to have graduated from the Toddler Property Laws school of thinking came over and inspected Adam’s loot, then asked me “when it was going to be his turn” to play with Thomas and James (train names, for those of you unfamiliar with Thomas the Tank Engine), and did I mention that the little boy was removing the trains from Adam’s grasp as he was inquiring about when it would be his turn?
I thought, Adam doesn’t have to give up his trains. They’re his, he brought them from home, there’s plenty of other toys in this waiting room INCLUDING a train table, so you know what…Adam doesn’t have to share today!
I did my best to politely convey that to the boy. In fact, I think I did say simply, “He brought them from home so he’s going to keep them to himself today”. The boy wandered over to his own mother and said, “Mommy, that little boy won’t share his trains with me” to which she replied (after giving me a look that implied I deserved all sorts of future bad karma), “Well just tell him that it’s your turn with them!”
I’m not trying to say that sharing isn’t important and that it’s ok to have our kids hoard objects, be selfish or avoid interacting with others during playtime, or anytime. And obviously, common sense dictates that there are times when sharing is crucial to contributing to a civilized society. I’m just saying that not every time is that kind of time, and I think we need to give ourselves and our kids permission to say, “This is mine and I’m going to need it for awhile” and respect that line of thinking. Tell that kid at the sandbox, “I’m using this shovel right now but I brought all these other shovels that you can use if you want”. Because THAT is more real life than “Oh, yes, please take it right away. I didn’t want it anyway.” Don’t agree with me?
Then let me know when you are successful at getting a sip of that Carmel Macchiato that random woman is drinking over there.