Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Concepts of Sharing

Thanks for Facebook, I was able to read this article called "Why I Don't Make My Son Share"  . I linked it, you should read it.

Brief synopsis - the author talked about the policy at her son's school, which is basically a toy is yours until you are done playing with it.  Parents like and accept this, other kids accept this without a fit, all is harmonious. But the author did not find this to be true our in the rest of society; people expected that her son should give up what he is using so someone else can use it, whether at a public play center where the items belong to the center, or his very own personal toys.

I like the article. I agree with her. We taught our kids sharing was a nice thing, but that sharing did not mean the person has a right to demand to use what you are currently using.  I remember telling many a child (when we lived in campus housing in Iowa) that the toys belonged to my children and it was up to them if they wanted to share - and if they said no, that was the final word.

The interesting part is that we were surrounded by other families of different cultures - Indian, Japanese, Chinese, South American, Middle eastern - and all of those children to this kind of statement very well. They knew we left certain toys outside all during the summer and they were welcome to play with them until my child asked for it back.  And they handed it over without having to be asked twice.  My children liked playing with these children because they respected them and their wishes, and my children offered up the same in return.

My children did not always like playing with other American raised children, because while they also came over and played with our toys, they also decided that if it was left right outside your door, or in your foyer, that meant it was free for them to take and it was theirs now.  Umm, no.  A lot of these children also thought it was perfectly acceptable for them to demand a toy that my son or daughter was playing with. Even though my husband or I often had schoolwork of our own to do, we often spent time sitting outside in turns, defending our children's rights to play with their own toys. We had kids yell at US, the adults, because we backed up our kids rights to say no. We had parents yell at us because we backed up our kids rights to say no.  In the end, we just started taking stuff inside the four plex building's basement at night and when we weren't home; we had no issues of sharing with the other kids who lived in that building, and the basement was common space for us all.

Sadly, this punished our kids in a way - we didn't want to haul out the elephant slide and bikes every day, or the bins of outside toys- so some things just didn't get played with. It punished the kids who did understand our concepts of sharing, because they also could not play with those toys. And for them, this was often harder, because for a lot of foreign families, when they came over to study (most of them grad students) they brought the whole family - themselves, their spouse, their children and often one or more of their parents.  The four plexes were not big - two bedrooms, a small living room and small kitchen. It meant for those families, very little room was spared for larger toys like our kids had - the bikes, the slide. So for them, those toys only existed when we brought them out. Yes, there were playgrounds in the housing, but the same attitudes prevailed there - kids who told another "you've been on that swing two minutes, it's my turn!" and then proceeded to try to yank them off the swing. Yes, we as parents, enforced the rights of our kids - and others- to use that equipment as long as they wanted.  My kids learned patience and that sometimes, you just don't get a turn.

Both of these concepts served them well as they grew older, and now as adults. They also know how to share - we all do. There's often a time when I'm doing research in the downtown main library when I take extra lunch, so I can share it with someone in Civic Park.  I always have a variety of lunch things when I'm working, because we never know ahead of time if the day's schedule will allow us to sit and eat a lunch, or if it's going to be snacking all day. Sometimes, my job is over much sooner than expected, and my lunch is unneeded because I'm going home. So if I pull up to a light and there's a homeless person standing there with their sign, I call them over and give them my lunch or whatever is left - bag of pretzels, carrots, a soda.  I've never been told no. I've never been not thanked, because these people get it. I don't have to share - this is mine, but I am, and now it is theirs.

I say these people get it, but not everyone does. Some people are still stuck in that thought that what you have belongs to them as well.  One of my last trips to the library and Civic park, I sat in the sun - it was still winter, but a very warm winter day like Denver often gets.  I'll take the time in the warm sun when I can get it.  My lunch was gone - a rare occasion when I actually ate everything I brought, and I was reading.  A woman came up and asked me for a pair of sunglasses and was quite put out when I said I didn't have any. I don't- I wear glasses, and don't have any sunglasses! Then she asked me for my cell phone. Yep, I lied. said I didn't have one of those either. (I do have what I call my "stupid phone" - it's a minimal style flip phone that does a unique thing - calls people- and not much more.  It is not a smart phone.) And then she asked me for a computer! Told her I didn't have one of those with me either.  She was quite pissed off with me at that point, and wandered off mumbling about how selfish I was and didn't know how to share.

Thing is, I do know how to share. I have shared my car, my home, my clothes, my food, I share my kids with their grandparents, other relatives, my husband.  I've even shared my husband for all manner of assistance to others (except sex)  and he has likewise shared me.  We ask each other first, however, and we have a unspoken code that totally allows the other to say no.  My kids have done the same thing.

But sharing doesn't mean everything I have is fair game.  You can have some eggs- no problem! But you cannot come into my yard and help yourself to one of my chickens.  You can borrow my car- or me to drive you somewhere - no problem! But that doesn't make my car yours.  You can have some of the food in my fridge, but you cannot eat it all. (Haven't all of us had this battle with college roommates? I know my daughter, my husband and I have- I don't think my son did in barracks, but they instill a different mindset in Marines)

You can share, you can say no.  I respect your right to do so, in any situation.  We're not doing children any favors by letting think they must give what they have to others, or that they are entitled to what others have.  Or your child will find out the very hard way, somewhere in life, that no one will help them even out of kindness when they need it because they made assumptions about other people and their things earlier on.

Basically it comes down to "Do not give to others what you cannot EMOTIONALLY afford to give."

No comments:

Post a Comment