Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning to share

Obviously, at 2 years old, the Nugget does not grasp the concept of sharing. I don't expect it to be a lesson learned or understood quickly, but I do hope he'll learn a tiny bit more impulse control with each passing month. One thing that has helped is the concept of "taking turns". He loves to give Daddy, me, and his stuffed friends turns. He even offers turns to his peers, which makes my heart swell with pride, even though when he expects their turn to last .25 seconds.

Here's my latest conundrum though...when teaching your toddler to share, what do you do when the other kids won't take turns and their parents aren't present? It's too much to expect the Nugget to be generous when another kid is hogging the swing/train/book. I usually tell the Nugget that we'll share and take turns and that the other kid is taking his or her turn now. Often, the child will give the Nugget a chance when they're done, or the kid's parent will step in and help negotiate the sharing. When that fails, I do nicely ask the kid to please let the Nugget take a quick turn. Sometimes they do, sometimes they point blank refuse. I am not bold enough to physically remove someone else's child from a plaything (and basically that would be teaching the Nugget to grab toys anyway), so in these circumstances, the Nugget must be carried away, crying indignant tears, and I feel helpless for letting him down. I have nothing to say but, "Sometime life's not fair. I'm so sorry that you're sad, I know you wanted to play with X. We'll do something else fun and try to come back to it later."

One kid at a playground was playing catch with the Nugget's blue ball, then ran off with it instead of kicking it back. He even taunted the Nugget with it several times, while we politely asked him to return it and told him, "We need to share the ball. This ball belongs to Nugget," time and time again. I'm not mad that another child would do this, he is surely learning too - but where was his mother? What should I have done? Perhaps I should have cornered the kid and brought out the teacher voice. It's so hard to know how to deal with unknown children, when your role is not that of authority figure but that of parent to another tot.

I was the mild child on the playground, always willing to acquiesce to others. I don't want the Nugget to be that mild, he is not built to be that mild, but how can I teach him when to stand up and when to back down, given that my life experience was a constant series of turning the other cheek?

Why bother learning this sharing business if other kids won't play fair? Will being the underdog teach him compassion or inspire vengeance? What happens when I can't be there to police? We want to teach our kids that might doesn't make right, but sometimes it does, doesn't it? I hope these slights that feel so big today will fade away into just single stitches in the tapestry of his childhood. I hope the big picture remains beautiful and joyful.


  1. Oh, I so agree with your way of thinking in this post. I've had many of the same questions on my mind at times also. And I too was the mild child on the playground - somehow I just don't envision Ladybug being that way. But, I guess we'll all figure this stuff out as we go along. Parenting is no simple task, that's for sure :)

  2. I feel you on this one. Sometimes Murphy is the windshield and sometimes he's the bug. Either way, it's hard when the "other side" thinks and feels much differently about parenting than I do, which is often.