Sharing was one of the first values I remember learning as a child. It was just not acceptable for me to be possessive about my toys and not let other kids play with them. I remember there was even this rule for my birthday party – I was allowed to participate in the party games but if I won, I would not be allowed to keep the prize and it would go the kid who came in second. My mother’s logic was pretty simple – since it was my birthday and I was already getting a lot of gifts, it was only fair that I didn’t get the prizes as well. I used to really hate it – after all, what’s the point of winning if you’re not going to get rewarded for it??
Now that I am older and wiser and also a mother myself, it makes a lot more sense and it is clearer to me what my mom was trying to inculcate in me. I hope I can teach Ayaan the value of sharing as well. So, in the park, when kids come and ask me if they can play with Ayaan’s toys, especially the ones he is not playing with, I always let them have them. Right now, Ayaan is too young to be possessive or protest about his mother’s generosity with his toys but I hope he is getting the subliminal message that it is okay for other people to enjoy his toys as well.
I have always felt good about doing this too and the sweet smiles and polite thank-yous make it well worth it. But it has not been all smooth sailing and there have been recent incidents that really irritated the hell out of me:
Yesterday, a bunch of kids asked me if they could play with Ayaan’s ball and sand toys. Since Ayaan had lost interest in them and wanted to run around the park, I readily agreed and told them I would be back to get the toys and if they needed to leave before I got back to the sand pit, they should just leave the toys there anyway. I came back 10 minutes later and guess what – no kids and no toys!
I have been wondering… Those kids were too young to have come to the park themselves so their parents must have been somewhere around and they must have left with them. Does that mean that the parents thought nothing of it when their kids appeared with someone else’s toys and actually condoned the act of taking those toys home with them? And even if I were to give those kids the benefit of doubt and assume that they didn’t take the toys, it still means that someone else (a kid or even worse, an adult) stole Ayaan’s toys while they were lying unattended in the sandpit. Who does that and what have their parents been teaching them??!
A few days ago, I had another bad experience with this boy and his mother. This kid was about 4 years old and was really rude and obnoxious. To start with, he came to the park with absolutely no toys of his own. He then zeroed in on Ayaan as a soft target and started grabbing his toys without so much as a please or a thank you. I looked towards his mother in the hope that she would control her offspring but it was not to be. She made a half-hearted attempt by occasionally saying things like, “Don’t take all the baby’s toys. Play with him.” But considering that these words were said in an indulgent and half-laughing tone, they had little effect on the kid, who just shook his head and carried on behaving badly. When I stepped in to at least get back the one spade that Ayaan was playing with, the kid had a complete meltdown and then tried to snatch it back. Finally, I just picked up Ayaan and took him to another part of the park and let this completely misbehaved boy have his way with the toys (which included making a really messy slurry of mud mixed with his drinking water in the bucket). After all, if his own mother won’t discipline him, who am I to try?
My last crib is against mothers who don’t encourage their kids to share. Sometimes, Ayaan will get interested in some other kid’s spade or bucket. Most kids don’t have a problem if he picks up something that they are not playing with at that point of time, and even if they do, they are clearly told by their moms to share. But sometimes there are kids who will have a meltdown if Ayaan comes within a foot of their toys and their moms won’t blink an eyelid. And then last week, there was this mother who snatched up a toy before Ayaan could pick it up even though her daughter hadn’t protested.
I cannot for the life of me understand why parents do this. Are they really that paranoid about the transfer of germs or do they value the cheap, plastic toys more than helping their kids to grow up to be kind and generous people?