The Sharing Game

children-sharing-sweetsDo you remember the Barney catchphrase, “Sharing is Caring!” and how he used to always espouse the joys you can get from not being selfish? Well, all of that was just an extension of your mother telling you that it’s always good to help out others who may not have what you have. And you know in the back of your head you were probably saying something like, “But it’s mine!” Well, I feel your pain, but perhaps your mother did have a point.

When I was a kid we lived at the end of a block of rowhouses in Southwest Philadelphia. Now, a rowhouse could have been seen as a detriment since the walls were so thin and were all connected, but my mother used the situation as an opportunity to teach a value lesson. She said that since our walls were “shared” we could share other things as well. I guess it was an attempt at helping to make a closer knit community in the middle of what was a depressed area.

And share we did, but it worked both ways. That’s the glory of sharing. Instead of being covetous of what someone else had, we took turns having it all. But in order to truly share you need two or more people who can understand the bigger picture. That’s why so many kids can’t share effectively without getting angry, possessive, or suddenly unsure about what taking turns really means.

motu_castlegrayskull_playsetI had this He-Man playset with a real working microphone and everything. It was the envy of the neighborhood, or at least I thought it was. This one day the boy from next door (I’ll call him Aaron) invited me over to play with his new Atari system. Wow, that system was amazing back then in 1983, so I brought over my He-Man playset and we switched for about half an hour. We had a blast, too, Aaron using the echoing function of my microphone and me chasing a dot around a tiny screen with his Atari. Now, sure, today that would be called parallel play, but to me it was still sharing, and we were both satisfied from the exchange.

This morning we had a few issues with sharing in our house. Yesterday while shopping in Syracuse, my youngest daughter, Maddie, picked out two remote-controlled bumper cars that should have a fun thing to play with her sister. However, as they were playing with them this morning in the family room such high shrieks of agitation could be heard emanating from their general area. When I went to investigate I found that Maddie refused to drive her bumper car because Lexi had switched them on her.

So, apparently Lexi took sharing too far, according to Maddie. Maddie had staked out and put her stamp of ownership on that blue car, and no other car would do. Apparently it wasn’t sharing when she couldn’t have the color car she wanted, so she was sitting there apoplectic over the whole predicament. No amount of explaining could console her, so we ended up playing Monopoly Jr. instead. Now if she could just get with the whole “taking turns” program life would be easier.

Sharing is a learned behavior, a character trait that can be nurtured through modeling and vigilance, but sometimes a miracle happens and it doesn’t have to be taught. It just happens. During those times, as a parent, you can just thank your lucky stars and hope it can be repeated. Because that’s the best way to play the sharing game.

Sam

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