Long time no see, this week I want to talk about sharing. To be honest there are some things about the concept which baffle me. For starters I can have a group of friends round and slice a cake into an appropriate number for us to share it. Alternatively a child can be playing with a toy car and in allowing another child to take a turn they share. We can also share an activity, we can share interests or share a common ancestor. Basically we can apply the word ‘share’ to a whole host of different activities and it’s this that confuses me. For me the cake sharing is the closest thing to ‘real’ sharing that I can think of since all parties walk away equally satisfied and when it comes to teaching my son how to share his toys this causes problems. I associate sharing with mutual satisfaction through compromise and I’m not sure if this is the consensus.
Here’s an example scenario of how tricky the concept can be to explain: my son is playing with some figures on the floor and his little brother comes over and picks up a toy which Logan is currently not holding. From Alexander’s (my youngest’s) perspective he hasn’t snatched (which he vaguely aware he’s not allowed to do) but he has disrupted Logan’s play, typically in this instance I’ll take the toy off of Alexander and give it back to Logan or ask Logan if Alexander can join in and share (which sometimes works). When the situation is the other way round and Logan takes a toy I am faced with the additional (and difficult) task of explaining why he should give it back. Logan responds that he is ‘sharing’ which isn’t right but I can’t seem to explain, in terms which a four year old can understand, why sharing only works one way for toys (that is you can share your toys but if someone shares their toys with you you aren’t the one sharing).
Maybe I’ve got it wrong somewhere but you typically don’t praise someone for being on the receiving end of a kind act and you can’t really force an act like sharing or it ceases to be praiseworthy. So that’s my problem with the definition of ‘share’ but I’ve also got an issue with how sharing is to be initiated which is similar in form. Why is it that a child must instantaneously share their toy when asked? Imagine a similar scenario for an adult: I’m in a coffee shop reading my kindle and someone asks me what I’m reading, it turns out they’ve been wanting to read this book for ages and they ask that I share my kindle so that they can read a few chapters, they assure me they’re a fast reader so they won’t have it all afternoon, am I supposed to just hand it over? If you answer no, you’re in the same place as me when it comes to sharing: sharing is a choice, not a necessity, we choose when and what to share. If a child is absorbed in playing with a particular toy and is causing no harm in doing so why must they break from their activity for another child who asks for a turn? I’m not saying that they have a right to rudely ignore the other child but if they politely say that they are busy with it and that the other child can have it when they’re done what right do we have to insist that they ‘share’, if we can even call it ‘sharing’ when it’s forced upon someone?
I understand the importance cooperative play with others but when did solitary play get so heavily demoted? Of course some activities can only be shared: playing a board game, playing football etc. etc. Maybe I’m getting this wrong, I’m starting to worry that I’m a much less sociable person than I thought I was, because I think everyone has the right to loose themselves in something without fear of their attention being broken to ‘share’ the object of their focus. I’m genuinely irked and confused by this whole issue.
I’d like to add that I’m sorry for not getting a new post up here for a while, I’ve had a busy week or two (birthdays, a wedding not to mention working on our web site http://www.funjunctiontoys.com). Also when I said ‘this week I want to talk about sharing’ I really meant talk about it, please feel free to leave comments after this post or on my work facebook page http://www.facebook.com/funjunctiontoys I’ll welcome any suggestions from people about what the word ‘share’ means to them.