Is there anything more difficult than teaching young children to share? It’s the one area I feel positive about when Oscar insists on sharing his half-nibbled gingerbread man with everyone in the family; only to feel mortified about when he uses his polar bear strength and super suction powers to clasp onto a toy on a playdate. You know what I mean, usually it’s that toy that has been previously neglected until the moment another child picks it up, then in that very instant is suddenly transformed into his most favourite toy ever! Why, I ask you?!
This weekend, there I was in football mum pose, sitting on the sidelines, trying to stop the baby from crawling onto the make-shift pitch and being knocked out by a flying football, when I overheard the following comment:
“I don’t like sharing.”
I looked over, wondering whose child would be spoilt and obnoxious enough to say a phrase like that, only to have one of those heart-in-mouth moments when I realised that the child was in fact mine! Yikes! Again – why? Why is it always mine?
To be fair to Oscar, it was a very honest comment and I do understand where he’s coming from. If anyone else has a husband like mine who has to take a mouthful of every plate of food you have, even if the dish is truly uneventful, then you’ll probably empathise too. Food, drinks, toothbrushes – there are some things in life that, where I can, I would like to reserve as “mine”. Perhaps Oscar gets his slightly selfish streak from me?
Of course, since becoming a parent, I’ve had to very quickly learn how to be unselfish. With a (little) bit of maturity, I’ve learnt that good things happen when you share: problems are halved, people feel more connected, which in turn, makes us feel happier. I can only hope that it doesn’t take until the time when Oscar becomes a parent, for him to figure out some of this for himself too. How many more, “I don’t like sharing,” moments on the football pitch am I to endure?
The hard thing about being parent of a child who openly doesn’t like sharing, is that it opens you – the parent – to judgement from other parents. As I sat there on Saturday, fielding footballs, I couldn’t help but wonder who else had overheard. And if they had overheard, did they think that this attitude was coming from us? Did they think that we didn’t encourage sharing or turn-taking at home? Did they think we were bad parents? I’d love to say that it doesn’t matter to me what people think, but the truth is, I do care.
On some level, I’ve always cared, even as a littley: it’s the reason I wouldn’t show anyone pictures that I’d drawn until every inch had been coloured-in; it’s the reason I wouldn’t perform dance routines until I had all of the steps memorised perfectly and it’s the reason I’m cautious before sharing the children’s stories that I write today – what if people judge them to be no good? Would they think that I’m a bad writer? Would they think I’m useless?
I hope not!
Actually, I feeling very hopeful that people see a spark of something special in my stories. Unless, you’re new to the blog, you’ll know that over the summer, I have been working very hard to write a children’s picture book and have it published. I’ve spent many hours drafting, redrafting, followed by more redrafting of one story in particular, which I have entitled, “Not Fair!” These are the only two words that you’ll get out of me for now, the other three-hundred and twenty-eight you’ll have to wait a little longer for. I have finally reached the point where I am happy to share various drafts with various friends – and okay, friends are bias – but their reactions have encouraged me to hope that others might think my story is worth sharing too.
So, I have entered it into a little writing competition… and now I have to wait two months to find out if I’ve won! Two months! Argh! Agonising…
But that does mean that I now have two months to focus on my next picture book and to work out which agents and/or publishers might be the best fit for my first. If I win the competition then perhaps I’ll get my foot in the door that way, but if it turns out that, “Not Fair!” is not the story that the judges are looking for, then I’m okay with that too. I figure you cannot truly be an author until you have a pile of personalised rejection letters, so I suppose I should start building my stack soon!
Either way, I’m opening myself up to judgement. Maybe it will be a split decision – perhaps one judge loves my story, whilst another loathes it. The truth is, if I hadn’t shared my story then I would have closed down the chance to find out – and I need that chance to find out how to make it even better.
Likewise, I am sure next weekend I will get another chance to face the parent panel on the sidelines of another football pitch. Maybe Oscar will share the ball, maybe he won’t. Maybe there will be another, “I don’t like sharing,” outburst, though hopefully not. Maybe I will just have to continue sharing food, drinks, stories and everything in-between, to encourage a greater love of sharing at home, at football, or on a playdate. Until we reach that point, where at least one of my children bursts out loudly, “I love sharing!” and hands over all of the toys from their toy-box, then I would kindly ask you to refrain from negative judgements and please do not share your opinions with us; for now, we’re still a work in progress – maybe there are some things that are better off being kept to ourselves after-all?