At 3.5 years, my son finally learnt the fine art of sharing. Back in early 2013, when we came back home to India, I remember vividly the first time I hugged my 10 month old niece….only to see sonny, then 18 months old, throwing a full-blown tantrum, rolling on the floor, banging his head on the wall and what not. Be it his belongings or the grown-ups in his life, there was no way he was willing to share either, with his younger sibling. This pattern continued with younger or similar aged kids until recently. Funny though, older siblings/friends did not seem to pose such threat to his being and he willingly shared and played with them just fine for as long as I could remember!
It all began (probably) when he was 6 months old and we relocated to Dublin, Ohio for one year. The beginning year and half of sonny’s life was full of big brothers and big sisters as none of the kids in our friends group were close to sonny’s age.
So just about when sonny was forming memories at a conscious level, he learnt that the moment he asked for something, it was bound to be handed over to him on a silver platter! It did not matter whether he was playing at home or his friends’ house, any “toy-pointing” was immediately obliged with. Add to it the joy of being an only child and the fact that all other kids had already mastered the art of sharing meant that his wishes were almost always fulfilled. (On occasions when there was any resistance from the kids, it was always met with a reminder like “C’mon, you must share, you are a big boy/girl now and he is your younger brother!” by their parents which would immediately yield a favorable result on sonny’s behalf). So all in all, he was the smallest kid whom everyone pampered, his wish was everyone’s command!
It did not particularly bother me much because he was (and still is) a happy child and never used to cry much. That’s all a parent wishes for……at least initially, that is! The beginning year is always the toughest on first-time parents and I was just happy to see my kid happy and thriving in his new environment. Other things just did not occur to me.
But the problem (of not sharing) became plain when we returned home. He would throw a fit every time some other kid of similar age tried to play with his toys or was friendly with “his” set of grown-ups(He still thinks he owns us, especially me, of course, but now he has accepted that it’s okay to “lend” us out from time to time). “It’s mine! It’s mine!” was his mantra. After a while it progressed into hitting, kicking, pushing and shoving other kids out of his way. I tried to intervene from time to time especially when it involved getting the other kid out of harm’s way but it did not seem to help much with respect to his lack of sharing. The situation got so bad with my niece that she refused to leave her mother’s lap when visiting us. “Sonny hits me.” she would keep saying.
We decided it was just better to keep them away from each other so that no one got hurt. In fact not just my niece, any small kid would never be allowed in sonny’s vicinity without supervision! (Even then, he would sometimes succeed in landing couple of punches or pull someone’s hair at lightning speed, once in a while.) Surprisingly enough, my nephew who is 7-year-old did not face similar resistance, ever. In fact, sonny would just drag him to his room enthusiastically when ever he came home and ask him to play. It would not even matter much if my nephew picked up sonny’s favorite toy (at that time) to play!
Even at school, his teacher would report that he would just sit with her and refuse to let any other child get close.
After doing a lot of R&D on the internet, we decided to just let him be, though we would still reprimand him if he tried to hit another child.
I started noticing change in his behavior towards other kids a couple of months after his 3rd birthday. We’d given him a life-sized baby doll to play with (and hopefully learn sharing with) sometime back, but up until that time, the doll had been used mostly as a punching bag. But around that time, his behavior towards that doll mellowed down. He started combing its hair and kissing its boo-boos (if by accident or by design, the “baby” got hurt). He would strap the doll to his bikes carrier and then take “baby” for a ride.
At school, his teacher also reported that he had adjusted to his classmates. (He made a couple of girlfriends in fact 😉 At close time, just outside the school gate, his “girlfriends” would hug and kiss him “bye”. It did not matter much that both these girls were almost a foot taller than my boy! It was such an amusing sight to watch..he he he!).
Then at Holi, he hung out with his cousin sister most of the time (she was the only kid of similar age around that day!). Though he still hogged most of the cool toys, the fact that she was allowed to be in his vicinity without getting shoved around or her hair pulled was sign enough of the progress made!
And just like that, last week, when she came to visit (This kid is one hell-of-a brave girl, keeps coming back despite all the torture she’d suffered at sonny’s hands!), she was invited in “Hi sis, come, let’s play!”. I tried to play it cool, but was quite excited to see how his newfound brotherly love would unfold. They went to his room and immediately started playing together as if they had been doing so for ages. And they played and played till late evening. The room was quite messy once they were done but who was complaining? I was just happy he finally learnt to share!
Even during sonny’s last parent-teacher meeting of the session, we got to hear the same happy report from his teacher as well. Now it looks like he pulls his chair towards the other kids (and not away from them) and loves sharing!
Anyway, continuing with the bro-sis sharing story, the next day my niece came back again post lunch just about when sonny was washing up after school. And they continued playing from where they had left off the day before. I had to drag sonny to the bedroom and close the door behind to be able to feed him his lunch! They were inseparable even after that. When afternoon nap time came and they became super tired, I asked my niece if she was ready to leave. No way! Both of them just refused to go their separate ways.
Finally my niece and sonny shared the same bed for their afternoon nap and I slept in between them as a boundary so that they would not end up waking too soon and starting their raucous play all over again.
After naptime and snacks, the playing, sharing and being nice to one another continued till late evening, up until my sister-in-law forcibly took her daughter away (to loud protests from both sonny and my niece)!
This state of affairs continued for the next couple of days more, by which time I had realized that this steeply rising curve on sharing was derogatory to my health 😉 You see sonny is good at messing up his room and when he gets a partner, the mess gets multiplied many folds. So every night, just before bedtime, I will end up cleaning his room which would invariably look as if it were hit by a tornado.
We needed a middle ground! Though this sharing thing is fairly new and I fear regression (if not nurtured properly), I think I would allow only the weekends for sonny and his sis to go berserk with their sharing and caring. Rest of the days, he will just need to be content playing outside or alone (if at home) 😉