Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

My daughter and I are frequent visitors at the local play center. There are so many enriching activities and it’s a great space for both myself and my daughter to socialize. I’ve made some very good friends, and Hallie is no longer beating up other children. It’s a win-win.

What I have noticed is the habit of adults asking children to do things that outside of childhood would look ridiculous. I understand to some extent that learning to share and being kind to others must be broken down into simple and more generalized concepts, but is it overkill sometimes?

I’ll give an example. If my child brings one of their personal toys to a public area, like the play center or the park, is she obligated to share?

If my child brings a snack to a public area (not a classroom) should we bring enough for every child that might be there? Is that a mom memo I missed somewhere?

Yes, I understand the concept of common courtesy. It’s so important that we teach our kids how to not be assholes in public, which could include not munching down on some fruit snacks when none of the other children present have any. They are too young to understand that just because someone else has something, doesn’t mean they can have it.

Or are they?

I hear myself telling my child all the time, “that’s not yours.” So, no, you can’t have it. You either didn’t want the snack that I have for you, or I’m a bad mom and forgot your snack and you can wait until you get home. That other mom is not responsible for feeding you. If we are all friends and we are consistently together, feeding each other’s children, that’s different. But in a public space with other families that we might be acquainted with, you don’t owe me or my child anything. And I tell her that.

Toys fall into the same category. My child usually can bring a toy of her own somewhere. If she doesn’t, or forgets to grab one, tough shit. That doesn’t mean she gets to play with someone else’s. It’s not hers. It’s that easy. This also means that if my child does remember to grab her toy, even if we are in a public space, she is never obligated to share. It’s hers. So, tough shit to your child, too.

I know, I sound mean. But guess what? My child shares all the time. She shares her snacks, and she shares her toys, without me prompting her to do so. I have taught her the importance of being kind to others, but I’ve also taught her the importance of being kind to herself. If she has something that she does not want to share, she doesn’t have to. In no circumstance does she owe anyone anything, even out of politeness.

I bring my phone with me everywhere. If one of my friends forgets theirs, hell yeah, they can use mine to make a quick call. I also bring snacks with me everywhere, because, pregnant. I share my snacks all the time. However, there are times when I don’t want to share my snacks. There are times when I don’t want to share my phone, because I’m using it, and oh yeah. It’s mine. I don’t have to. Call it rude, but it’s my property.

So, why does this have me fired up?

Because some day, someone will ask my child if they can join them at a public place, like a coffee shop or park bench. In a world where women are prey, it does make me nervous. It’s common for women to accept the advances of men and just be polite until they finally move along. It would be rude to deny an empty seat, wouldn’t it? Or. My daughter can tell them, no, she isn’t interested in sharing her table. She was enjoying a quiet morning or really needs to focus on the task at hand. She doesn’t have to share. Not her snacks, not her toys, and not her time or space.

I want my child to be good at sharing. My child must share public toys and public space. But it’s more important to me that my child is good at not sharing when she doesn’t have to. At the end of the day, it comes down to choice. I’m always much prouder of my child when she shares without prompting, than when I’ve told her to play nicely with others. Sharing is great, but autonomy is better. Children are capable of being taught multiple lessons, and teaching respect for others and their property is high on my list. Even higher than sharing.