Disclaimer: I am currently quite sick, so this post is probably going to be a little ranty and fever-dream-esque. I apologize. Also, I am not a parent, although I do work as a substitute teacher for grades k-12 so I deal with the nuclear fallout of the worst behaviors a child can exhibit on a daily basis (which I really like to blame on parents, sorry – not sorry).
Wrong kind of fever
This morning I saw an article in which a woman talks about how she (proudly) doesn’t make her son share. Immediately, I was intrigued. I read the article thinking maybe she would have some legitimate argument for refusing to encourage a behavior that (despite being completely neglected by our society at large: “No, it’s my giant pile of money you can’t take it away, what if I need a fifth private jet?!”) is one of the most important for creating a considerate human being. Since I’m in my mid twenties, I know a lot of new parents and I know that they’re new parents because they inundate my Facebook feed with pictures of their spawn on an obnoxiously regular basis. I’m honestly not sure whether their accounts are even theirs anymore or if they’re morphing into their children’s. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. So, this woman, who seems to be one of those “parental resource” parents who seems to think that parenting is rocket science, explains that she doesn’t make her child share because that’s not how the world works. Because, that’s the way you really want to be raising your kids. If some of the slimiest people in the world behave this way, I’m going to teach my son to do it, too. She may as well just sit the kid in front of a T.V. and play Wall Street on loop. I mean, fuck it, GREED IS GOOD, right?
Fuck yeah, baby.
This brilliant woman explains her point with two examples: one where the child owned the toy and one where the child was using a toy at a play-place-thing. In the first case, alright. You buy your kid a toy, take him to the park, and some kid he doesn’t know walks (toddles? crawls?) over and starts demanding to play with it, tell that kid to bugger off. I mean, it might make more sense to assist your toddler in the process of turning that particular situation into a way to meet that other child and play together “Oh, hi. What’s your name? Tommy? That’s a great name, this is Timmy. Timmy say hi. Now, Tommy, this is Timmy’s toy and I don’t think he really wants to share right now, but if you want, you can bring your toy over here and maybe you can play together.” Instead, this woman, apparently, just decided to sit there and watch her kid ignore the other kid, opting to let her child only really learn how to be antisocial in a social setting, because, again, fuck other people. We want our kids to be a little more like Patrick Bateman.
That’s one tough baby.
The second example, which I would consider rude behavior from anyone of any age, presents a scenario in which her son was in a setting where the toys were communal, i.e. shared and not owned by anyone who was using them. It sounded like the toddler equivalent of a library (if libraries were full of toys and you were allowed to jump on things). Anyway, her son was playing with a red car (I think it was like one of those cars you move with your feet, Flintstone’s style?) for an hour and a half, during which time another child really wanted to play with that same toy. Apparently this other child was being rather pushy about also being able to use the toy and, again, this woman proudly watched from the sidelines as her son just kept playing with that toy, that he didn’t own, for as long as he wanted even though everyone else in the room had just as much claim to it as he did. Since children learn through play, I’m going to go ahead and say that her son just learned that if he’s in a public situation where everyone has equal claim, he has every right to hog something for as long as he wants, regardless of who else wants or needs to use it. If we return to the library comparison, this basically explains those people who sit on Facebook for a few hours when every library computer is full and you really need to print something for your class which starts in ten minutes, but can’t. And I think we can all agree that those people are dicks.
Sharing your smile means you’re giving away your soul.
Based upon another article I read, and some discussion with a parent whose “parenting resources” encourage this method of raising children, not forcing children to share is supposed to encourage some development of an intrinsic desire to share things. Again, I’m going to emphasize that I’m not a parent, but it seems like parenting is mostly common sense and the crap talked about in this article explaining this method parenting assumes that the parents reading it are robots who have no idea what a human parent does:
“But in order to relax and thrive, children need a few more vital things. Blue shovels and green balloons aren’t on this list. My list of what a child needs to thrive goes something like this:
- The daily opportunity to connect and be relaxed with someone who cares
- Emotional warmth and welcome
- Respect for his intelligence
- Time for play
- Lots of affection
- Frequent opportunities to laugh together with others
- Frequent opportunity to cry, in the shelter of someone’s arms, when hurt feelings arise
- Information about what is happening and why
- Limits—enforced without violence—that promote safety and respect”
To summarize, be nice to your kids, respect and empathize with them appropriately, and consistently set limits. Oh, and don’t hit. I’m pretty sure this whole article is based loosely upon the idea that empathy is necessary to create a functional adult who is able to create and maintain healthy relationships. What I think this article fails to understand is that empathy is learned from the moment a child is born and it is primarily learned by mimicking the actions of the child’s primary caregiver. You know how when you talk to a baby you make all kinds of exaggerated faces? Yeah, that’s your instincts kicking in helping you teach the kid emotions and how to exhibit them properly. Everyone does it, unless they had parents who were robots or missing or completely incapable, but we all have the intrinsic memory of how our parents taught us. This applies to all parenting, by the way, (and how we choose our partners, but that’s a totally different rant), so as long as you mean well, show consistency, and have the goal of teaching your child to be nice, the rest is probably going to fall into place.
It’s okay, they’re empathy bots.
However, there are behaviors we all exhibit simply because it’s polite – they’re called manners – and sharing has a lot to do with being polite. Sure, there are situations where you want to share things because you genuinely care about the people you’re sharing with because they matter to your life and it would ruin your day if they were unhappy. There are also situations where it’s just plain rude not to consider the needs of the complete strangers around you (like giving up your seat on the subway for the old dude with the walker or the woman who’s nine months pregnant and looks like she’s about to pass out). Hopefully, you have the empathy to know that it might suck for them to be standing, but if no one ever taught you that sometimes you need to put other people’s needs above your own minor convenience, you’re probably not going to act on it.