Sharing is a principle that many people are taught at a young age. Share your potato chips with your little sister. Share your toys with your cousin. Share your Nintendo with the neighbor kid. The world would be a better place if people had a better, more refined sense of sharing.
But do you remember when you learned to share? And how did you learn to share? For many of you it was probably with a sibling… and you either shared with that sibling because you were nice to the newborn baby or because your parents forced you. But what if you were an only child? I myself am an only child, but I still understood the concept of sharing even though I cannot remember how I learned it.
Sharing is caring.
But is sharing a natural instinct or is it a socially constructed act? I began pondering this today because my wife and I are foster parents. We have had Ditto Child (DC) for two months… and he is now 14 months old. Today we received a second foster kid… also a boy, and also 14 months old. We think DC has been mostly an only child while in foster care. But the new kid, “Chipmunk”, was with three other children who were older. In fact the other kids who were with Chipmunk probably gave him whatever he wanted when he shouted because he was the youngest and they didn’t want him to cry.
Now you see the problem: DC, the only child who probably never learned to share… in the same home with the youngest child who never had to learn to share because everything was given to him. My initial prognostication for this epic showdown was a 12-round battle royal worthy of the main even at WrestleMania: Chipmunk versus DC. I knew DC would easily win all the toy battles because he is bigger, stronger, and he can walk. Chipmunk did not stand a chance against DC. Sharing would not need to be in DC’s vocabulary for a while because he could walk off with whatever he wanted at anytime.
But it didn’t go down like that. There was the expected initial jealousy and clutching toys close to bodies by both of the boys. In fact there were a few toys that DC pulled away from Chipmunk… and I could see in DC’s eyes that he was not happy about sharing anything. However Chipmunk was clearly a little unsettled about being in a new place. In fact when Chipmunk cried… DC hugged him.
WTF!?! Remember DC is 14-months old…
How did a 14-month old learn to hug a person when that person was crying? And then, when Chipmunk was clutching some toys close to him because he was unsettled… DC brought Chipmunk some more toys. Dude… seriously…
Is DC happy to have Chipmunk in the house? No. Is DC happy to share his toys? Again no, he clearly is not happy to share. But somehow DC figured out that when someone is crying… the right things to do are to hug that person, or maybe give him something. EVEN IF THAT PERSON is not nice to you.
DC is not a saint. He’s lived in our home for two months and I guarantee he has his bad moments. He’s 14-months old so it comes with the age. But to hug someone who is crying even when that person is not nice to you… and to give that same person a toy because you can tell he is upset… WOW!!
Will DC be nice to Chipmunk tomorrow? I don’t know. But the way DC treated Chipmunk’s first day in our home was a nice surprise to start Labor Day Weekend.