Saturday we attended a birthday party for the 2-year-old daughter of friends of ours. There were about 10 kids there under the age of 5. Besides the hosts of the party, most of the adults that attended I have only met once or twice in the past. So I did my best at PDP (Public Displays of Parenting), making sure Max took turns, did not push other kids and that he said “please” and “thank you” when appropriate.
I say PDP because sometimes I do not enforce certain rules at home. I know, I know, I am supposed to be consistent with parenting and teaching my children how to behave, but sometimes I don’t necessarily agree with the common rules of parenting. And sometimes, the punishment for an infraction of my rules may not be appropriate to do in front of strangers. And the reaction of my kid, to some of the punishments, may not be appropriate for a party type of atmosphere. Really, I do not think that other people at a party want to hear Maxfield screaming at the top of his lungs for 5 minutes while he sits in time out. It could put a damper on the festivities.
Anyway, Max was doing pretty well playing with the other kids at the party. At one point, while Max was playing with some Lego blocks another boy tried to grab some of the pieces from Max. There were a dozen or so other Lego blocks strewn on the floor that the boy could have played with but he wanted the ones in Max’s hands. Max pulled the blocks away from the boy and gave him a stern “No.” I watched as the other boy tried again to grab the blocks from Max. The other boy’s father was talking to someone else and did not see the incident. Max raised his voice and said “NO”.
Max’s elevated volume drew the boy’s father’s attention. The boy’s father only saw Max pulling the toys away. He did not see the boy grabbing at Max. In my opinion the other kid was wrong and this is where and I tried to intercede with PDP.
“Maxfield.” I said. “You should share.”
He looked up at me, and in a very reasonable tone said, “But Dad, I don’t want to.” He then made a motion with his arms as if to show me all the other blocks on the floor.
I thought for a second and realized he made a very good point. I tried to convince the other little boy that the other blocks were there for him to play with. The boy moved on to go and play with other toys.
While driving home from the party I mentioned the incident to Lauren, “What is sharing?” I asked. “It seems to me to be an abstract concept and that is difficult to teach. I agreed with Max that he shouldn’t have to share those blocks.”
Lauren responded, “It is nicety. A courtesy. A social skill that he needs to learn.”
“I get that. But it is not something that is appropriate in every circumstance. It is difficult to explain, in that situation, that he does not need to share.”
“But he should learn to share.” She said.
“But the way I look at it, if a total stranger came up to me and tried to take my car, I shouldn’t have to share. What if one of the fathers at that party wanted me to share YOU? Should I share?” I said trying to make my point.
The look Lauren gave me, made her point.
This parenting thing is tough.