Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Sharing Paradox

We spend so much time on sharing these days - negotiating who plays with which toy, which toys are community and don't belong to anybody, whose turn is it, etc. Pi was a pretty good sharer when he was younger and didn't really understand what was going on. He would just hand things over when asked, with a bit of a lingering look, but would easily move on to something else. Now, however, he understands all the detail that's involved with relinquishing a toy, and he's really not that into it. He's become one of those hoarders, you know, like "I have all six of the sandbox shovels, and even though only one of them is mine, and even though I can't even physically hold them all, let alone dig with all of them, no one else may approach the Shovel Stronghold." I know that all of this is age-appropriate, and that we'll work through all the sharing politics with experience and more interaction with kids, but I got to thinking...

All the time we spend sharing as children; how does that really translate to our adult lives? The playground social norm is "Share and share alike", and parents bend themselves in half trying to keep that very delicate pH balanced. Then, when we're older, the prevailing attitude becomes, "Get, keep, and hold onto what's yours". This is MY parking spot, this is MY property line, this is the money that I earned, and with it I buy things for ME, etc. There are certainly exceptions to this, but truly shared housing communities are the minority, and everybody always talks about wanting to volunteer and share their time for a good cause (including me), but how many people can make that a reality (definitely not me)?

I was riding public transportation once when I was in college, eating a bag of Cheetos, and a high school girl came up to me and said, "Can I have some?" Not a homeless person, not someone who outwardly looked hungry or poor - she just wanted what I had and asked for it. I gave her a few Cheetos, but I was stunned at the audacity she displayed by walking up to a total stranger and asking for food. Now, as a parent, when an unknown child walks up to Pi and says "Can I play with that?", I move heaven and earth to make sure that all these people we don't know get a piece of what's Pi's. Adults who don't share are protecting their own, but full community is expected of kids.

Is sharing like geometry, one of those things you learn as a kid that doesn't have any bearing on real life? Or am I just telling myself that to help me feel better about Pi's role in ShovelGate yesterday?

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