Selfishness, I must say, is one of my absolute LEAST FAVORITE QUALITIES on the planet. I believe in generosity, freely giving, offering happiness and help even if it won’t benefit me. I’m not Mother Teresa, but I must say that in general, I’m pretty good at sharing.
It is IMPERATIVE, then, that my children are also good at sharing. I want them to anticipate need, offer their assistance, be willing and open to give of themselves- their time, their talents, their TOYS- when the occasion arises.
Judging by where we’re at right now, however, we’ve got a long way to go.
Benjy shares with Henry only when I’m standing over him, demanding he share. There’s a rule at his daycare that children can’t snatch toys out of other children’s hands. Capitalizing on this rule (which, as far as I can tell, is the rule above all rules), Benjy will simply fill a box with ALL THE TOYS he MIGHT SOMEDAY want to play with, and carry that box around everywhere he goes. Or he’ll hold all 8 Moomin characters in his little hands- a feat of physics, really- insisting he needs them all. When Henry comes over to play, too, I have to negotiate a full-on peace treaty, rivaling the Treaty of Paris. I’m now more convinced than ever I missed my calling as a diplomat.
And then thing is that when Henry comes over to play, it’s because he wants to play.
When the opposite happens, when Benjy comes over to “share” Henry’s toys, it’s so he can destroy a bit of Henry’s happiness. Henry will play for 20 minutes, silently, quietly with his two favorite cars- the police car and the firetruck. Benjy will then come over and DEMAND that Henry give one of the cars to Benjy- he’s not content to play with any of the other 3 trillion trucks lying about- it’s got to be the ones with which Henry is so happily engrossed.
Yesterday it was the horses. Henry was playing with four horses. Benjy wanted a horse, too. I found Benjy a different horse. But Benjy wanted a horse Henry was playing with. Of course. Luckily, Henry’s hip to this whole sharing thing (at least occasionally) and when I asked if Benjy could have a horse, Henry simply handed it over and said, “Thank you.”
Now, I recognize that Benjy is only three. And I realize that children, by nature, are selfish creatures. And I’m willing to accept a bit of selfishness- a bit- as children. But I also absolutely believe that selfish children, if left to their own devices, grow into selfish adults. And selfish adults cause war, injustice, and poverty. So, you see- my crusade to create generous children is really a humanitarian effort. I might just be preventing WWIII here.