The other day, I saw a story about a mother who told her child he didn’t have to share his toys with the other kids at the playground. I’ll admit, my first inclination was a knee-jerk one of “who does she think she is?”. Then I read the story and, not surprising, the headline had miscued what actual facts were. Color me not surprised.
The basic set up was that a mother took her young son to the park. Almost as soon as they arrived, a group of kids descended upon the child, wanting him to share his toys with them. That’s not so unusual. What the headline failed to note was that these were not kids he knew. They were strangers. So, when the little boy, obviously distressed at having to give up his toys to people he didn’t know, looked to his mother for guidance, she told him he didn’t have to share unless he wanted to.
There’s the key and what so many of those who are now criticizing the mother seem to overlook. She gave the child permission to wait until he was comfortable sharing with kids he didn’t know.
There’s something else I wondered that so many of the mother’s critics seem to have overlooked. Where were the parents of those kids wanting the little boy’s toys? Why weren’t they there making sure their children introduced themselves and perhaps offered the little boy their own toys to play with in exchange for playing with his?
But no. The criticism has all fallen on the mother who told her son he didn’t have to share with strangers if he didn’t feel comfortable doing so at that time.
I really hadn’t planned on blogging about this because it is so stupid, imo. The mother was well within her rights to tell her son he didn’t have to share with children he — and by implication she — didn’t know. But national media picked the story up and you would think this woman is the worst mother ever. This morning, on Good Morning America, they were going on and on about how wrong she had been in how she handled the situation (at least it seemed that way. I’ll admit, I do my best to tune the show out when my mother has it on)
Here’s the thing, if you are sitting in the park, enjoying a sandwich or cold drink and a stranger walks up and asks for what you are eating or drinking, would you give it to him? I’m not talking about someone who is obviously in distress and needs a helping hand. I’m talking someone much like you. They just happen to like what you have and want it.
Do you have any obligation to “share” your things with them?
Let’s take it a step further.
Say you have taken your drone out to the park. Are you going to let someone you don’t know play with it? What happens if they crash it or, worse in some ways, just leave with it?
How about your dog?
See where I’m going with this?
What this mother did was simple. She made her son feel less pressured to do something he wasn’t comfortable doing. I bet if we followed the story — something the media isn’t doing because there are more “exciting” things going on now — we would find that the kids are making friends with one another in subsequent visits to the park. They are sharing their toys and having fun. That’s what kids do — as long as adults don’t get involved. Which, unfortunately, is what happened here. Not with the mother initially saying her son didn’t have to share if he didn’t want to but with other parents condemning what she did and with the media picking up on it and attacking her.
As parents, our first duty is to make sure our kids are safe and cared for. That includes their mental and emotional well-being. This mother knew her son wasn’t comfortable and she did her best to diffuse the situation. Is it how any of us would have handled it? I don’t know. None of us do because we weren’t there and we didn’t see the look in that little boy’s eyes. We can guess and we can pontificate but we don’t know.
So, kudos to the mother for doing what she thought was best for her son. I hope that when they return to the park, the kids are allowed to get to know one another without the Big Brothers and Sisters of whatever getting involved.
For more, including the mother’s response to the dirty looks she got at the time, check this post.