Day 11: why I won’t force my child to share

A few days ago, I had a conversation with my mother about sharing. My nine month old has reached a point in her development where she will accept and take things from others but not quite there yet when it comes to giving things away.

When I was a child, I would be forced to share my toys with others. But over time I grew reluctant. Rather than understanding or digging down to the root cause, I was forced to ‘be kind’.

It may not seem like a big thing. Children should learn kindness, collaboration and all the things that comes with the act of sharing. But my issue was that whenever I shared something, I would either never see it again or it would be gone for days at a time. It would get taken and claimed by the other child or person. Then at that point I would be forced to give it away with no adult to stand up for me and claim back what is mine.

It’s not that I didn’t like sharing as a kid, it was just with certain children and particular adults. But my mother didn’t see it that way. She only saw the child that refused to share with the people she wanted me to share with. Everyone thought I was just being an ungrateful and greedy child.

When children share, it’s because they trust the safe return of their possession. It’s because they trust the person they’re sharing the item with. It’s because they want the person they’re sharing with to share in the joy that they are experiencing.

I remember the moment when my trust came to an abrupt end. I was around nine.

An aunt had come to stay with us. She made me read Bible stories with her and preached the importance of kindness and giving. Then she decided that my teddy bear would make a great toy for her own child. For context, it was one of the two toys I slept with nightly and got as my first proper Christmas present. I had three toys in total — a doll, a penguin and the bear.

I didn’t want to give it away. I didn’t mind my cousin. She’s a nice kid. A sweet kid. A kind kid. But this was something I didn’t want to share.

No one defended me. No one stood up on my side. I even opted to buy another toy for her with my own money — which was all my money. But they made me give my bear away and I never saw it again. Another aunt brought me a replacement one a few months later but it wasn’t the same.

I got a few more dolls and stuffed animals after that, but whatever interest I used to have in them was gone. I began to horde things no one wanted instead — old encyclopedias, books that never left my room or hidden from view if I felt them to be in danger from certain people, old paint tubes, awards that no one could outrank or beat me at. It was a complex I didn’t need to have.

I saw the bear again when I was sixteen. At first I wanted to steal it back but my cousin had wrapped it lovingly in a case of cellophane and made it the centerpiece of her little shrine of gifts from her mother.

The worst part was that she had no idea it was originally mine. Her mother had turned up with it when she was three and that was it. Not a word that it unwillingly came from me.

So when my mother told me that I should teach my child to share by taking the things in her hands from her, I said no because when my baby is ready to share and wants to share, she will share.

She was shocked and confused with a sudden fear that her granddaughter will soon turn into a greedy and selfish child. But I have my reasons and scars.

And if someone tries to force my child to share, I will be there to stand by her decision and not the other person. My child will know best the reasons why she doesn’t want to give something up. If she’s insecure enough to not want to share then I’m doing going to force it on her like how it was forced upon me.

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Editor of Hustle Thrive Grow. On a quest to become a better human and documenting the journey in digital ink.

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