We parents want our children to be liked and get along well with other children. I certainly did when my first child, Danae, was beginning to play with other kids. I tried to teach her how to interact lovingly, and she did well in most aspects--making friends, not fighting, being considerate and helpful, and even letting me play with the other children. Teaching her to share her toys was the biggest challenge.
To give her more opportunities to learn this, we started inviting other children her age over to play. That small step was the key to helping Danae discover that it's fun to share with others--a lesson I needed to brush up on myself, as it turned out.
One evening Danae had invited a friend, Natalie, to play with her. Natalie was one of her more frequent playmates, and their favorite thing to play with was the brightly illustrated deck of cards from a children's card game called Go Fish. Although the girls were too young to follow all the rules and play the game as intended, they liked looking at the pictures and finding the ones that matched.
That evening, after Natalie left, Danae came to me and said, "Mommy, I'd like to give these to Natalie. They're her favorites." She held up three or four cards from the Go Fish game.
I tried to explain that I didn't want her to give them away because then our set wouldn't be complete, but Danae persisted. "But I really want her to have them!"
Again I tried to explain. "Danae, these cards belong to our Go Fish game. If you give them to Natalie, we won't have them anymore and the set will be missing pieces."
"That's okay, Mommy, because I have the other cards."
I thought perhaps she didn't understand that when she gave something away, it was gone for good, so I tried again to dissuade her. "If you give those to Natalie, you can't go and ask for them back tomorrow. Once you give them to her, they'll be hers."
A look of concern came over Danae's face. For a moment I was happy that she seemed to understand. Then she smiled and said, "Well, that's okay, I want her to have them anyway."
What could I say to that? I sat quietly for a moment and prayed. Then it came to me: I had been trying for so long to teach her to share, and now that she had learned that important lesson, I was trying to stop her. What was I doing? I was just about to make a very stupid mistake! What did it matter that our Go Fish game would be incomplete? It could be replaced, if need be. What mattered was that my daughter was learning the joy of giving, that she was thinking about others instead of herself, that she was trying to make her friend happy. Isn't that what life is all about?
My daughter taught me a lesson that day, and it's one that I still get tested on. I now have three children, and fairly often one of them will come to me with a toy or stuffed animal in their hands and say they want to give it to one of their friends. My first thought is often how I can talk them out of it, but when I stop to think about it, I always come to the same realization: Things are not forever, but children are. The values I instill in my children today will be part of who they are tomorrow.
Taken from Activated Magazine. Used with permission.