Norah learned a new word. Well, a new concept, really. And that concept is ownership.
It started a day or two before Memorial Day. She was sort of juggling Bear Bear in her hands and babbling, and then clearly said, "Mine." It was very sweet-sounding. Just as if she wanted Bear Bear to know that he/she forever belonged to Norah. We awwed.
Then we had a BBQ Memorial Day and invited a pile of people. Rob and Tamara are our oldest friends; since high school. They have two boys, Lincoln (4) and Will (2). Then Sara and John and their daughter, Samantha, who is just a month older than Norah. Kristi came bearing ridiculously spicy chips. Then our folks and my sister came by, too, to join the chaos.
Once Norah saw the kids run to all the toys-- her toys-- she froze. You could almost see something boiling up inside of her as her head moved back and forth across the yard. One kid in her sandbox. One at the water activity table. One had a ball. Norah's brow was furrowed. Then it raised with a sort of helpless panic. Suddenly, a shriek erupted all the way from her belly out of her mouth: "MINE!" A couple people near her stopped and looked at her. "MIIINE!" she screamed. Tears began swelling in her eyes like tiny balloons and spilled down her cheeks.
After some cuddling, a nuk, and some parent-assisted playtime, she was fine. She still would snatch something out of another kid's hands if she saw fit, and Ryan and I would remind her of the virtues of sharing, but after the initial meltdown, she had a grand time with her little pals.
So what if she didn't know the kids playing with her stuff? I overheard a mom conversation about park etiquette. If you bring something to the park, it must be shared with all children. One mom was smack talking another because her child wasn't sharing his truck with her son. Another was talking about how she brings snacks for other kids. Strangers. Just random kids. So, your toys are public property, if you bring food, you have to bring for all, and if you don't abide by these rules, you are ostracized? Since when did the park become the Soviet Union?
It makes me think of another mom comment I had heard somewhere. Why should kids learn to share anyway? Parents are always telling their kids to share. It's perfectly acceptable for other kids to ransack your house and monopolize your toys. You can't bring a toy to the playground and not share it with perfect strangers, even. Sharing is a keystone learning experience for all children. But if I went to the park with my iPod, the hell I'm sharing it with the jerk sitting next to me. Adults totally don't share.
However, I do think sharing is important, to an extent. Sharing with friends is good. Yes, I'll share whatever a friend needs or wants: beer, car, money, music, books, whatever. I like it when my friends come over and play. And sharing is clearly a good idea when it comes to charity and volunteerism and such. I have too much stuff. I want to share it with people who maybe don't. So, there's a balance, I think, as with anything. Share stuff with your friends. Share stuff with those less fortunate than you.
But don't share your shit with the strangers at the park. Tough. Maybe they should have brought their own toy truck.