Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ask Me Nicely First

Are your child's toys his/her very own? Do you allow your child to think that her toys belong to her?

Or are you just letting your child play with them while maintaining ownership yourself?

I am what might euphemistically be called "middle-aged" now, but there are some things that still bother me, a LOT.

I was the oldest of four kids, and nothing ever really belonged to me, even when I bought it with my own money. I was forced to share it all, and it didn't even matter if I was home. If a sibling wanted to play with it, or wear it, or eat it, the sibling got it.

Even as a child, I was very careful with "my" things. Santa brought me a doll every Christmas, and those dolls are, as I type, residing on the top shelf of my closet, as pristine as dolls that old could possibly be. Some of them, however, bear the marks of not-as-careful-as-I forced borrowings.

I still have my Tiny Thumbelina doll, but she stopped moving after less than a year because a visiting cousin, who threw a fit for her, was allowed by Mom to play with her. My cousin's idea of playing was far different than mine, and it didn't take her long to overwind the doll and therefore break her, forever. My opinion of that cousin is still colored by that example of her nature. I was a careful child, and I adored things with keys, such as music boxes. I was extremely careful with such things, and I dreaded having company who brought their kids, because my parents always made me bring out the very things that I loved best, and that were the most easily broken, and watch strange kids play with them roughly and usually break them. If I protested, or cried when it happened, Mom or Dad would give me the routine "Shame on you; don't be selfish!" speech, which didn't ring true even back then and still doesn't. If you know someone, whatever their age might be, is going to break it, why would you MAKE the owner of it just hand it over?

Unless, of course, the child isn't really the owner at all. That would only work if the PARENT actually owned the toy, wouldn't it. Aha!

I know that Mom didn't like it when our toys were mishandled by visiting kids, but her kind heart and generous nature wouldn't let her be anything but sharing, even when it was OUR things that were being shared.

Some adults are horrified when a child doesn't want to 'share' certain toys, but I'm not. Kids can usually sense when another kid is going to be careful or not, and frankly, it's only common sense to NOT allow a careless, rowdy kid to play with anything that's fragile or special, such as a beloved doll or other toy. Embarrassed parents who then FORCE a child to hand it over are not doing anybody any favors. Parents of careless kids who break everything they touch have no business expecting someone else's child to willingly hand over a favorite toy only to have it torn to pieces before their very eyes. "Well, they sure don't make 'em like they used to!" is NOT a good response when your kid breaks another kid's toy. "Oh, that's all right, don't worry about it!" is likewise not a good response when some kid breaks your kid's favorite toy.

It's wonderful to have a sharing, giving, generous nature, but a person can still have that while using common sense. No child should EVER be required to share beloved toys with another kid. Bring out the box of blocks, or the tinkertoys, or something that's usually shared anyway and that ISN'T precious and kept pristine and beloved. Unbreakables are good for sharing with an unknown quantity, or with a quantity you KNOW is going to be rough with it. I'm all for sharing, really, but I'm completely against REQUIRED sharing, and a child should get to choose which toys he/she wants to share and which ones are to be kept on the shelf when company comes.

I considered that my kids' toys belonged to THEM. If we had company with kids, I shut and locked my kids' bedroom doors, unless they were there, in person, to give or not give permission to enter. As long as the toys were put away, they did not belong to me. I had given them away to someone else - my children - and only the owners could say what happened to them. I had - and still have it - a huge box of sharing toys, and there is some pretty cool stuff in there. But my kids' most precious toys? Nobody touched them without permission from that child. They belonged to that child. I bought or made them, and then I gave them away. Once you "give" something, it then belongs to the one who received it. Once you "give" something, your rights over its use have been passed to someone else.

Of course, if, after several days' warning, those same toys were still on the floor, pieces scattered, they became mine again, and my kids didn't like what I did with them. But that was their own fault.

Perhaps it's because modern kids have so many toys, that the concept of a few precious toys has gone its merry way. But I'd bet money, if I had any, that even a modern kid has a toy or two that's extra-special, and that he/she would really prefer NOT to have to share with just anybody.

Sometimes, when I'm looking in my closet, I'll gaze at Tiny Thumbelina and remember the days when she still moved. And I know that if I hadn't been forced to hand her over to that wild, destructive cousin, she would still be alive moving today.

Kids desperately need things of their very own, that are undebatably THEIRS, that can not be touched without permission, EVER. I used to find my only respite in my school supplies, which lived in my desk in my classroom. At school, if you helped yourself to someone else's stuff, you were correctly labeled a thief. Now, of course, even at school there is no possibility to learn pride of possession, because in most classrooms the teacher makes everybody dump their school supplies in community buckets. This is catastrophically wrong. It would have finished me off for good, I think. A child with no absolute possessions can't understand the concept of other people's possessions, and this is the beginning of the end. I blogged about this once before and I haven't changed my mind about it. I never will. I sent my children to school with their supplies and I expected those supplies to reside in my child's desk. Anyone, including the teacher, who took my child's possessions without permission and against their wishes, was a thief.

A parent or sister or brother who helps themselves to your possessions is a thief, too. But don't call them that or you'll get grounded. And the injustice of THAT still burns, too.

I'm not selfish, and neither are my children. Almost anything we have, we are happy to let you use, too. Just don't ask to borrow those very, very few extra-precious things we have set apart from everything else, pristine, beloved, and our very own. And if you just waltz up and help yourself without permission, we'll by golly slap the daylights out of your reaching hand.

Nobody is entitled to whatever they want, without first jumping through some hoops. One of the jumps might be to pay for something in a store. Another jump might be asking permission to touch or use the property of someone else. But a person who just assumes that everything exists for his/her use is asking for trouble, and one of these days, he or she is going to try to help himself to something that isn't theirs and all hell will break loose, legally. If our children learn at a very early age that they are allowed free usage ONLY of their own things, and NEVER with someone else's, without permission, perhaps we'll populate the earth with adults who respect each other and each other's belongings, and who don't expect carte blanche to help themselves to anything and everything they want, without jumping through the proper hoop first.

To sum up: nice people of any age don't grab other people's things without permission. EVER.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:39 PM | |


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