My earliest memory of “sharing” is about M & Ms. Yes, the all time favorite chocolates ! Nine cups and M & Ms. When my parents would come home with a bag of M&Ms, out came the nine cups from the cupboard, and the “assigned” dealer dropped one piece at time, like playing what most Filipinos know as “sungka (small shells being placed in circular holes in large wooden piece or plate), and went around the cups until the chocolate bag was emptied. The older siblings got the extra pieces that could not be evenly distributed: Perks of being older!
If there is one virtue I learned early in life, it was this: sharing. Having been the youngest of nine children, we shared practically everything: the toilet, rooms, cabinets, beds, clothes, toys, nannies and we had to share our parents’ available time for the children.
Being close to my heart, it was but natural to just prioritize “sharing” as I had one child after the other. I had the perfect setting of four children who were two years apart!
Having multiple children who are closely spaced, you will definitely find yourself in situations where they all like the same thing or food. I have learned through the years to welcome such situations rather than stress about them. When and where else can they learn these valuable truths?
Mommies,however, have that God given instinct to sniff, recognize and even extinguish or avoid a possible melt down of grabbing, pulling and screaming. We are the best CSI when it comes to these things.
I truly believe that, ” Character is caught more than taught,” We must as parents live the values and morals that we desire our children to learn, imbibe and exemplify. So I guess, if our children see in us compassion, empathy, generosity and yes humility in seeking others first, then the positive behavior of sharing can be more easily learned .
Nothing beats seeing your own children learn this. Though a bit a manipulative, I distinctly remember our then six and four year old boys wanting to be the superhero Daredevil. My eldest then, a master of conflict management, whips, ” Marco, I am the real Daredevil and you are the cartoon Daredevil.” The younger four year old could not care any less, he heard he was Daredevil and he was fine with that.
There was another situation when we created a giant red car from a balikbayan box, my younger children then, Raya, 5 yo and Gino 3 yo, wanted to have their “initials” in the license plate for this cool car. Mama, another conflict management facilitator, comes to the rescue, “Ok, Raya’s initials will be at the front license plate and Gino’s will be at the back. And from time to time, we will exchange those so yours can be seen from the back and yours from the front.” Satisfaction achieved. 500,000 points for Mama. Whew.
While they were younger, both Raya and Gino always wanted a go with the ATM machine or even with stirring sugar and creamer in my coffee in restaurants. So here is our usual routine. “Ok, Gino, you get to insert the card, and press a few buttons. I will have to put in my PIN number. Raya, you press how much cash we need and take the card and get the cash. Then next time, you guys will reverse roles!” Another whew!
We may laugh at it now but there were times I had to say, “Ok, you sprinkle and stir the sugar then your sibling will sprinkle and stir the creamer for my coffee.” Triple Whew!
Of course, I can recall a whole lot of times when equal sharing was not possible at all. Or any amount of creativity or distraction didn’t do the trick. When my 2nd son was barely a few days old, our eldest Vince really punched him because “Mom carried the baby all day” in trying to set the milk in for breastfeeding (he also didn’t sleep when laid down in his cot!). But generally, for as long as you try to invest a bit early on and teach those life lessons when the “perfect learning moment” arises, I believe, you will be eventually be able to raise children who care enough to share . That punching episode was never repeated since then.
“Sharing” per se is just an outward manifestation of what is going on in one’s heart . As the Bible says in Luke 6:45, ” A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
The key then is laying the foundation of love, compassion, empathy and humility. All of which are in the life of our Savior, Jesus! Jesus is our perfect example. The Ultimate SHARER, “who gave HIs life as a ransom for many.” Sharing is merely an outward behavior and children need more than just to be told, “You have to share!” They need to know why, they need to see and know how, they need to find the strength to do so and they need to know from whom to draw this strength.
All outward behavior emanates from within. So whether it be in “sharing” , “being patient”, “speaking in polite manner” and the like, they all are merely mirroring what is really within. So let’s not get so engrossed with the outer manifestations but rather take time to purposefully guide our children’s inner being! For indeed the natural fruits of a “inner life raised in the fear of the Lord” will eventually shine!
Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.