by Melissa Face
I sat on a couch grading papers, waiting for my children to finish their dance classes. Next to me, a mom and her daughter played quietly with a sticker book. It was the type with pages that tear out. The sheets were pictures of animals, and the stickers were eyes, noses, whiskers, etc. They chatted and laughed together for a few minutes. “Here are the dog’s ears,” the mother said. “Put these on.”
“I want a sticker!” a girl on the other side of the room told her mother.
“Well, go over there,” the mom encouraged. “Ask them for one.”
So the child did.
“Can I have a sticker?” she said.
I’m not sure if the mom and the daughter with the stickers didn’t hear the other child, or if they pretended not to. Either way, I really didn’t blame them. They were playing together, mother and daughter. What is wrong with that? Do we really have to share with others all the time?
The other child, feeling a bit dejected, ran back to her mother and cried.
At this point, I thought the exchange might be over. I paused my eavesdropping and returned to grading. But only for a moment.
“It’s okay,” the mother across the room said loudly to her crying child. “Remember the episode of Daniel Tiger? If no one wants to share with you, find something else to do. It’s very nice when people share, but they don’t HAVE to. Plus, if she doesn’t share with you, that means you don’t EVER have to share with her.”
I felt my face turn red. I wanted to call her out for taunting the mother and daughter who just wanted to play quietly with their sticker book. I wanted to tell her that maybe she should bring her own toys and books to entertain her young child while waiting for a class that is an hour long. I wanted to tell her that there is a Dollar General across the street that sells sticker books. And I really wanted to tell her that I’ve also seen that episode of Daniel Tiger, and that’s not how it went.
But I didn’t say anything aloud. “Not my battle. Not my battle,” I chanted to myself. “I’ve had plenty of my own lately. This one isn’t mine.”
The child, still sniffling, wandered back over to the mother and daughter. This time, out of equal parts obligation and humiliation, the mother offered the other child a sticker. “Would you like to play?” the mom asked. “Here, I’ll tear out a sheet for you.”
The two girls sat on the floor and played, but the girl who owned the sticker book was uncomfortable. And rightfully so. The other child was in her face, tearing pages, dropping stickers, and interfering with what was previously a time of peaceful play. At one point, the other child hid the sticker book under a sofa so the girl who owned it couldn’t find it.
I know it wasn’t my problem, but it makes me angry when I see that other people are uncomfortable. I appreciate personal space. While sharing is a kind gesture, I don’t think it is always necessary. And I certainly don’t want to be made to feel like I HAVE to share.
For the record, this is how the Daniel Tiger episode really went down:
Daniel has a sticker book and Margaret wants the stickers.
“No! These are mine,” Daniel says. “They’re not for you. Dad, tell Margaret she can’t have my stickers.”
Daniel Tiger and his dad have a conversation and Daniel’s dad tells him that it might be even more fun if they play together. But when they do, Margaret tries to take his whole sticker book.
“What if she rips it?” Daniel pleads. “It’s really special to me.”
“I see,” says Daniel’s dad. “Some things you don’t have to share.”
Sometimes parents want to interact with their own children without dealing with someone else’s child. Sometimes children are feeling shy and would rather not share their belongings with a stranger. And sometimes children don’t offer to share because they have an autism spectrum disorder and struggle with cooperative behavior and the invasion of personal space. Or maybe they just don’t want to, and there is no other explanation.
No explanation is needed. Some things you don’t have to share.