Friday, 28 August 2009

The capacity to share, or care

I remember being told by a early years professional, that parents should not expect their children to get the sharing protocol too early on.

If a child demonstrates an ability to share any time before three years then that would be deemed unusual, however post three, sharing should be expected, or at least an understanding of the concept demonstrated.

With our plans to have further children, obviously obliterated by the death of my wife, I have always had concerns that a lack of siblings would make it more difficult for my son to grasp that things can not always go a controlled way, and that sharing can be, and feel, good for ALL parties involved.

Lots of siblings fight over things, or for attention, and I know it can be a nightmare for parents, but it is automatically a process that teaches the sharing lesson.

Max, as I suspect of a lot of children, is inconsistent with this. He can be stubborn, cruel, but also incredibly kind.

He also likes to play mediator, organiser and judge.

On one of our recent momentous days out, he demonstrated a lot of these abilities.

We were in London, venturing out at 9am, and only returned back to our temporary lodgings at just before 10pm. A very long, and incredible enjoyable day. I was very proud of the way he behaved throughout, bar kicking a football off a toddler's head, but that clearly was not intentional - he is not that good.

We took the tube, he queued without complaint for the Natural History Museum. Next was a bus to meet friends for lunch near Putney Bridge. These friends have twin boys, who are about 18 months old, and it was the first time that Max had met them.

He shared some of his crayons while we had some food, and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing, between parks, playgrounds and on a common.

The football came out, and the boy, now showing more of an interested in kicking one about, set about smacking this thing all over the place, including off one of the lads' heads.

Just like my recollection, the younger boys were at the picking-the-ball-up-whenever-it-comes-near-them stage, not yet really interested in kicking it away from their control.

This frustrated my son, and he spent time keeping it away from the others. Fortunately, that did not last long, and then he was more interested in monitoring which of the twins had spent more time in possession of the ball, and would rob one, to give the other the ball, regardless of who actually wanted it, or was crying as a result.

The judge.

After an early tea for the children, we again set off to meet our host, and a few others, for dinner at a pub in Clapham.

This meant another couple of bus rides, asking strangers which stop we needed, and man is it helpful to have a kid at those moments, it seems to blast the grumpy right out of folks when you ask for help.

Again, he was superbly behaved at dinner. It was a reasonably plush place, or at least the part we dined in was, but he only moved from his seat to go to the toilet, and in the 90 minutes or so we were there, I did not get any props out from my bag, not a single toy.

He spent his time discussing various superheroes, putting them in gangs, and deciding which gang might prevail in a full bloodied encounter. There was good versus bad, people against machines, and a whole long debate as to whether Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader could appear in these fictitious teams against one another.

I love his conviction, and how he seems able to construct his thoughts, exploring new things in his head.

But what warmed me the most was his thoughtfulness for the others around him.

As our meal was concluding, I gave Max the remnants of a small tub of grapes he had started on at lunch.

He asked everyone if they wanted one, and found a fellow grape lover sat opposite him.

Then it came to his last grape;

“Do you want this one?” Max asked.

“No I'm full, you have it.” His grape friend replied.

“I could make it smaller.” My boy said, simultaneously demonstrating how he may do that.

“No, really, you have it sweetie.” Came the reply.

I know that it is only a small issue, but as my friend put it; 'My 4 year-old nephew would never share his last anything.'

And so his actions, however small, were the highlight of the day. A day that included trains, dinosaurs, building arachnids, volcanoes, killer whales, elephants, buses, crayoning, football and some cracking food.