Sharing is caring

By Kris Ferrazza | Aug 04, 2017

A friend and I had just settled into our beach chairs and put our toes in the sand when it happened.

Out of habit, I searched for our kids and saw they were playing, happy and safe, in the waves. Then I surveyed the beach, and my gaze landed on a comical sight. Two boys near us were busily burying one another. A couple of things about this scene struck me funny. First, the sheer amount of fun they were having was contagious. Second, their big plastic shovel was hot pink. Not that it matters, but it made me chuckle. Pink? Ah, boys and their toys ... hey, wait a minute.

“We have a shovel just like that,” I said to my friend, then my brow furrowed as I looked around. Yup, that was our shovel.

Elizabeth and her friends tend to drop their beach gear as soon as we arrive and run straight for the ocean. That means our belongings are scattered in a wide, arcing perimeter around our chairs. As the beach gets more crowded, I try to gather our items closer and shrink our circle, but I often end up feeling we’re missing things.

My friend sipped from her water bottle and stared at the sea, indifferent to the fact that they had taken our shovel.

“They probably borrowed it,” she said calmly.

Oh, of course. But somehow I don’t remember her being quite so Zen a few years ago when a seagull swooped down and “borrowed” her sandwich.

“I’m sure they’ll give it back,” she said, sounding mature.

Part of me wanted to ask if the gull had given her turkey sandwich back yet, but I thought better of it.

A plastic shovel isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of life, I realize, but I immediately started recounting incidents from decades of beach days when we inadvertently “shared” with our neighbors. It also brought back memories of growing up in a family with five kids where we had to share virtually everything.

Ever try sharing a doughboy or pizza with a little sister? Trust me, my sisters perfected their skills early. They would put their grubby hands all over the food, lick my half, tell me they may have “accidentally” spit on it, and then take a swig of my drink, just for good measure, leaving food floating in the bottle.

Shivers. No bueno.

Now I know “sharing is caring,” and I have taught my daughter that the more we share, the more we have. Since she is an only child, I was especially concerned that Elizabeth grow up to be a giver and one who shares.

But even as I talked the talk, I wasn’t sure I could always walk the walk. Sure, I could sing along with Jack Johnson when he told us, “If you have a sandwich, cut that thing in half,” and mean it. I’m all about casting my bread upon the waters, and loving my neighbor as myself. But it’s easier to preach that when it is your decision. Not when you’ve been robbed of your beach shovel and are expected to turn the other cheek.

A woman recently had a blog post go viral after she wrote that her son brought a few toys to a park, wanting to share them with a friend, and got accosted. Half a dozen boys ran up and demanded to play with his toys. He looked to his mother, who gave him permission to say no. He clutched the toys to his chest and said no. The kids then ran to the boy’s mother to say he wasn’t sharing. She said he didn’t have to share the toys. They were stunned, and so were their parents. Readers responded to the blog, with some criticizing the mom for “creating drama” and “teaching her child to be selfish,” while others defended her right to set boundaries and say no.

A few years back, I remember Lizzy taking a small plastic mermaid swim fin to a local lake. We suspected it might cause a stir with other kids wanting to try it, but she wanted to test it out, and using it in her home kiddie pool just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Sure enough, she no sooner had hit the water than she was surrounded by a crowd of girls who wanted to play with it. My sweet only child handed it right over, offering the other girls to each “take a turn,” but in no time, the older girls had taken it out into the deep water and were refusing to give it back.

After about 15 minutes, she came ashore looking sad. I told her to go and tell the girls that if they didn’t give it back immediately, her mom was coming out to get it. She reluctantly walked back into the water, and I stood up from my beach chair, hands on my hips, and struck a pose. The girls heard her words, then looked at the beach, spotted me, and handed it right back to my daughter.

As adults we expect children to share all the time, but just imagine getting a new iPhone and having everyone ask if they can have a turn. We’d say no way. Imagine eating your fruit salad at the beach and the lady at the next blanket scoots over and asks for a few chunks of watermelon. Seriously?

OK, I guess. It’s sort of odd, actually. Over the years I’ve actually had people ask me to share everything from my beloved wedding dress to my prized rooster. Each time the answer was the same: “Sorry, but no.”

To avoid awkward situations, we have a strategy in our house. Sometimes we just put things away that are too precious to be shared. Don’t want your jewelry box ransacked by your friends today? Hide it in mom’s closet. Feeling afraid little hands will break your fragile glass mermaid collection? Tuck it away for safekeeping when company comes.

It has worked well so far. But at the beach, it seems kids always want what is on other people’s blankets. My friends and I used to joke about it when our kids were toddlers. They would wander around just looking for the families with the best snacks and toys, shunning whatever treats and toys we had brought.

Somewhere along the line, though, they grew up and it became less cute.

My daughter snapped me out of my personal reverie when she came running up to my beach chair, dripping water and kicking up sand, and asked, “What did we bring to eat?”

Reaching for the cooler, I casually said, “Hey, I think those boys over there may have taken your shovel.” She eyed the boys, buried torso-deep in sand and still holding the pink shovel, and froze. Then she glanced around, and pointed, saying, “Nope, ours is right behind your chair.”

And the beat goes on.

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