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posted: 10/5/2011 12:01 AM

But, Dad, when will it be my turn on the Xbox?

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This is a cautionary fable about sharing, and keeping the peace. There are no lessons to be learned, only warnings.

We all learned about sharing in kindergarten. I actually don't know if that is true, but it is the line I have used since I was a kid. It's significantly smart-alecky enough to get the point across in most cases.

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Of course, the smart-alecky retort is, "I must have been sick that day," and then all bets are off.

In multi-children families, sharing is an important skill. You simply can't have one of everything for everybody. Bathrooms are at the top of that list, followed by refrigerators.

In our family, we are lucky enough that sharing is a limited requirement, because we are usually able to provide for our children's individual needs without requiring them to get involved in time allotment.

Still, we have only one Xbox. We have only one trampoline (you would think that would be enough). We have only one basement. (We always wanted to provide our children with one of those multi-basement homes, but times are tough.)

Sharing should be such an easy concept. It's sort of a subtopic to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In sharing terms, that means when you have something that someone else wants, share it, so that when that someone has what you want, they will also share.

(One of the great things about the Golden Rule is that it reads really well. The sharing subtopic is a little wordy).

If I were forced to grade my children in the sharing department on a scale from 1 to 10, I would give them a 5. And no, that does not mean they only share when they are the ones asking for the favor. (I know that's what you were thinking.)

They actually share pretty well most days -- until something goes terribly wrong.

Each of our kids has his or her own personal computer. But occasionally computers stop working properly, and sharing is required. So one child, whom we will designate as The Sharer, offers his computer to the needy child, who shall be designated as the Sharee. Then, something goes wrong or is lost on the computer in the hands of the Sharee, and suddenly, our house becomes Thunderdome.

My daughters, Haley and Lindsey, are 17 and 15, respectively, and occasionally they share clothing. They are good about it, when they are good about it. But when neither of them can find that one white shirt we have in the house, I find out that they both claim the white shirt is theirs, and the other borrowed it, and now it is lost, and suddenly the house becomes Gettysburg.

(I have referred to that white blouse problem before. One would think we would go to a Big Box store and buy a 12-pack of them just to avoid this problem, but we don't.)

Dan and Kyle are 15 and 12, respectively, and nowhere near the same size, so sharing clothing is not an issue. Sharing the Xbox is. It's in the basement (we only have the one, Xbox and basement: see above).

Now, it is true the Xbox can be shared. We sprang for two controllers, and they have a blast playing games together -- when they play games together. But sometimes, apparently, each of them just needs a little time alone with the Xbox. It's a 21st century thing. When they both want to be alone with their controller, the house suddenly turns into a WrestleMania ring.

All of this sharing concern is just a part of being in a big family. The stories I tell about sharing compare favorably to the stories I hear from other families who have multiple children.

The area where I want them to be best prepared to share is in the responsibility area. Some day they are going to have to take care of me and my wife, Janice, and I want to make sure they understand that is a shared duty.

I'm hoping they do better at that job than they do at sharing the one bathroom.

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.

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