Admittedly, teaching my daughter to share has not come easy to an only child raised by a single mom. My mom always managed to carve out time in her day to focus solely on me: my wants, my needs, my ramblings. I never had to share her time or anything else, really.
Since becoming a mother to two daughters I’ve Googled “sharing for toddlers” or “tactics for sharing” so many times that I no longer need to finish typing in the word “share” before auto fill supplies the rest of my query. So I’ve followed advice of professionals and fellow moms, eventually mixing in my own methods – a little bit of threatening, pleading and improvisation.
“Please share with your sister,” I’ll plead, “If you play nicely with her you can have a bag of gummies,” I promise.
Sometimes she doesn’t need any coaxing; instead is content with letting her sister play with her beloved Disney princesses, quietly handing over a doll as though it was second nature.
Perhaps it is my daughter who is excelling in sharing, while it is I who falters.
My eldest daughter adores her father. She runs to him when he returns from work every evening, her sweet voice echoing through the house, calling “daddy, daddy, daddy,” as she runs toward the door.
“Hi Goosey!” he says taking her in his arms for a hug.
That used to be me.
It is only recently that it is his arms that she reaches for during a scary scene in her favorite film, “Tangled”; wrapping her arms around his neck when the evil Mother Gothal fills the screen.
When we play pretend, he’s always the prince to whom she marries, and I’m always the evil witch. Or the sidekick, Pasqual to her Rapunzel.
I can’t help but feel envious when this happens because she prefers him to me; a switch that I did not see coming. Yet it did and has left me grappling with this feeling of jealousy.
Like a spectator, I’ll catch myself looking from afar as they settle on to the carpet to read a book or play with a puzzle. Amazed by how effortlessly they work alongside one another. And how easily my daughter’s focus turned from me to him.
Sharing, I’ve come to understand, is difficult at any age, particularly for me as I am learning to share my daughter with others.
Growing up, I never had to fight for my mom’s attention. It was just she and I in our one-bedroom apartment where we shared everything from a closet to a bed. Privacy was limited to the restroom and when one of us would close the bedroom door to take a phone call.
I grew accustomed to our lifestyle; weekdays were spent at home just the two of us and weekends were spent at an aunt’s house surrounded by cousins. It was during those weekend visits that I experienced what it would be like to have siblings, where we would bicker about who got to be the lead in the play we were putting together or who would get the last cherry otter pop while the other would be stuck with the Dimetapp tasting grape flavor. Other times we would band together against the older cousins who would not let us play video games, instead handing us controllers that weren’t hooked up to the Super Nintendo.
Those weekends provided a look into what I was missing – a sibling connection that included secret looks, someone there to provide support if another cousin was being extra mean – and what I was glad to not have to deal with, specifically a constant contender for a parent’s attention.
I got used to afternoons with her at the park, just us two, where we’d play on the swings and I’d help her on the slide. At home we played tea parties wearing princess crowns or painted in the backyard. Every Saturday morning we headed to storytime at the library where she would sit on my lap, her body falling slack onto mine as she listened to tales of runaway ducklings and hibernating bears.
These days she makes friends at the park and pushes off my lap at storytime to sit on the carpet near the librarian and other friends. I’m left reminiscing how I was once her favorite playmate; a time I now realize I should not have taken for granted.
My eldest girl is an extrovert who enjoys spending time with other children either her age or a little older.
“Hi, my name’s Brynna,” she tells children she meets at the park near our house, “I’m 2 1/2, what’s your name?”
Those days I’m forced to sit on a park bench and watch her play with a new friend.
“That used to be me,” I think watching her chase a little girl.
Back home I once again have to give up time with my daughter but this time to my husband.
As I watch her face light up when she hears her father’s voice, I quickly swallow the “don’t you want to spend time with me?” that inches up my throat, instead smiling as she instructs him to sit in the playroom and help her with a puzzle, all the while talking. Their banter is smart and witty as they play off one another.
My daughter often spends time with her dad in the kitchen as he prepares meals for the week. They are both early risers and on those mornings when he is cooking dinners for the week, I can hear them conversing from our bedroom. Sometimes it’s about plans for the day, what she did at school the past week or singing made up songs. She already turns to him for guidance, whether it be help with a puzzle or what color to paint a flower; he’s there for her.
Sharing does not come easy as I learn to hand over my daughter’s time and attention to others.
“Daddy, I’m going to marry you when I get more older,” she says one lazy Sunday afternoon. My husband and I enjoy a beer on the patio while she paints and the 9-month-old bounces in the jumper.
“How old do you have to be to marry Dad?” I inquire.
“Oh, 3 ½,” she said. “Okay, daddy?”
“Of course, Goosey,” he says.
Once again I’m an interloper watching this interaction, anxiously waiting for her to shine her light on me once more.
I simply need to wait my turn.