I am continuing to look at that thorny subject of sharing and I was particularly pleased to receive thoughts from various people after my article on ‘Do only children know how to share?’ I have incorporated these ideas with some of my own to take the discussion further.
In my experience it is often true that as Kei says: ‘while only children are less inclined towards “sharing”, we are much more sensitive and opposed to “taking.”’
As an only-child I would not have dreamed of taking my parent things without asking – I would expect that is true of most children. However when my own children were growing up I found it surprising how often they took each other’s things – and often mine now I think about it!
When I remarried (another only child) his biggest difficulty was the way he saw my children helping themselves to his cd’s, tools, books etc. It is never easy entering someone else’s household whether it is a partner or a flat share, but I think very difficult when you have not had to share with siblings.
I very much resonated with the remarks about the opposite of sharing is viewed as ‘being greedy’. I think this is why I have encountered many adult only-children who do the opposite of ‘not sharing’ and go overboard and continually ‘give’. In fact one of the ways I can spot and adult-only is often by their somewhat obsessive need to offer little gifts- i.e. sharing a box of biscuits/sweets in a group, buying everyone a little present at the end of the course, and giving away their things. I believe this is often because parents are highly concerned that their child will not appear spoilt and endeavor to counteract selfishness with a constant request ‘to share’. Not a bad thing, but I think this can lead to a fear of the very thing they are intending the child to counteract and latterly to over-giving.
Bondi One Mum wrote: ‘ALL children have a hard time sharing’ which is true and is why we teach children to share in the first place but I think with an only child there is this constant parental fear of being too indulgent and this can be communicated to the child. How the child deals with that may be to be ‘over-giving’ or fearful of its own things being given away leading to ‘over-hoarding’.
I admit to being a bit of a hoarder (well actually quite a bit of a hoarder) and that seems to be about both holding on to my own things because, I suspect they represent my past. With no parents or siblings, holding onto things from the past seems increasingly important as I get older. As an only I was told to ‘receive’ gracefully and I have found it quite difficult to refuse the offerings given to me by over-givers – perhaps another reason why I have ended up a hoarder!
JF said: ‘I don’t mind giving away things to other people, but I have a hard time sharing what’s mine with others.’ Yes a very important point, ‘giving away’ is not sharing! Finally, Exploringmindsorg said of her only child: ‘we had to teach her not to share and be assertive sometimes because she was too giving.’
Is giving the same as sharing?? I wonder what other people think?
Only child recent response:
The matter of sharing feels emotionally complex as an only child; the opposite of sharing is “not-sharing”. Yet, society tells us that the opposite of sharing is “being greedy”. I like the wording example of “I” vs. “We” in your article which articulates this fundamental philosophy.
In sharing a home with roommates of various birth-orders, I have come to this conclusion: while only children are less inclined towards “sharing”, we are much more sensitive and opposed to “taking.” While I might possessively hoard my goods in a manner expected of an only child, I am excessively conscientious of the ownerships others claim on their own goods.
On the other hand, non-only children feel more comfortable with infringing on others, in terms of material goods, time, attention, what-have-you… which it how one might perceive the behavior of the “cocooned/pampered” only child, though not necessarily to that extreme level of entitlement.
I am considering this all lately because of my overwhelming suspicion that my only-childness is leaving me more and more disappointed by the relationships I have in my adult life, and I am seeking clues to overcome the internal roadblocks to positive and long-term relationships.