Learning to Share
February 3rd, 2010

About a year ago GAP and I, rookie parents both, went through the whirlwind process of hiring a nanny.  My maternity leave was drawing to a close and after many months of debating the best path for our family, we decided that I would continue to work and that IEP would stay home. 

Hiring a nanny is not an easy thing to do.  Today, with a year of experience under my belt, I’d probably conduct the whole process quite differently if I were doing it again.  However, in spite of our novice level of experience and clumsy search process we couldn’t have found a better person for our family.

She is nothing like we are.  And yet she is a perfect fit.  She is playful and affectionate.  She is calm and assertive.  She is engaged and invested.  She is a good communicator and a good teacher.  IEP smiles with giddy excitement when she walks in each morning.  He waves bye-bye when she leaves each evening.  I feel good – truly good – leaving him in her capable hands each day.  He has never had an ounce of separation anxiety, and I believe that is due largely to having three loving adults sharing in his care on a daily basis.

Here we are a year later.  The newborn who could do nothing but coo and cry twelve months ago is now a walking, playing, laughing, babbling (“talking” would still be a stretch at this point…) toddler.  He needs interaction and stimulation.  He needs a break from his daily routine.  He needs… a friend.

Monday brought him that friend in the form of our neighbor.  Two doors down lives a family with a little boy just three months younger than IEP.  And moving forward IEP will share his nanny for half of each week.  Two and a half days out of five he will have a buddy, a playmate, and a partner in tiny toddler mischief.  I suspect they will have quite a lot of fun together.

But along with all the fun will come some challenges for my little boy.  He will have to learn to be patient, to be gentle, and to share.  He will come to learn that sometimes there are other people who need help more than he does.  He will grow to understand that he is not the only boy craving attention and affection.  And he will begin, in some rudimentary way, to see the world that exists beyond his own set of wants and desires.

For the past year I have relished in the dedicated nature of nannying.  As an infant IEP never had to cry because the student-teacher ratio left him to fend for himself.  But it’s time for my little boy to start learning some of these lessons.  They aren’t easy lessons.  They are lessons that we struggle to remember even into adulthood.  But they are lessons that will serve him well throughout his life.

Monday morning when his new playmate arrived at our house IEP walked over to him, pointed, and said “This!” 

“This is L,” I responded. 

But a more profound statement might have been, “This is your friend.”  Because in spite of the value of all the other lessons, learning about friendship is easily the most important.

7 Responses to “Learning to Share”

  1. Anne Says:

    Wow…the little guy is growing up!! I love how attuned you are to what he needs to learn, and where he is in life. Isn’t amazing and fun to wonder and think what kind of friend he’ll be? Who will become his friends?

  2. Bridget Says:

    Oh, I feel bad for him. No matter when the lesson comes, it’s always hard to find out that you are not the most important person in the world at all times. Probably best that he’s finding out before his permanent memory has kicked in and the adjustment is even harder :) It’s the same empathy I feel when an only child becomes a sibling… a hard lesson, but one that will serve him well for the rest of life.

  3. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    I think the benefit of having a friend will greatly outweigh the sacrifices of having to share. Sharing IS hard, but he’ll get the hang of it. Hoping he and his new buddy become fast friends!

  4. Sarah Says:

    Your continued focus of friendship is so refreshing, Gale. And it feels and reads so incredibly honest and authentic. I am both excited by and afraid of the friendships that my children will form over the next 20 years or so. From experience I know how damaging certain friendships can be, and how we can be the ones who hurt or the ones who are hurting. But my boys will go through it just as we all do. And I hope, in the end, that they will have made five great friends over the course of their lives. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but as I’ve said before, I think that’s a solid number of true, meaningful friendships to put in your heart and take to your grave.

    Hugs and snuggles to your little boy who’s growing up.
    Sarah

  5. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    You are indeed a thoughtful mother and you are teaching your little guy some priceless lessons. About sharing. About friendship. About flexibility. It is so amazing to watch the education and experience of these things unfold. Thanks for letting us have this little peek, letting us watch alongside you.

    (It is a wee bit heartbreaking to watch our kids grow up, isn’t it? I think that’s why I want a million babies!)

  6. Emily Says:

    Waaaaaaaaay back in the day when we hired our Nanny, I was most worried about sharing my boys with another caregiver. Would they love her more because she spends more time with them? Would they resent me for not being there? Truth is they NEVER love the Nanny more. They love her, yes. But that thing that bonds Mom and kid is a weird and strong thing indeed. You are always first choice. And sharing my kids made me a better Mom when it was my turn. For sure.

  7. becca Says:

    Awww…. he’s going to love having a little buddy. Yes, it will be hard but there is something about a little person finding another little person. Luke always gravitates wherever he is to the people his size. Even if he doesn’t understand how to play “with” them, they instead play next to each other, he still enjoys their company and “speaks their language”. I look forward to hearing how it goes with his new friend!