Sharing Pool Toys with Strangers
It is inevitable, when we go to a public pool, that my boys will want to bring toys and that those toys will end up being played with by other kids. The same holds true at parks; unless the boys are determined to hang onto their toys for the duration of their visit, they are bound to be shared. If a kid brings a toy to a public pool, it is understood that the toy becomes available for public use under the circumstance that the primary user does not want to play with it. When everybody goes home, the toys are returned to their rightful owners. Our rule is to bring one toy each on busy days. That way the boys can either hang onto their toy the whole time or, if they get bored of it, and it ends up in someone else’s hands, they can easily track it down when it’s time for us to leave. It seems though that some parents play by different rules. They bring toys, their kids leave them lying around, then they get bent out of shape when some random kid wanders over to it and starts playing.
Kids learning to share:
It’s an amazing thing to watch, actually. I’ve seen Neil and Alan playing with toys in the pool, notice a kid who has a look on his face like he wants to play too, and generously, of their own free will, offer to share. Maybe the chlorine gets into their brain. Maybe water just has a magical effect on kids. Whatever it is, the result is that, barring parental interference, kids play well together in the pool. When a toy ends up being shared and one of the boys wants it back, they take a look around the pool and go ask nicely for it to be returned. Quarrels rarely happen. But let me qualify that. Parents can help ease the sharing experience by participating in the unwritten rules, or they can screw it all up by being overly protective. Quarrels can happen. They happen when some parents become the toy police.
Put your Hands on your Head and Step Away from the Toy!
That’s the reaction Neil got from a woman yesterday. We went to the pool at 8:30 last night and were one of two families there. In other words, there were 7 people in the pool. Neil saw a noodle (those foam floating tube things) lying next to the pool and he went to use it. He didn’t have it for more than 10 seconds when a woman came sloshing from the other end of the pool looking agitated. Let me note here that she saw all this happen from about 60 feet away; she must have been on high alert. When she got to Neil she grabbed the noodle and, as she was grabbing it, she bent down to tell him it didn’t belong to him. Imagine that for a second. She decided to be a bitch over a noodle which she was in no danger of losing in the first place. She must be either a terribly unhappy person or a very happy ignorant one.
Your job as a parent is to mediate conflict when conflict arises, not to create conflict where there is none. Kids don’t usually have problems playing with each other and each other’s toys in the pool (the younger kids sometimes need a little guidance, but the older kids know the routine). I have only seen someone try to leave the building with one of my toys once. I caught the family before they left and asked for it back. The mother immediately realized it didn’t belong to any of her kids, apologized profusely and that was that. Besides, even if a toy does go missing occasionally, is it really worth the aggravation to be so protective over cheap toys? I’ll risk the injustice of someone accidentally walking away with my 2 dollar dive stick if it means I can play happily with my kids instead of being the self designated water-toy police.