Share Your Toys

Clifford braces himself for another love attack from a marauding 1 year old.


Much of the tedium in parenting comes in the little moments. They’ll always need their diapers changed, they’ll always need to be fed, you’ll always have to clean up after them. And so on. But sometimes, those routine activities can produce a satisfaction that spreads across the spectrum of human emotion. I had one such unexpected reaction a couple nights ago.

My wife had bought the kids a set of four plush toys, characters from “Clifford, the Big Red Dog.” These are my 2-and-a-half year old Sarah’s new favorite toys — she calls them her “puppies,” and she makes sure they travel with her to every room in the house. Meanwhile, Silas, the 1 year old, just really likes Clifford. Specifically, he likes to grab Clifford by the neck, crawl on top of him and roll around while chewing on whatever plush protrusion is near his mouth.

Silas was in the middle of his Clifford Love ritual the other night when Sarah decided to take the big red dog away from her brother. We’ve been trying to teach Sarah to share her toys — and have instituted a zero-tolerance policy — but to this point, we’d been met with defiance and old-fashioned ignoring of instructions.

This time, when Sarah tried to repo Clifford, I launched into my usual response. I made it clear to her that Silas was playing with the doggie, and she’d have to share it with him. She could play with the other three puppies in the meantime. This was followed, naturally, by an immediate angry crying fit.

Now, I can’t claim to always be 100 percent in possession of patience with my kids, but I was aces this time — firm and insistent that she not complete her desired action but also understanding, loving and explanatory in my rationale. And, amazingly, my little girl understood and agreed with me.

By the time I got to my summation (“So don’t you think you should share your toys with your brother?”), she was saying, “Yes,” through her final sobs.

“That’s great, baby. Silas wants to play with toys, too. See? He loves Clifford. He’s really happy right now. Do you want to play Legos with Dad?”

“Okay,” she said, no longer crying.

Then I squeezed her tighter and said, “I love you, Sarah. Very much.”

And she said, “I love you, Daddy.”

There were a few seconds of silence as I released her from the full-body hug I’d had her in through the length of our conversation. Then Sarah’s face lit up with a revelation: “I’m not sad anymore!”

“Oh sweetie, that’s so great. That’s great that you’re not sad anymore.” I was welling up with tears, those good emotional tears I always get when Rod Tidwell finally, triumphantly jumps up after being injured during the Monday Night Football game in Jerry Maguire.

“I’m happy again!” Sarah exclaimed, like it was the most pleasant surprise she’d ever experienced.

It was such a great combination of emotions for me — deep, amazing love for my firstborn child, satisfaction that I’d finally broken through to her in an ongoing disciplinary issue, wondrous pride that she could identify and rejoice in her own change in emotion (that was a first), relief that her tantrum had passed, and an overwhelming appreciation for the cuteness of the situation.

So Sarah and I built an impressive Lego tower, Silas kept on loving Clifford, and my young family enjoyed the rest of our night.

2 Comments to “Share Your Toys”

  1. Awwww…one of those truly awesome parenting moments when we actually feel like we’ve done something right. Kyle and I have had some of those moments too. They are rare…but they are SO rewarding. And sometimes they bring tears to my eyes, too. Well written, Andrew! And I love that you’re so in touch with your emotions. ;)

  2. Very sweet! I hope my kids will ever figure out how to share. It’s tooth-and-nail right now.

%d bloggers like this: