At this point I'm torn. On one hand, Kayla is an only child, so I like to take advantage of any learning-to-share opportunity that presents itself. On the other hand, that was just plain rude. Give my kid her toys back! My mind goes with the second idea, but my mouth says, "Kayla, you can share your toys. She'll give them back later." Kayla still possessed one of the three sponge animals. I figured she could only play with one at a time anyway.
Here's where social etiquette dictates that the mother of the little girl--who was a mere yard away--tell her daughter to return the toys regardless of my calm demeanor. Or at least double and triple check to make sure her daughter really could play with the two toys. Did this occur? No. Did I really expect it to considering the area of town I was in? No. I kept one eye on Kayla and the other on those toys for the rest of our swimming adventure, inwardly wondering if these strangers would "accidentally" leave with them. The little girl's mother didn't intervene until her daughter came by and took the last animal from Kayla. Bless Kayla's heart. She didn't get angry. The emotion was more like shock. A bit older, and I could have said, "See, Kayla. This is how Dylan feels when you take away his toys."
My friend congratulated me afterward on how gracefully I handled the situation, stating that she wouldn't have been as nice. She wondered if I truly didn't care or was just being polite. I told her my inner dialogue on the subject, and we laughed. Perhaps I missed my calling as an actress. Later in the evening I reflected on the reasons for behaving as I did.
In a social psychology class, I learned about high and low self-monitoring, which is the characteristic of adapting one's behavior to fit different situations. Neither high self-monitors nor low self-monitors are right or wrong. However, HSM'S typically see LSM'S as insensitive because they don't read social cues well or generally adhere to them on the grounds of being true to oneself. Likewise, LSM's see HSM's as insincere because they willingly adjust to each circumstance on the grounds of flexibility and friendliness.
Paul was a HSM. In scripture he claims to "have become all things to all people. (1 Corinthians 9:22)" His motivation was to share the gospel, but what was mine? I'd love to profess the pure drive to shine Jesus' light, but more likely I was avoiding a possible ugly dispute. Imagine two mama bears in the forest fighting over the the honeycomb their baby wants. Can't quite envision the scenario? Just enter Wal-Mart on Black Friday...
If I had been true to myself, I'd have removed my "mom" hat and dusted off my "daycare worker" hat and demanded the little girl give back the sponge animals with an apology. Timeout being the consequence for refusal. If the situation had been reversed, and Kayla had stolen the items, that's exactly what I would have done. But alas, the rage of a nearby mother is very unpredictable. I think I acted with wisdom.
To my readers who own the "mom" or "dad" hat, please teach your children manners. Your community will appreciate this courtesy.
Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)