Blu-tack, to Rockstar and Friends, is an incredibly prized commodity in class.
It's a lesson in Your Kid's Friends' Opinions.
(Also, there are Youtubes. This one's Blu-tack Adventure:)
I kind of listened with half an ear when Rockstar occasionally came home with tiny balls of the stuff that he had found left on a wall or etc, expounding its many virtues. "You can stick them on walls and mums don't complain because they don't leave marks! It's great!!" "You can make things out of them. Look! A ball!"
Then one day parents come in for an art project. As almost an afterthought, I'd gotten our own pack from a mummy friend who'd gone in search of the stuff that very morning, so for once Rockstar actually had an abundance of the precious stuff - which is when other kids keep coming up to us for more.
Q1: Guess what I did.
Q2: Guess what Rockstar did.
A1: Initially, I shared freely from the pack we had bought. Then I squirreled away some in case I ran out.
A2: Rockstar shared freely from the gob in his hand.
In fact, for this project (building various animal habitat dioramas - some of which btw were really elaborate, as the kids had partnered up and discussed what they were going to do beforehand, which naturally led to pretty high flying ideas and "shopping" lists for parents - in fact, Rockstar's partner's mum and I collaborated several times over the weekend just so we wouldn't duplicate too many items while covering everything our kids
needed wanted. I consider it Work Mum Etiquette - Mum Who Works gets to contribute what she can find near her office on lunch hour first) Rockstar had zip locked his plastic animals and shopping list, having also sorted prey vs predator vs scavenger (which he proudly told me he learned from school at some point), and I'd zip locked a separate bag of animals that were most definitely not found in the Grasslands but which had come along with the pack we bought in order to get all the animals on our list, which I thought to then give away. (Also, what else am I going to do with plastic otters, beavers, salamanders and goodness knows what those other things were..)
Rockstar looks through his stuff, and takes out....... the bag of non-Grasslands animals. He is so into when he can give them out and who might need them that I have to tell him to look at his own stuff and discuss/plan the box he's supposed to work on. Halfway through the project I then get "Mum." Because what he wants is to go ask permission from the teacher to also take out the materials in his schoolbag that he'd saved (foam sheets, tracing paper) for other groups. Except his school bag is outside and I estimate it will take him like, 2 hours to obtain permission, trot out, open the zip, happily thumb through the sheets, double back because he's forgotten to zip back up his bag, locate someone who needs it... He periodically does this. I call it the Sharing Monster Phase.
Now, I feel guilty telling my helpful child not to help too much, but if you were in a plane and God forbid it was going to crash, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you go be a hero, don't you?
Just... finish your own project first. After all, you've already methodically sorted through species, had a list, how hard can it be to put bloody plastic animals in a box?
About then is when he starts doling out the blu-tack.
Oh yay. Because I wasn't conflicted enough over First World Problem Of Plastic Animals For A Box.
There has just been horrific devastation from Typhoon Hai-Yan in the Philippines, for which Rockstar's school has then swiftly begun a big donation drive where some parents have pledged generous funds and here I am writing about Blu-tack.
Anyway. Sharing, helping others in need whether we like them or not, are some of the things we learn are The Right Thing To Do, whatever your faith, wherever you come from. It's just one of those things you know is The Correct Answer To A Question On How To Behave. As Christians we are taught to do it to the glory of God. As an act of faith that He provides. (And btw I don't think He expects you to give away your oxygen mask either.) So somewhere in between, you do what's right for your conscience because at the end of the day you're the one who has to look God in the proverbial eye when you pray for other stuff.
(That was my conclusion from 11 years in the markets because there is no more humbling lesson than that you can use the most sophisticated risk management software and default probability calculators for your investments and another SARS or typhoon or Greece or etc happens and you realize you were never in control after all. All the sophisticated instruments are for nothing if you hit an iceberg because the big ship is still going down. Technically all your human effort, no matter how smart, how gifted you may be, are absolutely for nothing because you will never have perfect information. Only He does. This is why many traders are religious.)
Rockstar in the meantime, just keeps breaking away bits of Blu-tack. You'd think the 5 loaves and 2 fish are going to be able to stick 29 other kids' plastic animals and still have several baskets left over for Little Blue Men To Make Youtubes With.
When too many kids ask me at the same time for Blu-tack, I turn one down - only to have Rockstar give her half of the tiny bit left in his hand.
On my part, it had been instinctive. Just too many kids asking at the same time. On Rockstar's part, it had been instinctive. I've never been more proud of him. Rockstar didn't know to squirrel a little Blu-tack away.
Then I did it for him.
I'm going with You Can Give Away All The Blu-tack You Want But You Are Absolutely Not Allowed To Give Away Your Only Oxygen Mask, for now. Because if you ever risk dying of suffocation someday, Mummy will be super-pissed.
In time, we'll have a conversation about how some people will share back. Some won't take too much from you. And some............ But let's talk about how you choose to be the way you are despite which you meet. (So that's why you finish your own work first.)
With more time and hindsight I would've brought more than enough supplies. I hadn't expected everything to be finished in one session, and had assumed I'd go in, see what was missing, make a final run with Little Miss in tow...... Nuh-uh. The kids just super efficiently finished up their projects in the blink of an eye. That's the thing, because faced with a shortage, I wanted to get selfish. A former mentor used to say, "If I open the door and say "after you", that doesn't make me nice. If the building is on fire and I open the door and say "after you," then I'm nice." And yet true worship, a true honoring of God, requires some sacrifice. Giving up the Blu-tack.
Then - "I've finished mine. I came to help (other friend whose partner appears to have wandered off)." I look up to find one of Rockstar's friends from another group has come over. He's soon joined by another child. Together they help their friend catch up. Rather than stay at their own projects to put whatever finishing touches on. Their friend needs help, and so they're sharing their time.
I feel like cheering. I feel like going all silly and doing a chicken dance, Rockstar goes to this school with these sweet kids. I really want Rockstar to see that. I want him to see others being kind. Amidst general ugly competitiveness in this town, they should really reward kindness. Because there are more than enough rewards everywhere you look, for academic excellence. It shouldn't be at the expense of being nice.
Know what, Rockstar? Share with everyone, but...... d'you think you could remember to share a little more with the sharers please? Sharing is reciprocal in that broken, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately human way, and it will feel even better to be nice to those who are nice. Also, I just really wanted to give the nice kids that came over some encouragement of their own too. There aren't enough little nice gestures in the world.
Over fishball noodles after school, I gingerly broach the subject. Rockstar just shrugs. "Yeah (some) do that all the time." And? "Hmm? What happens? I don't know, I don't go near them much."
Then Rockstar tripped off to taekwondo class and I called Kings to see if there was a stationery store near his office. It was my clumsy way of trying to illustrate that when you are unconditionally kind, even when you think no one else sees, God does.
How else d'you think it suddenly occurred to me to have Kings pick up 6 large packs of Blu-tack on the way home from work?