I want my daughter to be selfish.
Usually we want our children to be giving and share with others. Not today. My nine year-old girl has pink eye. (It was a gift from one of her classmates at school.) And so we've spent the last several days trying to make my daughter as selfish as we possibly can, because this is one thing we really don't want her to share with her siblings.
If you've ever had pink eye, or been around someone who has, you know that it's not much fun. (Pink eye is also known as conjunctivitis by people who feel the need to use big words to describe everything.) The whites of your eyes turn very pink (or even red) and stuff oozes out of your eyes.
One of the worst things about pink eye is that it is very contagious. This means a lot of hand washing, a lot of towel washing, and a lot of yelling, "Don't-touch-that-thing-that-one-of-the-other-kids-might-touch-because-we-really-really-really-don't-want-any-of-the-other-kids-to-get-this!"
I didn't realize how many things in the house a nine year-old girl feels the need to touch until we were trying to get her to not touch anything. Doorknobs; handrails; toilet handles; faucets; baby toys. Yes, baby toys. It is confounding just how often a nine year-old girl feels the need to touch baby toys! If she comes close to any baby toy, she will touch it. And if she isn't anywhere near a baby toy, she will feel compelled to go out of her way to get to the baby toy so she can touch it, conjunctivitis-izing everything!
She's not doing it on purpose; it's just her natural way of walking through life, touching everything as she goes.
After a couple of days of training (which mostly consisted of yelling at her) she's gotten to where she doesn't touch quite so many things.
But then, she figured how to use it to her advantage. She started treating us like her servants. She'd say things like, "Daddy, could you get me a glass of milk? I'd get it myself, but I really shouldn't be touching the fridge or the milk carton." Or, "Could you make me some toast? I don't want to touch the bread or the toaster. Oh, and could you put butter and cinnamon sugar on it for me?" Or, "Be a dear and go fetch my shoes for me."
I reached the tipping point when I asked her to do her chores and she said, "But Dad, I can't touch the broom because I don't want the next person to use it to get pink eye from me."
I replied, "Don't worry, I'll make sure that no one else will have to touch the broom, because you'll be doing all the sweeping! Get to work, Cinderella."
We're not out of the woods yet, but so far she has managed to be selfish enough not to share her pink eye with any of her siblings. I just hope that when this is all over we'll be able to unselfish-ize her again.