Borrow – to take or obtain with the promise to return the same or an equivalent

I find it humorous that the definition of borrow does not say anything about asking the owner for permission. It must have been written by my daughters. My girls borrow each other’s things all the time – clothes, jewelry, shoes, socks, etc. Despite the definition, it is common courtesy to ask the owner before using the item in question. Would you ever go over to the neighbor’s house and start grabbing his patio set because you were having a big party? No, you would call up and ask if you could borrow it first.

My girls have their own spin on getting permission.

My 11 year old likes to wait until my 13 year old leaves in the morning. Then, after her sister is safely at school, the 11 year old sends her a quick text asking permission to borrow something. Usually it is something that her sister normally would not lend her. This inevitably starts the afterschool argument that begins with “Hey that’s mine”, moves on to “Who said you could go in my room?” and ends with “MOM! Tell her to take that off and wash it RIGHT NOW because I was going to wear it tomorrow.”

My 13 year old has her own approach to borrowing. She also waits until her sister is not around. Then she puts the item on and comes to me explaining the reason she needs to borrow it. I try to remind her that she hates when her sister takes things without permission, but that doesn’t change things. She feels that she is “getting her back” so I usually just throw up my hands in aggravation. When the 11 year old sees her sister wearing her clothes, my 13 year old tells her that mom said it was okay.

My girls also forget the important part of the definition – the promise to return. They are both big fans of possession is 9/10ths of the law. They keep something for so long that after a while, we all forget who the item really belongs to. Some things never get returned – socks are a good example. If one of the girls asks the other, or me, to borrow socks, they really mean that they will keep them until they wear out. Hair ties fall into the same category.

My daughters are not the only ones who forget about the return part of borrowing. I have had to call people and “borrow” my own stuff back. I never understood that. You know the item – chair, tool, bowl – is not yours. Does it sit on your kitchen counter day after day while you say to yourself, “I have got to return that”? Or do you put it away where it would belong as if it was yours, thinking, “She will call me when she needs it back”?

Some borrowing is not meant to be returned. If I someone asks you for a stick of gum, you don’t expect it back. When we were in school and someone asked to borrow a sheet of paper, did you ever get it back? If someone borrows a pen, you probably only have a 50% chance of ever seeing it again.

One of my neighbors and I borrow items all the time. It happened more often when we had younger kids and in order to run to Walgreens, you had to load everyone up in the van. The other day, I called her to borrow BBQ sauce. After going to the grocery store and to Target, I got home and realized that we were out of the BBQ sauce I planned to use for dinner. Sure enough, she had a brand new bottle that she sent over with her daughter.

My neighbor and I have an unwritten rule about borrowing. You don’t have to return eggs, a ¼ cup of oil, bread for 3 sandwiches, etc. However, if you borrow a whole box/can/container, you replace it. If you borrow a box of pasta, you replace it with the same brand and type of pasta. The BBQ Sauce is already on my grocery list.

When you borrow something, I believe that you should return it in the same condition (or better). When I was a teenager, and I borrowed my parents’ cars, I had to replace the gas. I can’t tell you how often I have lent out gas powered items and never got the gas replaced. I have received yard tools back full of mud. People have returned things broken or with missing parts. Don’t they think we notice? I guess not. My own kids have return clothes to their sister with a big stain.

Borrowing is a great thing. It saves the borrower time and money and it gives the lender a chance to do something nice for someone else. Here are some good borrowing guidelines:

1. Return it in the same timely fashion and manner that you would expect from others.
2. Don’t be a serial borrower. If you have to keep borrowing the same thing, maybe you should buy one of your own.
3. Always show your thanks – verbal is nice, cookies are better!

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