Friday, February 23, 2007

Instantly Gratified Kids
by Julie Butler Evans

“Good things come to those who wait,” is a concept that seems to fly right over the current generation’s head. “I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-now” no longer seems to apply to addicts, unless you count the tiny and not-so-tiny pod of children growing up in today’s world. They are addicted to NOW.

With a bastion of micro-waveable treats, instant music via i-tunes; cell phones; movies-on-demand (apt moniker); overnight delivery; digital and cell-phone cameras allowing immediate glossy photos in hand or to the eye and a myriad of additional conveniences and electronics of the 21st century, getting on-the-spot satisfaction is easy.

As I was mulling over this column’s theme, my daughter unwittingly illustrated the topic perfectly. She asked me to blow-dry her hair for her (because doing it herself would be too timely and too much work?) and as she complained about how long it was taking (are you kidding me?!), I offered sarcastically that perhaps someone could create a dryer that zaps the hair dry and straight 30 seconds. “Oh!” she exclaimed excitedly, “that would be soooo cool! Awesome! Do you think someone will invent that?” “Probably,” I muttered under my breath, eyes rolling in my head.

Whatever happened to waiting, to going to a store to buy an album/CD; to needing to get home before calling a friend?

“Can we go to Grammaphone now? I want the Star Wars video game;” “Just order take-out, mom. It takes too long for you to cook;” “I don’t want to do temp jobs, My website will make a million immediately;” “I need new jeans. Can you go get some at Rugby when I’m in school?” Last time I checked I was a parent, not a manservant. Or are they one and the same now and I have I enabled myself to act as such?

I recall almost with fondness how my friends and I needed to wait to save our allowance to go to Main Street in Westport to buy an album at Klein’s record department, or purchase some hoop earrings from Country Gal. Once the money was saved we may have to bide our time a bit longer until one of our parents was available able to drop us off downtown. Getting pictures from Homecoming took about a week to be developed. Fast food meant a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It’s not only the kids who are used to instant gratification; we adults have hopped on the magic carpet ride to immediacy. Because it’s available. With a click of the mouse we can avoid driving to the shoe store and instead find a pair of Uggs boxed on our doorstep within 24 hours. Netflix provides movies in the mail instead of searching for a parking space downtown. I can log on to the computer at any time of day or night and search out what’s going on in Iraq, or read a quick email from Blake, rather than wait an interminable amount of time as did my military family predecessors during World War 2 and Vietnam. An email “thank you” replaces – as my good friend Michael Turpin pointed out in a column in the other New Canaan newspaper – the “lost art of letter writing.”

Even though the tools and technologies of without-delay exist in our world, maybe we can still take the time (all puns intended on that phrase) to model delayed gratification and engage in some old-fashioned methods to retrieve and acquire an object of desire or necessity. Drive into town to rent a movie. Once in a while disallow cell phones and laptops on vacation (come on; you can do it Mr. or Mrs. Busy-pants). Let your pre-driving teen to cool their heels for half an hour when they call and proclaim that you pick them up NOW – there’s no need for you to drop what you were doing unless it’s an emergency. Diet pills, starving and incessant exercise, and/or liposuction to attain a rail-thin body isn’t nearly as healthy as simply eating smaller meals and running a few miles a week to teach our daughters that skinny doesn’t equal self-esteem. Blue jean, sneakers or video game buying can wait until the weekend.

In a nutshell, we can teach this: Gratification can be achieved the old-fashioned way - by earning it.

1 comment:

David said...

I like your style, Julie. I wish you much success with your book ("shamelessly" plugged on the Weston class of '74 email)and appreciate your nostalgic references to growing up in a time when when we had time.


David Yannone

Your former classmate (apparently)