Wanting vs. Having for My 7yr Old

I make a lot of mistakes. I try not to do it on Github where commits are a permanent record of your competencies. So are children, only the impact of a word said harshly or missed opportunity for positive reinforcement take immediate effect and often have lasting effects on their lives.

Taking my son and daughter out one-on-one to get gifts for the people in their lives is important to me, and despite sometimes feeling like it in the moment, is never a mistake in the ideal sense. Having a positive experience doing so is also part of a successful outing, because if it’s a negative experience, the whole thing is useless.

A few weekends ago, I went out with my daughter. When we finally ended up at the toy store to get something for her brother, naturally she found something for herself. Because she’s seven, and no matter how zoned in of a quick pow-pow we had outside before entering about who she’s here to shop for, she still looks at the world with her-eyes. Arguably we all do this, regardless of our age, defaulting to looking out for number one in all manner of situations. That day, it was a cheap, pink, plastic set of glam rings.

I said no, but I’ll think about it, and asked her to put them back and focus on her brother’s gift. What a mistake. She didn’t throw a fit or get weepy or shut down. I took a picture (for when I would come back in search of stocking stuffers) and moved on. The Big Day is a week away, and I realize there was a missed opportunity there and I have to find a moment with her when she gets them in her stocking to make this memory-point:

In life, the moment you want a thing and the moment you get it are often different.

If I had bought her that thing, what next? Should she have it right then, as inevitably she would. This is just kicking the ‘delayed gratification’ can down the road. And in juxtaposition with the notion of immediate positive reinforcements, her want wasn’t connected to a prior goal or reward plan. So no, I don’t just buy things because my kids want them, even when I can. It’s not just the principle that matters, my choices (a.k.a. commits to their codebase) have an immediate impact. The manner in which I roll those decisions out matters as much as the very moment of desire in their hearts.

So what will I do with this new hypothesis? As with all hypotheses, I will test it. On the morning of the Big Day, after all the things are unwrapped and people chill the fark back down and people have 2nd coffees and there’s bandwidth for sharing that learning, I will say to her:

“Love, I too seek the desires of your heart and will always support you in them. In life, the moment you want a thing and the moment you get it are often different times. Remember this thing, what you wanted weeks ago? Well I remembered and it’s been waiting for you the whole time. But there’s a time and a place, which is today! Trust in me, one who has gone before, that I can help you learn to deal with the waiting time between when you desire something and when you achieve it. Remember that my love for you is something you don’t always know how to see, but never doubt that it will always be there.”

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