Parenting: a burst of instant joy and a lifetime of delayed gratification

Posted on May 26, 2013

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Instant gratification infomercial

Okay, son, most of this blog is about things you should know in order to avoid becoming your dad. Some of our newer readers are probably asking what’s so wrong with your dad. Nothing, really. I’m bloody perfect. Well, almost. But that doesn’t mean I want you to be me.

Certainly there are things about being me that make being me harder than being someone other than me. We’ve talked about everything from forgetfulness to guilt-tripping your way through life, and from lack of girl smarts to trying really stupid things.

Now that you’re a bit older, It’s getting easier to see where you’ve managed to actually become your own person. For example, by the time I was twelve I could tie my own shoes.

These days, the rampant overuse of Velcro during the critical period when one’s brain is being wired for shoe-tying, has led to an entire generation of knot illiterate twelve-year-olds. Still, it’s different from your dad, so there’s that.

But we’re not out of the woods yet; you’ve managed to grab ahold of some of your dad’s best worst traits and we need to fix that.

Take the need for instant gratification, for example. The second I finish writing this post, I’ll publish it. I won’t wait until the best day and time to get maximum readership. If I finish at 2:00 AM on Sunday morning, I’ll post it at 2:00 AM on Sunday morning. Then, I’ll sit up and watch my stats until there are at least a few “likes” and a comment or two before I go to sleep.

OK, I’ll admit that part of that is my need for affirmation of my fragile little writer’s ego, but it’s the immediacy of that need we’re talking about here. I’m not waiting 12 hours to publish my post, even though more people will see it, when I could get my strokes NOW.

That need for instant gratification is the reason I carefully opened the wrapping on all my Chanukah presents the first chance we were left alone together; it’s the reason nothing I purchase makes it home in it’s original packaging; it’s the reason I don’t buy things online when I could pay more and get it today; and it’s the reason that I’ll probably never be able to publish books on the standard publisher’s timeline.

So I get it when you decide your head might implode if you don’t get to the library immediately and check out that Playstation 3 game that you didn’t even know existed an hour earlier. And I understand why you feel your parents are evil and don’t love you when we have other things that need to get done first. I even understand how all rational thinking–in fact, any thinking at all–gives way to to basic animal impulses upon the simple realization that the library even has Playstation games.

Here’s my conundrum: upon the realization that some other parents’ kids can actually exercise self-control and restraint, all my rational thinking gives way to basic animal impulses, too. But addressing your need for instant gratification will take time, sustained effort and a load of patience–in other words, delayed gratification. It turns out that parenting is a short burst of instant gratification followed by a lifetime of delayed gratification. I think my head just might implode.

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