On Friday when I picked up Olivia from preschool, I found a rolled-up poster in her folder with a note saying that she had been chosen as student of the week. The directions said for her to spend the weekend filling out the poster about herself and to bring it back with her this week.
Olivia was SO excited that her teacher picked her. She doesn’t quite understand (or doesn’t believe) the idea that everybody gets a turn during the school year, so this made her day. Each student gets to stand up in front of the class and talk about his or her favorite things, and bring in a share item with clues for the kids to guess what it is.
Olivia has been waiting since school started in August to be picked. All weekend, she kept telling me, “I can’t believe she picked me. I didn’t think I’d ever get to be student of the week.” But man, when it finally came, it was like it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
This whole interaction made me think about how we as parents often believe we need to do bigger and better things all the time with our kids. But when we always do those things, they stop becoming special. When kids don’t experience the anticipation of waiting for something, they don’t appreciate it when it does happen.
When Olivia asks to listen to a song, we pull it up on iTunes. When she wants to watch The Stinky & Dirty Show (her new fave), we pull it up on Amazon Prime. When Caleb wants to watch garbage truck videos (literally just garbage trucks collecting trash over and over), we pull up them up on YouTube. The only waiting they have to do is when we tell them no.
Remember when we had to wait for a song to come on the radio? Or when we had to rewind the cassette tape to just the right spot? Or when we had to wait for Saturday morning to watch cartoons? Our kids don’t know what that’s like.
When Ryan and I were dating, he made significantly more money than me. So if he wanted something, he just went out and bought it. If there was a new version of something he already owned, he just replaced it. Buying him presents was really hard because he had everything that he wanted, and if he didn’t have it, it was because it was very expensive. He didn’t have to wait.
Now we’re in a position where we’re pinching pennies big time. Every purchase we make is scrutinized and we’re spending money only on what’s necessary. I definitely wish we weren’t living like this, but I can appreciate the lessons I’m learning from it. There is no instant gratification in the Howell household right now.
On Sunday after church, Olivia asked to eat breakfast at a restaurant. I wish I could’ve said yes because brunch is my absolute favorite meal to eat out. Eggs, bacon, fruit, coffee and the occasional mimosa…my mouth is watering just thinking about it. But I had to say no. I hated seeing the disappointment on her face, but can you imagine how excited she’ll be when we do go?
So instead of focusing negatively on what we don’t have, I’m going to think about how much more I’ll value those things when we finally do have them. I’m also going to make sure our kids understand and recognize what they have, too. Neither Ryan nor I grew up getting everything that we wanted, but somewhere along the way we lost the appreciation for what we had.
Sometimes it really does take a bad experience and losing what you had to change your perspective.
P.S. I learned another lesson this weekend while working on the poster with Olivia. It involved a lot of tears (from her, not me). Check back on Friday to read what happened!