A couple of weeks ago there was a video making the Facebook rounds, and since so many of my friends talked it up I figured I should watch it. Apparently it was the latest entry in the “tell your kids they’re going to Disney and get their reaction on video” craze.
The video begins with the little girl called Lilly sitting at a table. A woman–I assume her mother–asks Lilly if she is excited for her birthday coming in the following week and then asks if she’d like to open an early present. There are then five or so minutes while Lilly sorts through the various Disney-branded gifts packed in the purple backback with the Disney Princesses on it. Mom keeps asking leading questions such as “where do you think a good place would be to wear that t-shirt?” and “where would you like to take those videos?” (props to Lilly for saying “I want to leave them at home.”) Finally mom can stand the suspense no longer and announces to Lilly that they are indeed going to Disneyland RIGHT NOW TODAY AS SOON AS DADDY GETS HOME FROM WORK!
Lilly bursts into tears. Literal, screaming, wailing tears of confusion and uncertainty. All she knows in her little four year old world is that the order and routine she counts on is being wildly disrupted. “Are we taking Daddy?” “Is my birthday today?” The child wasn’t excited. She was petrified. Mom tried to put a spin on it, asking her if she was excited and assuming they were tears of joy. Some of them might have been, but I know there was much fear and confusion.
I’m not singling these parents out as being special examples of something awful. They clearly love their child and want to make her happy. The problem is that they made a huge mistake and spoiled what could have been a magnificent teaching opportunity.
There is joy in waiting. I’m not talking about the purity ring kind of waiting–that’s specifically for Christians and is a different thing altogether. I’m talking about basic delayed gratification coupled with the pleasures and bonding of anticipation. I use the Disney example specifically because my parents took us several times when we were children and it was always something that we were told about months in advance. A good part of the fun of the trip was the looking forward to it. As an adult who doesn’t use credit I am extremely grateful for those lessons about patience.
Frankly, I’m worried about kids not getting the message. Lilly seems like a nice little girl from the five minutes I’ve seen of her. I would hate to think that she’ll be among the masses who buy everything on credit, never learning that saving, pondering, anticipating are their own particular sort of fun.