A few posts ago, I wrote about the first rule of French parenting, as inspired by the book Bringing Up Bebe.
This rule spoke to delaying gratification in children, teaching them that it’s ok to wait for things like food, or a special desert until after dinner. It’s a simple concept, but it made a lot of sense to me when applied to broader aspects of life–as in, teach a child to wait until you’re off the phone, make them see it’s ok for adults to have a conversation involving full sentences, that sort of thing.
It also makes sense when you think about how the French really have this concept down pat. Delayed gratification, especially when it comes to food, goes a long way towards a healthy relationship with food, right? Not gobbling everything on your plate down at once, no all-you-can-buffets, shunning fast “food.”
So I fully supported Rule #1: Delayed Gratification and vowed to immediately set it into action.
All it took was a single gumball to show me how very wrong I was.
It all started with a simple dinner with my in-laws and a family friend. It was a late dinner (we didn’t leave until after 9 pm), so I will start off my story by throwing out that favored excuse of parents with children acting badly everywhere–she was tired.
Dinner progressed, everything went pretty smoothly and we started towards the door. Ada, having been at this particular restaurant before, had already scoped the place out, spotted the giant gumball machine positioned ever-so-thoughtfully by the door, and very politely asked if she and Mya could have a gumball.
I saw nothing wrong with them having a post-dinner gumball after a nice dinner out, so I explained that yes, they could have a treat if Mama could find two quarters. Which I did. Unfortunately.
Ada went first.
Deposited her quarter.
Waited for the gumball to descend the twirly track.
And disintegrated into full-blown hysterics when the gumball appeared in the apparently much-dreaded shade of yellow.
Whilst Ada sobbed on the floor, Mya happily deposited her quarter and was the proud owner of a shiny red gumball.
Which of course, only fueled Ada’s extreme sorrow over the color of her gumball. How dare Mya get a red gumball and she, the yellow! She literally would not listen, would not reason, would not even pick herself up off of the floor.
As we dragged her out to the car, her grandmother tried to console her. “I have pink gum in the car!”
“Oh, no,” I said through gritted teeth. “Don’t.you.dare.”
I was not going to be that mother. No way. I saw, very clearly, how much my child has been molded to expect immediate and instant gratification….right down to the stinken’ color of her gumball.
I couldn’t believe that we let it get this out of hand. My four-year-old, perfectly capable of understanding that the gumball was a treat to begin with, able to voice emotions such as disappointment, old enough to realize that hysterics are unacceptable behavior, still felt that she deserved the gumball of her dreams. And worse yet, she might have gotten her way had I not put my foot down.
Apparently, it really does start with the small things.
Like a lesson in life’s disappointments–straight from the gumball machine.