Instant Online Access to Toys Kills Kids’ Sense of Anticipation
Once upon a time, kids experienced a few days a year that brought incredible moments of joy.
Birthdays. Christmas. Grandma coming to visit.
The knowledge that these days were on the horizon only added to the excitement that children would feel.
Oftentimes, the waiting was punctuated by a series of important rituals and planning sessions. There were birthday present wish lists to write, letters to Santa Claus with detailed instructions of which particular Barbie to leave under the tree and pronouncements of “good behaviour” that needed to be conveyed to the man in the red suit, in case he had forgotten. There were phone calls to Grandma, telling her in specific detail the size, cost and location of that toy we had earmarked for her to buy for us. We knew the score because we had meticulously researched the various department store catalogues with unparalleled fervour.
During the weeks and months leading up to these dates, we’d wait with bated breath and anticipation for the day to come, knowing that when it did, a bounty of gifts – or maybe just one or two really good presents – would be given to us.
Those were the days.
We waited – yes – waited. We knew that there was pleasure in savouring the sweet anticipation that would culminate in the arrival of that special day. And when that day did finally arrive, the gifts were so very appreciated.
Perhaps it was because that particular toy that we had seen on TV was sold out at all of the stores close to our home. With no Internet with its thousands of options, providing us with guaranteed delivery overnight or whenever we chose, receiving the gift seemed even more special. When Christmas or birthdays did finally roll around, the anticipation was almost too much to bear.
As a child, I remember fondly the experience of waiting as patiently as I could for one of these special days to arrive. With 364 days between some of these events, was it any wonder that I – as were many other kids – was “bursting at the seams” with anticipation?
Enter the Internet era.
With a few simple clicks, a child’s wish was fulfilled, packed, shipped and delivered, often within the guaranteed 24-hour delivery window.
The waiting was over.
The fun was gone.
As society became more accustomed to the instant gratification that came with the Internet era, we – our children in particular – lost some of the many important virtues that build strength of character. One of these virtues – patience – seems to have fallen by the wayside. In its place, anxiety and frustration have taken hold. In the new digital world order, the idea of having to actually wait for a toy, game or desired item has made our kids (and their parents) very unhappy indeed.
Anticipation – Carly Simon
In the digital era, patience is no longer a virtue; it is seen as an unnecessary vestige of a bygone era with little value.
In the digital era, patience is no longer a virtue; it is seen as an unnecessary vestige of a bygone era with little value. After all, why wait when instant gratification is just a few clicks away? Sadly, this perspective is more common than not with children who have grown up during a time where their wish was their parents’ immediate digital command. The Internet changed everything.
Anticipation – knowing that something is on its way and being hyper aware of its approach is something that all children should experience. Anticipation is not a bad thing. Learning to wait and being patient are skills that will allow our kids to deal with life’s challenges both in their childhood and beyond. After all, any adult can attest to the fact that getting what one wants – immediately – is more rare than common in the “real world.” A life experience outside of the warm cocoon of their parents home will painfully prove this point to the younger ones who have never had to wait too long for their heart’s desire.
There was a time when entertainment wasn’t “on demand.” With no 24/7 digital content, YouTube or Netflix, kids had to get their viewing kicks via an archaic yet much-loved activity: waking up early to watch cartoons on a Saturday morning.
Our consumer culture and frenetic lifestyles may continue to dictate all things must be done now, but waiting is not always a bad thing, especially for children. Learning to be patient is a skill that they will need as they venture into adulthood and its myriad of situations where immediate gratification is not an option. Whether it’s regarding their desired career, their desired partner or their desired big ticket item, getting what they want as soon as they want it is not always possible. And it is during these times that they will have to draw on the patience that they learned as a child, in order to succeed. The culture of instant gratification borne of the Internet age won’t help them when they have no choice but to cool their heels.
“Good things come to those who wait.” Let’s not forget to teach our kids this valuable lesson.
The Waiting (is the hardest part) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers