If you ask me, instant gratification is vastly overrated.
Oh, sure. Scoring a right-in-front parking space is swell. Being first in line when a supermarket opens a new checkout lane is nice. Yet, even if it’s fun, instant gratification is fleeting, while waiting for something you want isn’t so terrible.
(Unless you’re talking that 86-year drought we Red Sox fans endured between World Series wins. OK, that was root-canal painful. But victory was delicious!)
I thought of this recently when I caught the MTV show, My Super Sweet 16. On it, teenagers from insanely rich families celebrate their birthdays by hopping private jets to Paris or being given fully-loaded Porsches that cost more than our house.
How do you top that when you turn 17? A ride on the space shuttle? A platinum Ferrari with mink car seats? After that, what kind of wedding would suffice? Can Daddy buy Prince William for you? Or Sweden?
Personally, I like spacing out life’s treats. It helps me appreciate them.
When John and I got hitched, we paid for everything: his move across country, the reception, our honeymoon. John thought about giving me a diamond, but my thrifty Inner Yankee flinched. We already had dozens of shower and wedding presents. Adding a ring to the pile would’ve felt like eating a month’s worth of desserts at one sitting.
Instead, I pitched the idea of waiting until our 5th anniversary. That way, we’d have something cool to look forward to, and we wouldn’t go broke buying a hunk of carbon instead of slightly more important purchases. Like food.
I spent the next 4 years, 11 months and 29 days savoring the run-up to Ring Day. I looked through magazines. Visited jewelers. Researched the 5 Cs (carat, cut, color, clarity and conniption -- the sticker-shock fit you throw when you see how much they cost). I thought about what I wanted (a three-stone setting symbolizing John, me, and Ann). When John finally placed that ring on my finger, I loved every gratification-delayed moment.
Because by waiting, my ring wasn’t a sparkly blur among many wedding treasures. It was special, marking our first five years as a married couple and blended family. It felt like we were redeeming a prize we’d truly earned. Three years later, I still get a little rush (“Wheeee!”) looking at it.
Yes, instant gratification rocks (though America’s credit card debt demonstrates the downside of Needing Everything Now!). But delayed gratification can deepen an experience and give it more meaning.
Good things really do come to those who wait. Teaching our kids to be comfortable with waiting is one of the most valuable gifts we can give them. A Porsche? Doesn’t even come close.