For weeks on end I have had to listen to my girls sing “Let It Go.” Not that they’ve ever seen Frozen. Going to the movies in a family of six is an endeavor that needs to be coordinated with both parents and, usually, without the knowledge of younger siblings. It doesn’t happen very often.
All the friends of my girls, who are four- and six-years-old, have seen Frozen. I saw the tweets and posts of them wearing 3D glasses and eating popcorn. In the course of the weeks and months following, I heard about these cinema outings through our children: “So-and-so saw Frozen, there’s this snowman in it and he’s funny, and there are two sisters, and we played it at recess today, and I was Elsa.”
I tell them that all sounds great, and I say we will see it when it’s out on DVD. They squeal and nod voraciously. We watch a couple of clips on YouTube and after a few listens, the girls know “Let It Go” by heart.
Then, when I pick them up from a playdate, we see the Doll.
A classmate has the Elsa Doll. It’s not even for sale here yet. It is for sale in another country, and apparently, this classmate paid twenty euros of allowance money to buy it online.
Now my kids are singing the song fifty times a day and asking for the Doll.
My husband and I have a standard answer for such a moment. It is familiar and predictable territory for the oldest, but something I have to explain, and repeat, for her sister.
“Is it your birthday? “
“Is Dutch Santa coming?”
“Is it Christmas?”
“Well, then put it on your list.”
“But that is so far away, mom. I want it NOW.”
“Well, then you’re going to have to buy it yourself.”
“But then you’re going to have to give me money.”
“Well, then you’re going to have to work.”
“I’ll work! I’ll work!”
I feel sorry for them. They have coins. They don’t even know what the coins mean. My oldest counts thirteen coins and thinks, if she gets seven more, she will have enough to buy the Doll. They collect coins when they help around the house and I want to acknowledge them with something more than mere thanks. But most of the time, I just leave it at thanks.
I can imagine this is tough. It is highly likely that when the mothers of their other friends hear about the Doll, some of those friends will show up at school with it, too. We won’t be getting the DVD for full price, when it is released in a few weeks’ time. We will wait until the price drops a little. In the meanwhile, they will play Elsa, they will covet the things their friends have, and they will push and shove to see the little YouTube screen on my phone.
As far as my daughters are concerned, they are deprived. And it is so tempting, as a parent, to throw in the towel. Why shouldn’t I indulge them, in March, when Dutch Santa is on holiday in Spain, and we are months away from the season of birthdays? Why not give them that, which they so desperately, consumingly, unrelentingly want? What is the value, I ask myself, of teaching four- and six-year-olds to defer gratification?
My kids are right to see no palpable, immediate benefit for them in waiting. There is only a benefit to be gained later.
If I help them to wait, they will someday have learned to keep on without the material things which they think will make them happier.
If I help them to wait, they will someday have learned that they don’t need this kind of gratification as much as they think they do.
If I help them to wait, they will feel deprived for a while. It is my hope, though, that someday, they will have learned to walk alongside gratitude, contentment and peace.
I rummage through the closet and find a pair of old, white sheets. They are big enough for capes, like the kind that Elsa wears. There should even be enough fabric to make miniature capes for two of the myriad of obsolete dolls in the Barbie box. Glitter glue should do for snowflakes.
I lay the fabric on the stairs to show them tomorrow. As I lean over my daughter’s bed to kiss her goodnight, she smiles and says,
“Mom, so-and-so is allowed to wear mascara.”
©2014 Anastasia Hacopian