“Did you hear that? She said ‘bib’!”
Last week, my little girl picked up a bib from the laundry basket and properly identified it, with a big smile on her face.
I couldn’t believe it. We must have read the “First 100 Words” book dozens of times, and each time she has shown interest in the brightly colored photos, but I wasn’t sure if she was truly absorbing any of the information. So when she clearly recognized one of the objects from the book and called it by its proper name, I felt an enormous sense of pride for my daughter, and also gratification for the hard work we’ve put in as parents. My husband and I make a concerted effort to read to our children often, and also to point out different objects to them.
Seeing that it was having the desired effect was extremely rewarding — it was the polar opposite of instant gratification, something that’s become all too present in our lives. These days, we don’t just want immediate results, we expect them.
I remember seeing a commercial for an “energy shot” (yes, that’s what it’s really called) that features a young adult male who craves caffeine, but can’t be bothered to make coffee. So instead of wasting “20 minutes” (which is apparently the amount of time needed to brew a cup), he downs a supplement and can now begin his day. In another commercial for the same product, we see a line of people at a coffee shop who are forced to endure the horrible ordeal of waiting a few minutes before getting their morning dose of caffeine.
I’m not sure which scenario annoys me more — the twenty-something who can’t grasp the concept of scooping some grounds into a machine, or the people who are so rushed that the idea of not being handed a cup of joe upon entering the store is unacceptable.
Sadly, this is the reality of the world we live in. When we want something, we want it now, and one of the biggest drivers for this decrease in patience is technology. The days of having to wait for photos to be processed or looking up information in an encyclopedia (gasp!) are long gone.
Of course, technology has also given rise to several extremely positive changes. Aside from the obvious benefit of digitized health records, we can leverage technology to help find a destination, locate a lost object, or facilitate face-to-face communication among individuals in different locations. Some hospitals are now utilizing videoconferencing tools that enable servicemen to watch the birth of their babies while on deployment. If that’s not a great use of technology, I don’t know what is. And then there are benefits of a lesser scale, like OpenTable, DVR, and weather apps that just make our lives a little bit easier.
But it hasn’t all been wine and roses. Technology, as we’ve all seen, can make us (and our data) more vulnerable, it can cause us to become overly reliant on certain tools, and it can rob us of our patience. Because of this, I believe it’s critical to find an activity or hobby that doesn’t involve immediate results, and thus forces us to rebuild some of that patience. Things like gardening (which my coworker Nancy likes to do), farming/raising animals (John Halamka is a big fan), practicing yoga, and painting are all great examples of pursuits that don’t offer instant gratification — just gratification.
Jack London once wrote, “If a thing is worth having, it is worth waiting for,” and I couldn’t agree more. As my children continue to pursue milestones, I need to make every effort to be patient with them as they learn, and to remember that it’s all going to be worth it when they get there.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think my coffee is done brewing.