My husband, Jason, son Dylan and I stopped by Target on a recent Saturday. When I realized that my husband really was just stopping in to pick up deodorant and milk, I couldn't hide my surprise: I didn't know it was possible to walk out of the megastore without a cart full of unnecessary objects. I took it upon myself to make sure our visit was worth it, and filled the cart at least half-full. Not with household items, but with toys for my children (and a few things for myself). I rushed Dylan through the aisles and he huffed and puffed all the way to the checkout line. We got to the car, and just as I began to open the Star Wars toy, Jason began the lecture.
It all began when we were just dating: No children, no shared bank accounts, just the simple life. Living in Manhattan, our biggest decisions were where to eat, what time to meet and which friends to invite. Life was good. I spent hours walking the New York streets and visiting the department stores and boutiques. When we met for dinner, I'd often arrive dressed in a different outfit from the one I had worn out the door that morning. Jason would just laugh or shake his head. He found my quirky habits funny, if not cute. I have always been that girl that had to look at my purchases in the back of the cab on the way home. Mail is always opened immediately, and if I did celebrate Christmas, my nicely wrapped gifts would never last under the tree. So, it should come as no surprise that I love to wear my new purchases right away.
Fast forward ten years, three children and a move back to our Florida home town. My husband no longer thinks this impulsive behavior is the least bit cute or funny. He hates it when I drop (and lose) pieces of mail in our driveway. But what bothers him the most is that I have passed down my impulsiveness to our first-born son.
Like his mother, Dylan can find something he wants at a gas station, pharmacy or mall. Not only is he a pro at finding the strangest and most unnecessary objects, but he is also an expert at explaining why he needs the very object right away. By the time we get to the car, Dylan has inevitably unwrapped his newest toy.
After all these years and countless arguments, I still won't wave the white flag. I know my husband raises a good point about delayed gratification. But, as I have said to him, we are who we are, and we can only work to improve.
I recently shared these thoughts with my mom. She smirked and told me that both Jason and I should thank my father for my impulsive behavior. She told me a story about when I was four years old. It was 9PM on a weekday and my dad had just returned from a long day at work and was looking forward to some relaxation. I, however, had a different idea: I had seen an enticing commercial about a doll that could skate! I cried, begging and pleading my father to please buy me this perfect doll immediately. After what I'm sure was little hesitation and negotiation on my father's behalf, he braved the cold (we lived in Boston), and late that night he went out and bought me that most desired doll. If I close my eyes, I can see her flashing pink and green skates.
This would be the first of my many "must have right away" episodes. Later, when I was seven years old, we took a trip to visit our extended family in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At that time, the fur industry was booming. I vividly recall seeing my mom wear her fur coat -- she looked regal and sophisticated. As you can imagine, the wheels in my head started to turn, and I began to convince my older sister that we needed to have a white fur coat. Nevermind that they were not age-appropriate, or that we lived in hot and humid Florida. I pleaded and begged, and, well, you already know how this story goes. Now, years later, I still have the picture of my sister and I, two blonde-haired girls, smiling, blushing and feeling very proud of our own fur coats.
We don't remember days, they say, just moments and pieces of bigger events. I remember the very scent of my coat, and I can still picture exactly what the saleslady looked like. With no regret and a strong resolve, I must admit that I am thankful for these memories that take my breath away.
Believe it or not, I do understand the need for boundaries and budgets. I know the value of saying no to temptation, and I try -- I really do -- to teach these lessons to my children. They say old habits die hard, and I really couldn't agree more. I'm practicing my own self-discipline, and trying to teach my son the art of delayed gratification. For now, stubborn as I am, I will agree to wait until I get home to unpack and admire my purchases. Maybe next month I'll work on reading my mail inside.