Capitol Letters: Delaying Gratification

AS A CHILD I remember pining after the delivery of the thick and heavy Sears Catalog that would arrive in October or early November. I spent so much time studying those catalogs that the smell of ink still takes me back to those pages! There was a football set that I wished for year after year and when the catalog arrived I'd check to see if it was still available. If it was I could make the case, again, to my parents of how much fun this could be in my backyard games with my friends and neighbors. I never got it for Christmas.

I am glad that my parents never bought me the football set. This taught me that I couldn't always have what I wanted. Now looking back on this wish that was never granted it also taught me to be thoughtful with my money. My parents had a limited amount of resources and they did not want to invest in a play football set that could potentially create more challenges. In making my Christmas list I circled the items I wanted from Santa and at least one of them would eventually appear under the Christmas tree.

The lesson of delayed gratification and/or no gratification is an essential life-lesson. Living in Southeast Alaska often continues the lesson of delayed gratification. Sometimes planes do not take off or land because of the weather or other curious reasons. Occasionally the new gadget that I was assured would arrive on a specific date takes another 3 days to arrive. Barges encounter weather en route to Juneau and miss their tide window. I wait for that furniture shipment a couple more days. “No milk?” That has happened before. Thankfully, it hasn't been in the town where we currently live.

Waitin' and hopin' and wishin'

Our sons are growing up in a world where their new favorite song or this week’s favorite game or this month’s favorite episode of a show is just a touch away. We have the luxury of seeing one another when I am thousands of miles away thanks to technology. This is what they will always know, but I think it is also imperative for us as parents to educate them about delayed gratification. Fortunately, Southeast Alaska often assists us in this education process.

Recently my in-laws traveled to Alaska for the Thanksgiving holiday. For weeks before their arrival we would quiz our oldest son about how many more sleeps until their arrival and what he was going to show them first. The day came and everyone was excited to see them and for them to meet their newest grandson. Everything happened as planned until we were on our way to the airport when we received a call.

“We are delayed on the ground in Sitka.” My son was very distraught at the news. “When is their plane going to come? I want their plane to land!” We explained about the weather conditions, safety and the pilot’s need to make the best decision for the passengers and the plane. After one and a half hours of waiting at home, checking the internet and making a couple of more phone calls our son and his mother began their trip to the airport. This time their plane landed and my son ran to embrace them.

The change of schedule forced our son to be patient for the reunion with his grandparents and he had to be flexible to the reality that we needed to wait longer. This was also an opportunity for him to discover (and for us to discuss) that there are many things in life that are out of our control. As a parent it is easy to strive for quick fixes and solutions to life's challenges as they get thrown at our children. But then I remember that football set and know that learning to wait can give our children something that no catalog could ever sell.

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Mental Health & the Alaskan Family

Being Young in Rural Alaska

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