My second grader came home from school on Friday and he was so excited. The kids at school are trading/playing Pokemon cards. This was new to him, and me too. The problem? He didn’t have any cards of his own. So a couple of friends each gave him few cards. These are now his proudest possession. He sat both me and his father down separately to explain every little detail of the cards, the characters, their value, etc. Then he asked, with intension, “When do I get my report card?” We currently don’t do allowance around here, but we do have a few chores for each of the bigger kids to do (make beds in the morning and one evening chore each week, and it rotates). We have decided to begin giving money for good grades at school. Well, at least we are trying it this year as second grade is when they begin getting letter grades.
He was fairly matter-of-fact about not having any cards, but there was a tinge of longing and disappointment in his voice. Like he is one of the few kids without the cool things to have, and he knew it, and was trying to process this fact. My mama heart wanted to jump in the car and drive to a store to buy the kid a pack. It is so joyous when your kid finds friends and activities they like, even if it just Pokemon cards. But instead, after a long pause I said, “You get your report card in two weeks. Buying Pokemon cards would be a fun thing to buy with that money!” He looked longingly at the cards and sighed, not a frustrated sigh, but one of yearning and hope. It was kind of adorable and kind of heartbreaking.
I know two weeks is not long to me, but will feel like an eternity to him. I also know that requiring him to wait for the earned money from work done well at school will make him a better person in the long run. He had a great preschool teacher who always defined patience as “waiting with a happy heart.” We still use that in our household. (I think I will be using it even more often in the coming two weeks.) I know that earning and waiting in little things as a child is more likely to yield a teenager and an adult who can wait for things, and this notion of being able to delay gratification is one which scientists have identified with adults who are well-adjusted in life. Willpower and self-control are something to be practiced, like exercising a muscle. It’s like when I taught him to savor those stupidly expensive packets of organic gummies I get Whole Foods every once in a while. They only have ten packs per bag and ten gummies per pack. So one bag lasts a week with two kids who each get one bag of gummies in the car afterschool. The first time he tossed them all back and asked for more. I explained the concept of savoring and we tried it the next day. That was four years ago. He still knows now when he gets little treats or candies to eat them slowly and carefully and enjoy each piece or bite. Oh, there are times when he doesn’t savor, but more times than not, he does. And now his sister savors too.
And while he’s trying to wait with a happy heart, I’ll be savoring these next two weeks before my house becomes covered in Pokemon cards for the next 7-10 years.