On a recent trip to a local amusement park with my family, I had my first experience with virtual lines. Instead of being forced to stare at the back of some stranger’s head for 55 minutes as I inched my way to the front to board what inevitably turns out to be a 30-second thrill ride, I could spend my time meandering through an air-conditioned lobby looking at photos and memorabilia, watching TVs clips and playing trivia. While waiting for my turn, I passed my time sitting on a comfy couch charging my phone. I will be the first to say that this new way of “waiting in line” for amusement rides is awesome, however, it did make me stop and think just how different a world we are living in.
We live in a “now” society. Everyone wants things yesterday, and with the help of technology, that is exactly what they can get. We can literally wish for something, order it and have the UPS man dropping it on our doorstep the next morning without ever leaving our living room. I just can’t help but wonder if all these instant downloads, entertainment and gratification are not hampering our ability to wait. And what about our kids? Just because we can give them things right away, should we? Are we raising a bunch of overeager marshmallow eaters who would fail a modern-day marshmallow test?
When I was back in college, I remember reading about a study done way back in 1960-something by this fancy, schmancy Ivy League psychologist. It was called the marshmallow test, and the purpose was to study children’s self-control. It was a rather simple test. Kids ages 3 to 5 were given a choice of a treat – an Oreo cookie, a pretzel stick or, yup, you guessed it…a marshmallow. The researchers then told the kids that they could eat their treat right away, or, if they waited until the researcher returned, they would give them two treats. As you can imagine, most of the kids gobbled up the marshmallow as soon as the door was shut. But here is the thing that always amazed me about this study. The researchers followed these kids for decades and found that those who did wait were more likely to have better SAT scores, better jobs later in life and even lower BMIs (probably because they weren’t eating marshmallows).
There is no doubt about it, waiting is an important life skill, and even with virtual lines, we all still need to learn how to do it. I know that kids learn good habits by watching the grownups around them exhibiting those habits. Perhaps that is why I am so concerned. You see, I have noticed that I am becoming more and more impatient. I never let the microwave finish counting down; when someone is texting me and those three little dots appear more than once, I desperately want to text: “????”; and the poor car in front of me has about .5 seconds to move after the light turns green before they hear the sweet sound of my horn!
All this said, I am promising to be a better role model and teach my kids to wait! There is one exception. I will make sure my daughter knows to never, ever waste her time waiting around for Prince Charming. She doesn’t need a man to save her and, besides, he most likely took a wrong turn, got lost, and is too stubborn to ask for directions!