Do you remember when going out to eat was a big deal? I do. When I was a kid, we hardly ever went out to eat. Birthdays, mainly. I remember my parents would let my brother and I scan the coupon book to decide which place we wanted to eat at for our birthdays. One year, I found a restaurant – I think it was Japanese – that caught my eye. I really, really wanted to go there. For what felt like months (and was probably just a few agonizing days for my parents) I obsessed about this place. How you would take your shoes off and sit at this little table in a room partitioned off from everything else – with white paper screen walls. It seemed like such an exotic experience. There was only one problem. It burned down. It had burned down long before I ever saw it in the coupon book. My heart was set and now my hopes were dashed. It was the looking forward to it, the anticipation that really had me going – all to be crushed before the day even came. My parents asked me to find another place to celebrate my birthday dinner, but it just wasn’t the same.
These days, I wonder if my own children will ever really know what that anticipation is like. Really looking forward to something. It seems our society is so eager to deliver that we don’t often have to wait. If we’re curious about something, we don’t have to wait until the next day to go to the library and look it up in a book – we just pull out our phone and ask Google. If we really want to see that new movie, we don’t have to wait months for it to come out – we can find a bootlegger somewhere online and watch it rather easily. If we hear the highway was shut down for an hour – we don’t have to wait for the evening news – we just go on to Facebook for answers.
With anticipation comes appreciation. Lack of one can often lead to lack of the other. This past weekend is a good example of that. We decided to have a family day. (Mind you, this was after strenuous hours spent on a science fair project and frustration levels were high all around.) We went to the park and played and then decided to go out to eat. As soon as we got in the car, the complaints started. Two of the older kids would rather have play dates with their friends than have family time. I explained that was not going to happen and was just shy of a, “beatings will continue until morale improves” kind of speech. On the way to town, the kids started arguing about where they wanted to eat. One wanted Taco Bell, another Subway. This wasn’t going to be a fast food meal. As we pulled into a sit-down restaurant, my 9-year-old son groaned, “Oh man, we’re going here?! Ugh.” That was it. I’d had enough. I told my husband to turn around and take us home before launching into a speech reminiscent of one I’m sure my parents gave me as a child, about how going out to eat was a privilege, not a right. How they should be appreciative, blah, blah, blah.
The experience got me thinking – do our kids want for much anymore? Do they count down the days for things like we did? (Don’t even get me started on what it was like to wait for clothes you ordered via a catalog to arrive here in Alaska…) Do they daydream about fun times or do they just pull out an iPad? Have they lost their appreciation because they don’t know how to antici….pate?
And with that, I leave you with a little Rocky Horror Picture Show.