Sunday, February 20, 2011

Surprise! We're The Most Awesome Parents Ever!

Have you seen the TV commercials, or heard the radio commercials that show parents revealing to their kids they are going to Disneyland "right now?"

"Right now?" the kids say.

"Yep, right now, go get in the car. We are going to Disneyland right now."

Or maybe they are already in the car. I personally know a family who did this. They woke their kids up early one morning, convinced them to get into the minivan, then a few hours into their drive, revealed their destination: Disneyland.

The kids in these ads are absolutely overcome with excitement. And, as a parent, the power to excite can be intoxicating. To be able to create in your child that level of freak-out . . . well, it's hard to resist. What parent wouldn't want to say something that would make their kid deliriously happy?

But with great power, comes great responsibility.

I've asked Robert what he thought about this kind of vacation announcement and we've come to several conclusions:

1. Telling your kids about an exciting trip to Disneyland moments before you leave, robs them of the anticipation. Sure it's hard to wait several months for an exciting trip, but looking forward to it is part of the fun. Isn't it?

2. This kind of surprise might be inadvertently setting your kids up for future disappointment. You get up one Saturday morning and say, "Hey kids, let's do something fun today." If your kid has had a surprise trip to Disneyland sprung on him in the past, you know he's going to immediately think, maybe this is another Disneyland trip. They start to get excited and when you say, "let's go to the zoo," it's a big let down. What could possibly measure up to a surprise trip to Disneyland? That's right. Nothing.

3. Kids may not know that mom and dad saved for a year to be able to afford the trip. They may not know that plans and decisions had to be made. This trip will just be another moment of instant gratification.

So tonight when we saw an Disneyland commercial on TV, I asked Ethan if he would like us to do a surprise trip to Disneyland.

He replied with a very eager "YES!"

"But wouldn't you miss looking forward to the trip?" I asked. "Isn't it fun to have something like that to look forward to?"

"Well, maybe you could tell us about it two weeks before we go," he said.

It is so much fun to give kids things they want. It's fun to make them happy by indulging them. And, in a way, it's easy.

It's hard to have to say "no" so they can learn a lesson. It's not easy to stand firm when they whine and complain and say, "all the other kids get to do it," or, "why are you so mean?"

I didn't start this post planning to get philosophical about a trip to Disneyland.  We are probably going there this summer, and I have nothing against the Happiest Place on Earth. I certainly don't think a surprise trip to Disneyland will ruin kids. At least I hope it wouldn't.

But, I do think the great responsibility that comes with the great power of being a parent is doing the hard things: saying "no," or "not now;" teaching virtues like patience and hard work; being an example of integrity. These things don't win parent popularity contests, but might produce more productive and valued members of society.

But that's just my opinion.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Yes, yes, YES! I'm so with you on this! We thought about doing a similar surprise thing a few years ago and came to those same conclusions. Surprises are good once in awhile, but a HUGE part of what makes any trip exciting is having to wait for it and thinking about it 24/7 for a good long time. Much like Christmas--not quite the same when parents just announce it in the morning on, say, March 8th. It's also great if they're involved in the planning and prep, saving money, etc. You are so wise. Whew--that's a long comment, sorry!