“We want cupcakes!” my children chirp as they bound into the kitchen, breathless with anticipation.
Children aren’t as hindered by the constraints of logic and reality as their mothers are, and so to them, this just-hatched concept is brilliant. Think of cupcakes – get cupcakes! As Willy Wonka’s most maligned villainess Veruca Salt would have said, “I want it, and I want it NOW!”
They are flabbergasted upon hearing the news that I cannot provide them with cupcakes – at least not at this instant.
“But you said we could have cupcakes!” they whine, donning those pouty masks young girls are so good at making.
I explain that to have cupcakes, we need to make them. That, of course, takes time and energy and resources. We might not have everything we need to make our cupcakes right here at our fingertips. If they want cupcakes, I tell them, they can’t just sit back and wait for cupcakes to materialize. They’re going to need to put in some work for the pink-frosted results they’re looking for.
Yet my children, accustomed to almost immediate manifestations of their desires, have difficulty fathoming that cupcakes are not readily available to them. I did, after all, promise them cupcakes this morning.
Perhaps it is the inherent nature of small children to expect instant fulfillment of their wishes, and immediate resolution to their problems. Who hasn’t pitied the frazzled mother in the grocery store, her child bleating, “Mommy! Mommy! I want! I want!” while tugging at her shirtsleeve?
While impatience may be hardwired into children’s natures, we expect them to mature into logically thinking adults capable of persevering through their most pressing problems, and to be able to acknowledge that some of their long-sought desires won’t be easily fulfilled. They’ll have to work to get what they want, and even so, the positive change they’re seeking will take time and energy to attain.
Yet we now live in an “Instant Gratification” nation. Our entire culture is hardwired to have immediate responses to our inquiries, thanks to email and texting and cell phones; we’re accustomed to instant answers to our questions, with the big wide world of knowledge now literally in the palm of our hand, accessible via a few clicks; and after witnessing the heated political jockeying currently stealing the national spotlight, it appears as though our country also expects quick fixes to its most pressing problems.
Has our entire country forgotten that it takes time, and work, to get the results we want?
In a world of instant gratification, we expect a fast resolution of our problems. We want to see those pink-frosted cupcakes, and we want to see them now. We are a generation of adults with short attention spans, who become skeptical if the full depth and breadth of the promises made to us aren’t realized right away, or even within four years. We tug at the shirtsleeves of our leaders, declaring our wishes in a deafening cacophony that drowns out the memory of any progress that has been delivered, any promises that have been fulfilled.
We may be an instant gratification nation. But aren’t we also a nation of mature, logically thinking adults capable of persevering through our most pressing problems? Aren’t we able to acknowledge that some of our desires won’t come easy? Can we realize that we may have to work, and work hard, to get to where we want; and even so, can we understand that the positive change we’re seeking will take time and energy to attain?
I believe we are, as a country, capable of understanding the dimensions of the problem. We don’t raise our children to throw up their hands and cry “Uncle!” when the going gets tough, or when our dreams of pink-frosted cupcakes don’t dreams aren’t instantly realized.
And, so, as the parents of America’s generation, we must live up to what we our children. In the words of President Barack Obama, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”