I remember my friend getting a chopper push bike for his birthday featuring a whopping big gear selector in the middle of the cross bar with Low, Med and Hi. Its banana seat with shiny flecks laced throughout was simply the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on – jealousy oxygenated my brain. I knew it would be out of reach for me with its glossy colours, soft grips, funky reflectors and comfy seat. Still… my friend was happy to let me use it, but it never felt the same as owning one.
One surprising day my mother delivered me my first bike. She found a second hand, full sized men’s bike that I could barely swing my leg over the middle bar. It was green but in its former life it was red which could be easily seen through the scratches. My good fortune didn’t end there, one day my friend gave me a banana seat and chopper handlebars he had no use for. Together after hours of modifications and design, my friend and I had updated the bike of my dreams.
It wasn’t the same as my friends’ slick chopper but I didn’t care, my Great Green Mean Machine was mine and it was a faithful friend getting me where I needed to go and beyond. Thinking back I realise it didn’t matter that I didn’t have the latest gadget, my imagination was wild enough to believe my bike transformed into a space ship at the flick of a button and that was pretty hard to beat.
Christmas is on our doorstep and I feel the temptation to submit to both our daughters every desire with stuff – nothing like buying your kids love! I was reminded about my Green Mean Machine when my daughter Jaz decided to give our next door neighbours kid a Christmas present. She didn’t default to a 1D CD or a Beanie Kid for her friend, instead, she decided to make a dragon out of all the left over boxes from other gifts, carefully considering the design and even involving me in the process. The truth is, the parents will hate us for bringing a maze of boxes connected by reams of gaffa tape over to their house, but hopefully they’ll be appeased by the season and the generosity expressed by Jaz. They live on the high side of the street so they could take revenge and throw rocks on our roof at 1am!
So why do I persist with the relentless buying spree? I am a slave to someone else’s agenda and… I am making them rich! There is no doubt, it is hard to beat the instant gratification a fully functioning toy gives where no imagination is needed. But like Groundhog Day we still puzzle over our kids substituting a slick toy and preferring the cardboard box where they defend themselves from sea monsters in the ocean.
My carefully executed modifications on my Green Machine and Jaz’s cacophony of boxes made into a dragon invited both of us to practise delayed gratification. We had to exercise patience and work with an imaginary dimension taking effort and time but offering a deep sense of satisfaction as the prize. The payoff was an infinite world where my bike flew to the moon and Jaz’s dragon breathed flames offering many more possibilities than a limited toy with all the gadgets ever could. Delayed gratification makes room for pride in your work, payoff and a deep sense of satisfaction from ‘making do’ to create new worlds of fun whether it be fictitious or physical.
So if you are one who can’t afford the biggest and fanciest presents this year for your kids or family, you may be the lucky ones. The imaginative mind of a child means you can step away from being a daggy dad, and parade as a dazzling prince or an astronaut that saves earth – that has to be better than hearing your kid groan from their bedroom because the app they are playing on the iPad needs an update.
From a parent who hasn’t got this right and is a pathetic slave to Santa’s directives…