‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)

Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we were talking. That in itself is odd because she’s usually the one who stares out the window and keeps quiet in the car, despite being a chatterbox everywhere else.

Anyway, we were chatting about her upcoming birthday. She’s turning five and is very clearly excited about that. For weeks now she’s been telling us that she’s “only a little nervous, but a lot excited to go to school.”

We always reply with the same, “it’s OK to be nervous blah blah blah” lecture and haven’t thought much else about it because it’s still eight months out and during the pandemic time sometimes seems to move like a snail under molasses.

We don’t usually do big birthday celebrations in my family. The birthday girl (in this case) gets to choose the dinner she wants and we set out our balloons, birthday hat, special birthday banner, and our annoying singing dog that sings the Beatles’s “Birthday” song every time you squeeze its paw. There are also just a few small gifts.

So, on this drive, my daughter was telling me how she’d been thinking about it and had decided to open her presents after school instead of before.

Her logic was not only sound, it absolutely floored me.

She told me that if she opened them before school then she’d have new toys to play with but would have to go away to school and she’d be disappointed all day that she wasn’t able to play with them. That would make for a crummy day.

If she opened them after school, she’d be excited and enjoying the anticipation of having presents to open after school and she’d have a better day that way, even though she had to wait to have new toys.

They say that delayed gratification is a mark of intelligence. After that conversation I have no grounds to dispute that claim.

Although, as we kept talking about her birthday plans (and yes we’re having a Dairy Queen ice cream cake as per our family tradition), something occurred to me. She’d kept mentioning “after school” in her plans. I’d assumed she was talking about after her brother got home from school.

All of a sudden things started to click for me. The talk of being nervous but excited, the presents after school not before…

“Sweetheart,” I said. “Do you think you have to go to school starting the day you turn five?”

She nodded. All this time she’d been worried and exited about going to school not understanding she still had a while yet to wait.

Bright as she was to understand the benefits of delayed gratification, she beamed brightly when I told her she didn’t have to worry about going to school on her birthday this year and she could open her presents whenever she wished.

Speaking of great minds, I did something the other morning that I believe was either brilliant, or a little strange. I suppose, though, all the best minds are a little bit of both so I’m OK with it.

Here’s what I did:

I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher to fill it so I could run a full cycle.

Judge me. Laud me. Either way I’d do it again.

What’s more, I asked my husband to follow suit.

Did I really need it done right after that meal? Well, it depends who you ask. In the whole scheme of life, no, it could have waited. I recognize that. I’m not a monster. What I am though, is a REM – a Really Efficient Mom.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I knew that if I could clean and empty the dishwasher after that breakfast, I probably wouldn’t have to run it again for another day and a half. That, of course, would give me roughly, what, 10 extra minutes over the next 36 hours to do something else?

Hardly worth it, you say?

Well let me tell you…

I can fold a full basket of laundry in six minutes.

I can strip all three upstairs beds of their sheets, get them into the washing machine, and have it running all within 10 minutes.

I can dust every surface in my entire main living space, kitchen included, in 10 minutes.

More importantly, I can hide in the main floor powder room, (which, by the way, I can clean top to bottom in 10 minutes) and savour every single Smartie from one of the mini boxes I gave the kids for Valentine’s Day and have since stolen back, for one minute each and STILL have a minute to spare.

If you’ve ever tried to split a mini box of Smarties between two children you’ll know all too well every box contains nine. Thanks for that, Nestlé.

Most importantly, though, reclaiming that 10 minutes of my life back gives me an extra 10 minutes to sit down with my children and play their silly video games, or hear about their day; quite simply, it gives me the ability to give them 10 more minutes of my complete and undivided attention. And to me, that’s worth picking breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.


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