Yesterday, I took my four-year-old daughter on a lunch date.
Of all my kids, she’s the one who’s easiest to excite, but I’ve got to tell you that the Wendy’s kids meal at lunch resulted in a permanent smile. Perhaps it’s because she also got to drive with the window down in the winter temperatures, and her face actually froze that way.
The total cost for lunch was $5.47 for both of us to have a lunch date.
I think we get excited when we get to do things outside of our normal patterns and things beyond our everyday expectations.
In Papua New Guinea when I’d spend a dollar to buy a can of Coke for someone, they’d be so appreciative because they rarely got to drink a Coke. Even a Coke can be a special treat.
When you try and make everything special, nothing seems special any more – until you ratchet things up a notch.
The benefit from establishing a simpler and less extravagant lifestyle is that it takes less to excite you.
I’m proud to say that I’m one of those dads who lets his kids sit on the exhibits around the mall. You know, the dumbo elephant, the horse, and the car. Since my kids were from a developing nation where they never got to see those things, they’d always beg us to let them sit on them. Everything went well with our plan until someone else once put a couple of coins in the machine. For the first time, the kids knew what the machine was supposed to do. It was supposed to light up. It was supposed to move. The stationary, lifeless horse just didn’t seem as interesting anymore.
Their expectations just raised. They were no longer content with what they had because they knew there was a more exiting alternative.
In life, a brat (either adult or child) is someone who’s too accustomed to too much cool stuff.
A brat would never be content with McDonald’s because that’s what they get any time they want. A brat would never be content with the mall exhibit because Chuck E. Cheese’s has so much more. A brat isn’t content with a used car because that’s what they have.
Brats struggle to be content because their standard of living is so high.
What could you do as a family to lower expectations and make even simple things special?
We don’t go out to eat as a family very often – probably two or three times a month. It doesn’t matter if we take a picnic to eat in the car, end up at Costco, or eat together at Applebees. It’s special because it’s outside of our normal pattern and better than our usual lifestyle.
Every Friday we make homemade Pizza and watch a movie at home. Twice this year, we went to the movie theater with the kids, and they were really excited because we do it so rarely.
I’m not trying to use dining out and movies as the example (as if they are the problem), but these are illustrations of how special is always directly related to our every day choices. If you embrace a more expensive lifestyle, then special just got more expensive.
Ironically, whatever is your normal produces the same level of excitement as a person whose normal is a much higher standard of living. For example, if you go to Disney twice a year, that’s as exciting as going to the movies twice a year.
I guess my question is this: do you need to create a new normal? Do you think it’s time to lower everyone’s expectations?
We all want to be able to do something special to bless those we love. That’s a fantastic thing. Still, the more reasonable, affordable, and simple everyday life is, the less excitement costs.
Far too many families want to keep pushing the excitement threshold, and it’s costing more and more. It’s requiring money they can’t afford and money that could be put towards more noble uses.