They ripped into them. Before we had found our seats. Before we had set foot on the escalator. They were tearing at the plastic with their sharp little teeth, even as I was trying to herd them through the throng. There were ads, lots of them. Three trailers. And as the lights eventually dimmed, I looked over and saw that while they were already done, their icecreams no more; my daughter still clutched hers, wrapper intact, in her hot little hand.
Probably you've heard of the Stanford marshmallow experiment. The series of studies on delayed gratification carried out in the late 1960s by the psychologist Walter Mischel, whereby children were offered the choice between eating one marshmallow on the spot, or waiting 15 minutes and receiving two. Supposedly the children who deferred their sugary reward enjoyed better life outcomes. However, watching my daughter and her two friends at Beauty and the Beast on Saturday, their dear small faces as if under a spell, I was unconvinced. For as I looked on, my daughter finally unwrapped her ice cream, opening it so tantalisingly slowly that her friends were momentarily distracted from the sight of Emma Watson romping deliciously about the screen in her French peasant get-up. I could almost smell their envy, and I knew she had planned this moment, imagined that sweet cold treat upon her tongue, in the dark of the cinema. But what awaited her was not as she had pictured, what awaited her was little other than a melted mess.
I have been perfecting the art of postponing my pleasure as long as I can remember. Ekeing my eggs out until long after the day commemorating Jesus' miraculous return to life has passed. Not reading my favourite part of a magazine until I've read everything but. Seedy and self-pitying after a night out, my husband and I sometimes have a hankering for a pie, and while he scarfs his on the spot, I refrain till I get it home, where I can eat it on a plate with a knife and fork, sauce, salt and pepper. Yet, as my daughter so cruelly learnt last weekend, double the joy is not always the delayed gratifier's reward. I was given some expensive, imported chocolates for my birthday. I put them away, saving them for a rainy day, and when that day at last came, I sat down with great excitement, only to discover my expensive, imported, birthday chocolates were white with a fat bloom.
Sometimes in an effort to maximise my kicks, I can be plain stupid. All summer long I complained of nothing to wear; my togs and sundresses tired and worn. And yet languishing in a bag at the back of my wardrobe was a new bikini, two dresses, still with their tags on. I bought them at the end of last year but have been saving them for a trip we are about to take, so on holiday I could enjoy that feeling of wearing something for the very first time.
As I comforted my daughter, shushing and soothing her, wiping the white chocolate and raspberry puddle from her lap, I wondered whether it was instinctive, this self-control we share. Certainly I don't recall having set out to instruct her in its merits. And as I looked over at her friends, the daughters of my friend, chocolate smeared across their faces, I couldn't help but laugh. The last time I'd been shopping with their mother she had walked out of the shop wearing all her new purchases, her old clothes bundled and crumpled up in the store's smart bag.
Last week I grappled with the concept of time, trampolines and tempers. Mike responded: "We had the trampoline that eventually dissolved to Trade Me ... now the stepson who bounced on it with gaining confidence is leaving New Zealand on Monday for his first job from uni ... to Sydney. How his mum wishes she could have a few of those bouncy days back. Tell your daughter only 'now' matters, every other part of time is irrelevant." Val wonders, "If we could all impose an adult 'time out' when tempers are inflamed, how much violence could be averted."