Gum? Anyone.

Psalm 104:27, “These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.”

Today is a special day. Before the sun came up we sang “Happy Birthday” to my youngest son, Ty Owen. He made a wish and blew out the candle in bed. Then we ate cupcakes for breakfast before school.

Fifth birthdays are large milestones in our house. Like driving a car when you are sixteen or getting into a rated “R” movie at seventeen. In the Brandes home, turning five means you get to chew bubble gum for the very first time.

So, after listening to the “cha-cha-cha” rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song, Ty excitedly asked, “Mommy, can I chew gum now?

“Are you five yet?” I retorted.

“Yes!” He beamed.

“Then, today you can have as much gum as you want!” I said.

Years ago, when my husband mentioned the idea of not allowing our kids to have gum until they were five, I thought the idea was rather ridiculous. “What’s the point?” I thought. “Just because you weren’t allowed to chew gum until you were five, you think we should make our kids suffer the same fate?”

Of course, I didn’t voice those thoughts out loud. I simply asked what his reasoning was.  The first was obvious. Little kids stick gum in places it shouldn’t go. Like under the counter, in their hair and on the ground for others to step in. The second was one I had never considered.  “I think it’s good to make them wait for some things,” he said. “It teaches them appreciation for the simple things. And… delayed gratification.”

Delayed gratification? I have never liked the sound of that. But it is something I have learned to appreciate more and more through the years. After all, we don’t learn much from the lessons in life that come easy, or happen quickly, for that matter. And, as much as I hate to admit it, those seasons in life that take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to arrive, have actually taught me the most.

Why would it be any different for the little version of me?

For five years, Ty was told “No. You can’t have bubble gum yet.” When his brother and sisters, cousins, and friends were chewing it, he couldn’t. He learned that “no now” doesn’t mean “no forever”. It was only “no” for a season. Until he was mature enough to handle it.

He learned firsthand at a very young age the meaning of delayed gratification.

Five years of waiting ended this morning. I wish you could have seen him chomping and chewing. All – day – long. The smile… and the gum… never left his mouth.

To an outsider, the lesson here may look small. But from one who knows what it is to wait for something valuable, the implications are far reaching. They go far beyond the surface level and into the heart of that child’s character.  A lesson that will follow them forever.

I encourage you, today, to look for ways to teach your children little lessons such as these in the days and weeks to come. After all, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to sprinkle character building lessons such as these throughout their young lives.

Please, share your ideas below on how you have helped your children learn character building lessons.

2 thoughts on “Gum? Anyone.

  1. Evelyn Miracle

    Great post. I can imagine him chomping away proudly all day, and people may have thought you were crazy letting him have so much gum. That didn’t matter since you knew the whole story.
    Here’s my character-building story. It was the day we “fired” our oldest child from his job taking out the garbage. He had forgotten one two many times. Sometimes he would go outside and get it, put it back in the house and take it out again to make the point it was his job. Finally my husband told him, “Never mind. I’ll do it.” In essence he was saying, “I can’t depend on you.” For this particular child, that was worse than punishing him some other way. The next morning we found a note on the door. “Please give me another chance. I promise I will not forget to do my job again.” Yes, we did give him another chance. I think we all learned from that. That approach may not work for every kid. It’s tricky to know what works best. I’m sure that day stuck in his mind for a very long time.


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