One challenge of parenthood is setting limits on myself. For her sixth birthday, I gave my daughter a giant book of optical illusions. She loved the book—pored over it, looked at it with her friends, kept it out on her beside table. I was so pleased with myself for choosing it.
As an under-buyer, I don’t usually have to resist the urge to make an impulse buy. But the other day, I was in a drug store that had a rack of cheap children’s books. I spotted a book of optical illusions, and almost bought it for her. Then I stopped myself. She already had a book with 200 illusions; this book probably didn’t have much new. But even beyond that—more of something you love isn’t always better.
In fact, as I thought about it, I wondered if having two books of optical illusions might, in fact, dim her pleasure in the first book. It wouldn’t seem as magical. Also, she’d be more likely to get tired of the subject.
I remember that when my daughter was in nursery school, the school head told a story about a four-year-old who had a toy car he loved. He played with it constantly. Then when his grandmother came to visit, she bought him ten toys cars, and he stopped playing with the cars altogether.
“Why don’t you play with your cars?” she asked. “You loved your blue car so much.”
“But I can’t love lots of cars,” he answered.
It’s so easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you love, or if there’s something you want, that you’ll be happier with more of it. Have you found that, in some cases, having less of something has made you love it more?
The days are long, but the years are short.