Our children can teach us the value of simple pleasures and less-is-more.

When it comes time to relax, adults can be a bit demanding. You know it’s true. You could say we prefer a level of spectacle in our entertainment. We like bingeable streaming shows (my wife) or addictive video games (me). We like access to live sports during the day (baseball), at night (football), and at 3 a.m. (European football). We like Keurig.com and Wine.com. After dinner, we’d like Tom Cruise to risk his life in a forgettable movie. Experts tell us we will like the Metaverse. You can bet many will. For adults to become captivated with childlike wonder, we need Amazon to spend a billion dollars on the latest Lord of the Rings show. Our kids? They just need frozen yogurt.

My kids jump up and down at the subject of frozen yogurt. I can’t say the words unless I intend to take them right away. If I said, “what if we go get frozen yogurt… tomorrow?” they would stop in mid-celebration. All of their energy would crash. Tomorrow might as well take a century. I realize it would be parental cruelty to bring up yogurt without leading my kids to the front door. Their anticipation starts with getting in the car and riding five minutes downtown. Then, I have to parallel park. It’s hard on them, the waiting.


The frozen yogurt shop is a narrow storefront, one of several in the old building. Every time I set down Percy, he runs around the customers, past the self-serve toppings bar, and down a long hallway. The exit at the far end, thankfully, is closed. Percy turns around and laughs. He got away again.

I scoop up the grinning miscreant in a big hug. By now, my oldest Julian stands before the self-serve cups, ready to make things happen. He wants the biggest cup they have. I hand him the smallest which he manages to pack with multiple yogurt flavors. Julian’s cup will be half the bill. I suspect it’s the toppings, which weigh a disproportionate amount for their value. Should I be the killjoy father and raise this concept to the eight-year-old? Of course not. Julian lingers at the toppings bar. He has a ritual. His combination varies with each visit but involves sprinkles, gummy bears, and various crumbly things.

Three-year-old Tabitha is concerned with the colors of her yogurt. They should be pink and purple unless cherry yogurt is available. I remind her the flavors are on a rotation. Some leave. Others appear. We never know what they’ll have. Today, there’s no cherry.

We come to the frozen yogurt shop because Percy has a non-dairy option. He’s lactose-intolerant. I’m thankful there are two non-dairy choices, even though Percy gobbles up whatever they have. I couldn’t bring the kids if the non-dairy yogurt disappeared like the rotating flavors. Percy already has to skip important stuff like going to school with his siblings due to special needs issues. I wouldn’t ask him to watch everyone else eat yogurt.

The moment of truth arrives. The counter person weighs our four yogurt cups. It’s around fifteen dollars. I slide my credit card into the iPad cash register. Would I like to tip the staff? It’s self-serve, but… it’s a small town. I add 20% to the bill. Once again, I think back to what an ice cream cone went for when I was a kid. I accept that frozen yogurt is a more involved process. It’s served in pressurized drums. Besides, our town lacks ready-made activities. If frozen yogurt is our family splurge, it’s cheaper than many others.

My kids eat their yogurt with messy grins. I notice they are as excited about frozen yogurt as other kids are for a Disneyland trip. Of course, it warms a parent’s heart. My kids appear to be less entitled than kids were in my generation. And yet, availability is another reason. Our kids don’t know much about Disneyland. We don’t live in a state with a national amusement park. We do have a homegrown one. You know the kind, a step up from the county fair. From the pictures online, it looks like a park you and your friends could make if you spent a long time and a lot of money at Home Depot. And took out a small bank loan.

Living in a small town without a mall or many national stores, our kids are spared the cultural noise I grew up with. There’s little in the way of materialist culture here. Their streaming TV shows lack crafty commercials (a privilege we pay for). Because most of our purchases are made online, our kids don’t see money or think of it very often. We don’t bother with an allowance scheme because they have nothing to spend it on. (Our oldest recently tried to invent a use for money, to buy him additional video game time.)

They do enjoy one shopping experience. Iris takes them to The Dollar Store. Every time, they come home with cheap toys, notebooks, and candy. I always viewed The Dollar Store as being full of regrettable junk. From their fun with it, I see it’s like a grab bag you get to put together yourself. The stuff is regrettable junk. It’s the point; cheap and cheerful, new and disposable. It doesn’t need to be anything more. My kids give me lessons in enjoying a small moment, no spectacle required.

Back home, the kids unwind from the sugar rush. Julian watches his favorite TV show. He gets his whole body into it. Laughs at the top of his lungs. Bounces up and down at the jokes. He does it even though he’s seen the episode before. Julian loves to laugh.

My younger son Percy has even more fun with less. For him, throwing a toy at the ceiling light in our living room is the best time.

I’ve been shown how fun a simple thing can be. I almost forgot.

This post first appeared at I Can Count to Four.

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