It’s all about the experience.
Eric has a few borderline obsessive compulsions. He loves to go to Target, Walmart, or BJ’s to buy a toy. What kid doesn’t, right? But, Eric specifically only wants to buy “Cars” characters. Yes, he has several dozen of each of them. We kind of just went with it for a couple years. They aren’t that expensive and they really make him happy. We started using trips to the store as motivators for good behavior and, besides the growing mountain of Cars filling our living room, there wasn’t much of a downside.
Then I realized, as much as it makes him happy, he completely discards the new toy as soon as we get back in the car and take it out of its packaging. The pleasure is in the experience of shopping, picking out the right one, and making the purchase. Possessing the item after the purchase is meaningless.
Recently, Eric added trips to Foodtown to buy Froot Loops to his list of guilty pleasures and also discovered the joys of Ebay. He watches us place the order, marks the calendar with the anticipated delivery date, and counts down the hours until his treasure arrives. The maturity and patience he shows in accepting delayed gratification is awesome. But, this is proving to be a little more expensive, since he seems to have a knack for choosing limited edition, rare, or discontinued toys to purchase.
So, I tried an experiment: I told him to find one of his favorite toys and help me pack it into a box. He picked out his favorite Bob the Builder figurine, wrapped it in paper towel and packaged it with great care. I helped him write out his name and address on the box and taped it up. Then I told him to go put it in the mail. He ran out to the curb, happily put the package containing his most prized possession in the mailbox and ran back into the house. He marked the calendar three days out and skipped away happy as a clam. On the third day, I put the package back in the mailbox before he got home from school (I had secretly taken it out). He jumped out of the car, ran to the mailbox and shrieked with delight when he saw his treasure. After he opened it, he ran to find another toy to pack and “mail” to himself in the exact same box.
It’s not about receiving a new toy. It’s about the experience of anticipating and receiving the package. We aren’t fooling him. He knows he’s just receiving a toy he already owns. He is completely in on the gag and he absolutely loves it. We currently have scheduled deliveries of Rolly, Muck, Lofty and Dizzy marked on the calender to round out the month of March. His mind is fascinating to me.