“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
For Walt Whitman, astonishingly erudite poet of years gone by, it was a sign of intelligence, of passion, of an attempted understanding of the world’s infinite variations.
For most other people? Eh, not so much.
How many times have you had to defend yourself when you suddenly have a different opinion than one you previously held? In a politician, that’s called flip-flopping and it’s considered a bad thing. Not sure I understand that. I mean, if you continue researching a problem, come up with new information, why is it a good thing to hold to an outdated opinion, rather than reassessing what you do based on new information?
And that’s what I wanted to talk about today. How it’s likely that you as a parent are going to run afoul of you decreed as a parent years, months or even days before. And how, really, that’s all right, even though you’re going to have to fight the little dudes and dudettes about it.
There’s two concepts I want to include in this: Present bias and generalization.
Present bias is something we covered over the last couple of days when we talked about procrastination with David McRaney, from You Are Not So Smart. It’s the inability to understand that your desires will change over time. That what you want today is not necessarily what you will want next month.
The now you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game.
In this case, McRaney was talking about how the people who acknowledge that they will procrastinate and find ways to work around it are better prepared to counter that tendency to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done the day after tomorrow.
In dealing with the little dudes, it comes into how we set the rules. For instance, you might decide that it’s all right for the little dudette to stay up later for a week because there’s a great educational series on Discovery that you want to share with her, as a sort of father-daughter bonding experience. So you guarantee that she’ll be able to do it all week.
However, two days into it, you come down with a cold and decide you both need to hit the hay early, taping the show to watch later. When you promised up late every night, you didn’t conceive that the future you might want to change things.
So even though going to bed early is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, considering the circumstances, your little dudette is not going to be happy about it. Here’s the thing: You can’t beat yourself up about it. She, or any little dudes involved, will be more than happy to give you grief, you don’t need to heap any more on your own shoulders.
It’s important to know that, while you must do everything you can to keep your promises, to make sure that future you does what now you says he will, sometimes life makes other decisions when we’re not looking.
We can’t predict the future, but that doesn’t stop us from assuming that we will always be the same as time goes on. And when you add that to the idea of generalization. . .
Well, that’s a story for tomorrow.